The Art of Dealing with Bad Reviews

One recent study showed that two-thirds of the average customer base form their opinion on a business after reading only four reviews. That means there are potentially four chances for them to stumble upon a bad review—something that could neutralise all the marketing efforts that you put into your hotel or restaurant. In addition, if you think that this is a small portion of your potential customers, 92 per cent of all customers use online reviews in some capacity, so you’d be quite mistaken.

Because of the mindshare that reviews hold in the hospitality industry, having a strong profile of good reviews is essential to try to maintain a good audience and appearance for your brand. At the same time, though, you can’t necessarily control what people say or feel, especially if they end up having a bad experience with your business. With this in mind, it’s key to have a set plan in place when you see a bad review so you can spin this negative into a positive.

What to Avoid

While it can be frustrating for a small business to get a bad review, the absolute single worst thing you can do is get emotional and let that seep into your interactions with the customer in question. Many entrepreneurs and brands have gone viral for all the wrong reasons for getting angry with a customer over a review. If you’re running a small business and are responding yourself, be absolutely sure that you take the time to type out your words carefully, and maybe even run them by a more skilled writer.

Part of the reason is that even if there is a miscommunication and you are in the right, trying to press this in a response still makes you look bad. Remember, a public response isn’t just addressing one customer, but all your future customers as well, indirectly. Make sure you present the image that you want.

At the same time, ignoring bad reviews sets a bad precedent as well. For one thing, in some cases, customers leave bad reviews because they have legitimate issues with your service, and missing out on those may mean not attending to problems that you should be. Another thing is that if there is a legitimate trend of bad reviews, and no one responds, it presents a bad image to customers. Does the business not care about the customer experience? Are they too proud to change? Again, make sure you are presenting the image you want.

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Best Practices for a Bad Review

With this in mind, when you see a bad review, one of the first things you want to do is try to put together a fast, but a personalised response. The main reason is that it demonstrates two important values right away. For one thing, it shows you are paying attention to customer impressions, and second, it shows that you care enough to personalise a response rather than sending off a templated or robotic response.

In that response, your best course of action is to show some form of empathy. You don’t need to be overly deferential, but in hospitality, the key is to provide a good experience, and if a customer doesn’t feel that way, your business failed them in some way. Showing that you at least understand the problem can show you have some interest in that mission.

When you’ve decided upon the approach for a bad review, you want to make sure that everyone in charge of your communications or potentially in a customer-facing position knows it. Having a uniform approach for negative customer feedback will ensure that a bad review doesn’t spiral out of control. Another step is to make sure you give them a direct line of communication for future issues.

The type of image these different actions present is of a business that is quick to try to respond to customers and make them happy, even if things go wrong. This is a perfect way to increase your brand’s value in the eyes of many, even if they see a negative review at first.

The Review Landscape

Finally, it’s important to make sure that you are always trying to encourage a steady stream of good reviews to complement the occasional bad review that may pop up. One interesting survey found that a whopping 52 per cent of all online buyers reported that seeing a few negative reviews of a product actually made them trust said product more. This would seem to suggest two main things:

  1. People expect even the best services and products to not be a fit for everyone.
  2. People are suspicious of universally beloved services.

When it comes to cultivating good reviews, you want to make sure that you’re not forceful, and try to slip things in when it makes the most sense. For example, if a customer actually tells one of your staff how much they enjoyed themselves, this makes a good person who is motivated to leave a review for you. In other cases, like the hotel industry, it’s possible to leave an online “thank you” note via your email program encouraging reviews. One smaller bad review won’t mean as much if there are 10 more detailed positive reviews next to it.

Dealing with bad reviews is unique when it comes to marketing in the sense that while it isn’t something like a blog, video, or commercial that a business puts out, it does a lot of the same things—impacting a potential customer’s opinion of your business and brand. In fact, a few high-profile bad reviews can neutralise your marketing efforts.

This is why it’s essential to not only put out good marketing in general, but to have a set way to handle negative reviews as well as an ongoing method to cultivate positive reviews. This can be a lot to ask for, which is why a lot of the hospitality industry delegates these tasks to outside agencies. Blue Beetle is the perfect match here. We specifically focus on the restaurant and hospitality industries, and can help you find the best digital marketing strategy for your hotels and put it into action.