Apologizing is an art. And yes, there is a right and wrong way to apologize…. especially when your hotel has disappointed a guest. I have read many manager responses on Trip Advisor that probably made the situation worse than if they had done nothing at all.
Recently I sent you all a copy of an article about responding to reviews. We need to remember that no matter what you say, if your apology does not sound authentic, it is as if you didn’t apologize at all. Negative responses can cause anger so you always need to take a step away from the situation, take a deep breath, walk around the building, and then approach your response in both a professional and sympathetic manner.
For example, here is an actual review we received about a hotel in our portfolio –
“Took our money, then closed down, wouldn’t respond to phone calls or inquiries, and hid like common thieves……you’d think reputable locals running this place would eventually make good on their debts? NOT….they’re common thieves! And, now it’s open again and still no contact…..this time hiding under the auspices of “new owner/management”. Did we say run?”
Any manager reading this review would likely have the hair on their back stand on end. I know I did because this reviewer did not have the facts and jumped to conclusions without even calling our hotel to try speak with someone from the “new owner/management”. They just wanted a public forum to air their (alleged) dirty laundry. So, how would you respond?
Let’s talk about how to write an apology. It is important to highlight the positive remarks in the review. In this case – the positive is difficult to pin point…. but I would focus on the fact that it is a “new owner/management”. Statistics show that 78% of one or two star reviews contain at least one positive remark. Emphasizing a flattering comment gives your response a positive and more approachable tone. Highlighting a good comment demonstrates other strengths of your property for other readers searching out a property for their next stay. Turning a negative into a positive is the main goal in apologizing on all forms of social media.
After highlighting the positives, you want to face the negative head on. Stress that this is an atypical experience at your property (unless you have many complaints about the same thing on your site) while apologizing directly for what the guest experienced. After apologizing, explain how you are going to resolve the issue. Ask them to email you directly with the check in information or confirmation number. This way – you show everyone that you want to resolve the situation.
It is important to mend relationships with disgruntled guests while also defending your property. There is recourse for unjustified or slanderous reviews…. you need to contact Trip Advisor (or other review sites) and ask to have the review removed. By dealing with unhappy guests in a genuine manner, past and future customers will value your authentic apology more than a snarky response. So, even if the complaint is justified, if you apologize in an authentic and polite manner, your property will come out looking better as a whole.
Responding to reviews (negative and positive) increases your ranking on the review site. When attempting to increase your rank on TripAdvisor for example, rankings are based on three factors: frequency, consistency and volume. For rankings to increase, your property needs to get good reviews posted often and consistently.
P.S. Trip Advisor is not the only site on which you should focus. Third party vendors such as Expedia have reviews that you should read and follow up, as well as Google and Yelp (etc.).
Just for the record, here is my management response to the above review….
“We are very sorry to hear about your poor experience with the previous ownership and management of the (name of hotel). We can assure you that we are indeed a separate entity from this company and are operating the hotel with integrity and honesty. We are neither hiding nor running from anyone – especially our customers. While that will obviously not right the wrong you have experienced, and certainly will not ease the fact that you feel cheated, I can assure you that our company does not do business in this manner. We are a professional management company and have an experienced general manager who is running the (name of hotel) with integrity and only the highest level of customer service. Our goal is to make our customers happy and encourage them to come back and visit old friends each time they are in the area. We have painstakingly worked to bring each of our condo-style units back to life, and assure you they are comfortable, well-maintained and luxurious. We look forward to being part of a wonderful, beautiful, hospitality-centered community for a long time . Please contact me by telephone or email me at Linda.Komornik@GreatAmericanHG.com to discuss any additional concerns. We would like the opportunity to prove to you that our only goal is to develop honest, long-standing relationships with all of our customers.”
(As a side note – the customer never called or contacted the hotel or myself. I did however, receive an email from another potential customer who told me that he booked our hotel after reading my response to this negative complaint because we handled it positively and with diplomacy. He said he was anxious to stay in a hotel that cared about their customers and worked to right any wrongs.)