How to avoid negative online reviews from hotel guests by being great offline
In the hotel industry, no matter how much you are on top of your game, and how hard you try, sometimes things simply do not go as planned.
No worries, it is natural that mistakes or mishaps happen from time to time.
The question is what are you doing about it?
How are you handling the situation to avoid getting a negative review online. You need a good hotel reputation management plan to deal with such situtations.
But do you stick to just the basics or do take it to another level?
Let’s be realistic, we work in an industry where we are “on-stage” 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
We can’t be perfect all the time, however hard we try. Many guests are actually willing to accept this as well. It just comes down to how we handle the situation.
Let’s start with the basics
First and foremost, a guest wants to be heard. They often need to vent their frustration when their expectations are not met. So, take your time and show that you are really interested in what they have to say.
Let them talk and air their concerns out. They want to feel that any gripes are being taken seriously.
Besides simply listening, you need to show the guest that you understand the frustrations. It is always good to mention you would be upset as well if the same issue happened to you.
Empathizing is one of the golden rules of handling complaints.
Next step is to fix the problem. A guest needs to see their feedback matters to you and that will you take direct action in resolving the problem.
We need to make good on “our mistake”. We may feel it was not our fault, but in the end the guest is in our hotel, and they will look at (and expect) us to take care of it.
So let’s make sure hotel staff are well trained in handling complaints and empowered to resolve problems. You need to create a culture of openness to guest feedback.
Make sure complaints are logged as well. It will help with preventing a problem from repeating itself. It helps the team on the next shift in a property to be informed about what happened with the guest to avoid any situations of ignorance.
Ok, nice, a bunch of basics …
I am sure you already know all of this (or you should do).
But how do we really turn this aggrieved guest around? How do we ensure that we turn the unsatisfied guest into a client for life and a great ambassador for the hotel?
In other words, how do we truly make him happy again (and avoid that negative review appearing on TripAdvisor or elsewhere when they return from their trip or, increasingly, whilst they are still at the property)?
Simple, by doing something unexpected. Yes, its that easy.
The guest expects you to listen, empathize and make right. The consumer of nowadays is highly educated and expects to be treated professionally when they have a problem.
So how do we exceed these expectations?
Some hotels go the extra mile to make the guest feel truly appreciated.
For example, a hotel we work with in the Dutch city of Maastricht, at the judgement of the staff (not the managers), places an “apology package” in the guest’s room – a little token of appreciation with a handwritten note.
They are sending a clear message to guests: “We truly care about you!”
The handwritten note from staff that dealt with the guest’s complaint makes it really personal.
And the guest’s response is tremendous. They love it … The complaint is usually quickly forgotten after this small token of sincerity.
This 3-star hotel is number 2 on TripAdvisor for its destination – they really get what customer service is all about.
So when we are talking about hotel marketing, social media and reputation management, we should go back to our operations and service and review how we handle guest complaints.
Because negative reviews can easily be avoided, with simple gestures.
NB: Happy review image via Shutterstock.
Patrick Landman is a contributing Node to Tnooz and founder and CEO of Xotels. This hotel management group assists independent hotels with revenue management, online marketing and internet distribution strategies.
They offer outsourcing services, coaching, consulting and training. In his blog, Patrick challenges hoteliers to think out of the box and not to accept the established order.
Through a passionate drive for growth and improvement he brings creative tips, ideas and best practices to the table that can help hotels drive up their bottom line.
In previous roles he has helped to develop businesses like RateTiger and Hotels.com into industry leaders.