How to respond to negative feedback online

Posted by Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies on April 23rd, 2014

RomeWe have clients in a range of sectors including travel and tourism. Online networking sites such as TripAdvisor, Cruise Critic, Yelp and others can provide exceptional opportunities for tourism and hospitality-based businesses – and they can also be incredibly damaging.

I spend time on many of these sites for both personal (I travel a lot) and professional (seeing what people are saying about our clients) reasons. I am always surprised when I speak to someone in the tourism and hospitality world who says they don’t monitor or respond to reviews on these sites. (Our clients are fully engaged in these sites because it’s an important component of their overall brand reputation and PR strategy.)

Not responding is a huge risk – unless you are happy at the bottom of the heap, are the absolute cheapest in the market, and know that you will always get someone prepared to put up with low quality because of price. And today, with so many deals and reductions coming through Groupon and other deal brokers, even that isn’t a good approach. If you don’t respond, at some point negative reviews will decrease your revenue flow.

As someone who travels a great deal in my personal life – I know how much a response to a critical review means to me. It shows me that the hotel, airline, tour operator or restaurant team cares about the experience. And if they acknowledged that they made a mistake – I am good with that. Everyone makes mistakes, the key is to acknowledge it, take responsibility and show how it won’t happen again. It’s not rocket science, people.

If the reviewer has some facts wrong or has a different perspective, I like it when the service provider puts forward their side of the story. I don’t think every reviewer is absolutely right in their criticism. If you read their other reviews – you will often see that they never like anything. A review that is so over-the-top negative, that has been written by a competitor, can be smelled a mile away.

As a professional who works in the tourism and travel industry, I know how important it is to read the reviews, to take the criticism seriously (it provides a real opportunity to improve your business), and to respond to the good and the negative. Saying thank you to those who leave you good reviews is a nice touch and it gives you an opportunity to highlight some of your key offerings within your response.

Responding to a critical review to explain why something happened and, if necessary, to offer to make it right is crucial. Otherwise, that negative review sits there telling the story of your brand. No one should be able to own your brand story except you. Take the time and make the effort. It will provide return on investment for you.

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