5 Steps to Manage Negative Guest Reviews Every Hotel Should Know

With 75% of online travel buyers checking at least three reviews sites before booking online, not responding to a negative guest review post which is read by thousands of potential guests could result in severe revenue consequences. Unfortunately, many hoteliers do not take the time (or have the time) to respond. Lodging Interactive has developed an easy-to-use and extremely affordable Guest Review System that enables guests to post reviews directly on the hotel's website, making managing the response process far easier and much quicker for management.

Lodging Interactive is an interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry for the past ten years. The company's Guest Review System is a web-based tool that is successfully helping hotels verify, review and display customer comments directly on their websites. By allowing management to respond to comments in real time, hotels are improving hotel-to-guest communications and boosting guest retention and loyalty.

"Remember when your mother said: 'If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all?' Those days are long gone, and rightly so when it comes to online customer reviews," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "Posting comments about bad experiences is a good way to warn consumers about shoddy business practices and inferior products and services.

"In the hospitality arena, warning travelers about poor hotel accommodations and inadequate service has fueled management to raise the bar on standards and strive to continually do better," he said. "That's a good thing for travelers, owners and the industry overall, because negative reviews give owners and operators an opportunity to fight back and use social media to turn unhappy customers into brand advocates, and actually win back guests, thereby driving loyalty."

A study conducted online by Harris Interactive found that 68% of consumers who posted a complaint or negative review on a social networking or ratings/review site after a negative experience got a response from the business. Of those, 18% turned into loyal customers. By listening and proactively responding on the review site to the customer, businesses were able to turn disgruntled consumers into social advocates. The survey also found that, of those who received a reply in response to their negative review, 33% turned around and posted a positive review and 34% deleted their original negative review.

While some hoteliers are still wary of negative reviews, fearing that they are simply propaganda started by competitors, Vallauri said "responding" is key to preserving a hotel's online reputation.

The Guest Review System alerts management in real time when reviews are posted to their web site. This ensures that there are no delays in communication, and the appropriate staff can immediately fix any pending problems before the customer leaves the property. Additionally, consumers can share their guest reviews on their Facebook wall and to their network of friends. Hotels are notified in real-time of new guest reviews and have the ability to validate guest stay information before reviews are posted on their website.

"Establishing an online Guest Review System gives owners and operators control over what they want to display on their website," Vallauri said. "It boosts the hotel's credibility and displays trustworthiness on behalf of management. Not only can management capture lost potentially business from third-party review sites, but they can vastly improve communications with guests. After all, that's what hospitality is all about."

Lodging Interactive offers the following 5 Tips for responding to negative reviews:
1. Thank the guest for his or her comment
2. Acknowledge that there was a problem and offer an explanation
3. Tell how the situation is being corrected to improve the guest's experience
4. Invite ongoing communication and provide direct management contact information
5. Encourage the guest to return

"The fact that a negative comment occurred isn't the issue; Rather it's how the company responds to the bad review is key to maintaining an impeccable online reputation," Vallauri said. "When a negative comment arises, it's critical that the hotelier respond as quickly as possible. Be thankful, polite, and respectful of guests, even if you feel their complaint is not warranted. Remain calm and always be courteous. Tell the guest how you are going to address their complaints, and what the next steps are. Tell the guest that you take his or her complaint seriously, and that there is a plan in place to resolve the matter. More importantly, give him or her a way to stay in touch with you, and invite further feedback."

With Lodging Interactive's low-cost, turn-key Guest Review System, hotels can be up and running in 10 minutes. If finding the time to respond is an issue, Lodging Interactive is staffed to reply on the hotel's behalf.

"It's important for independent hotel owners and operators to know that they can easily and affordably compete with brand Guest Review programs and take control of their online reputations today through Lodging Interactive," Vallauri said.

Lodging Interactive is offering a free trial of its Guest Review System. There is no contract to sign and hotels can cancel anytime. For more information, visit http://www.guestreviewsystem.com. The company will be exhibiting at the 2012 AAHOA Annual Convention & Trade Show in Atlanta May 2 to 5 at the Omni Hotel and the Georgia World Congress Center in Booth No. 124.

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