How to respond to guest reviews or
the art of emotional connection.
“Sorry, we did not meet your expectations”
One of the standard hotel comments
in response to a critical guests review …
… on a booking platform that invites your guests to praise and criticize your business based on their rules…
It’s nothing short of amazing. What originally started out as a corporation to provide better visibility, has now become the main marketing tool to many hotels:
Hotels are happily promoting booking engines on their websites
They prominently display logos and links of Trip Advisor and similar platforms on their home pages and proudly show off their “best hotel” awards. After all, being showcased on a very popular and highly frequented travel site puts your hotel name “out there” and exposes you to a vast amount of traffic, doesn’t it?
But, at second glance, are you really benefitting from this arrangement?
On sites like Trip Advisor or Expedia, you are on platforms that force you to compete side by side with hundreds of other hotels. In the perception of readers, you are only one of many. It takes away from the brand you worked so hard to build and automatically enters you in the price war game. To get out of this dependency, you’ll have to work on making your hotel website stand out and drive visitors to it.
One way of doing this is to
Respond to your guest reviews.
Yes, I know. I can hear your deep sigh.
To most hotels, it’s still a dreaded task. After all, what can you say when guests post their highly subjective views or opinions? You can dutifully thank them for a compliment or apologize in case of a critical review.
Well, but maybe there’s a bit more to it than that.
It really pays off to invest some time in crafting a skillful response.
With 415 million monthly average unique visitors, Trip Advisor attracts a huge potential of prospective guests – a great opportunity to step to the fore and shine some light on your hospitality and unique hotel experience.
Even better, your response to guest comments will help you connect with your readers on an emotional level –
the ideal start to kick-off the buyer’s journey.
“On a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers. These emotionally connected customers buy more of your products and services, visit you more often, exhibit less price sensitivity, pay more attention to your communications, follow your advice, and recommend you more – everything you hope their experience with you will cause them to do.”
– Alan Zorfas and Daniel Leemon, Motista/HBR
A powerful reason to give your guest reviews more attention, isn’t it?..
If you work in the hospitality industry, you rarely have a problem talking to your
guests. By now, you’ve probably seen it all and mastered the trickiest conversations.
Crafting a sympathetic response is not that different, if you take a few important points into consideration:
Avoid sterile, template-like-statements that sound like this:
“Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us. We take guest feedback seriously, and it is disconcerting to hear that you did not enjoy your stay with us. What you described certainly does not meet the standard we set forth, and I am truly sorry that we did not meet your expectations…”
Thank you so much for your very kind words – we are all delighted that enjoyed your visit so much. We try hard to make our guests feel at home, and well taken care of, so it is very rewarding to know how much our guests enjoy themselves. We hope to welcome you back very soon.”
Don’t use the same phrases repeatedly.
Your guests are probably reading more than one review and if your feedback is the same for each of the reviews, they might get the impression that in this hotel, they’re probably just “a room number”…
- Don’t take positive reviews for granted and only answer complaints.
- Don’t ignore complaints and only respond to positive reviews.
- Don’t respond to selected reviews only!
(Guests pick up these patterns quickly and it is part of what forms their opinion about your hotel or management style.)
A fresh look, a novel approach and the search for an emotional connection will get you much better results!
Below is a selection of snippets and samples of actual hotel responses that are amiable, authentic and original, and that create an emotional bond with their guests:
Don’t take it personally!
Sometimes guests simply don’t understand how a hotel works and why you could not grant their request, so it helps to explain the situation. See this example:
“…We were very sorry to read you felt so disappointed with your stay at XXX. Regarding your late check-out, we always try to accommodate such requests, but on the day you were leaving, we were almost 100% fully booked. Logistically, we would not have been able to provide our arriving guest with a clean room. We hope you understand.
Relate to your guests’ pains and problems
Have you ever noticed how quickly an irate guest calms down when you explain that you completely understand why they are upset? It’s no different in a written response!
“….As a coffee drinker myself, I understand your frustration with our Nespresso pods. I have informed our Housekeeping Manager directly to ensure this does not happen again…”
Don’t be defensive but offer your help
Sometimes it needs a bit more to clear the air, so why not invite further conversation?
“…My sincere apologies that your stay fell short of your expectation. Please email or call me at your convenience. I would like to discuss this with you and rebuild your faith in us…”
Be genuine and authentic when you reply
“Best Customer Service EVER” – that is such a great way to start our day today! Thank you so much for such a wonderful review and for taking the time to write.”
“The customer service experience here was the best we have had” – We believe that hospitality is personal, and it all starts with a dedicated and caring team. Your feedback makes us proud … and motivates us at the same time!” Thank you.
Add personality, some passion and even a bit of humor –
just like you’d do in a face-to-face conversation
“It thrilled us to read about the “unbelievable experience” you had at XXX and thank you so much for praising our “incredible staff”. It was wonderful to welcome you and your family on the occasion of your mother’s 80th birthday. The entire team has such splendid memories of your trip and everyone sends their best wishes!”
“Thank you so much for your wonderful words – it is like being IN a different city when you come downtown – just much more peaceful.
Sorry about the creaky floors – the oak was laid in a very traditional manner on slats of wood to allow it to move and give it a softer feel to the feet. Sadly this occasionally results in a creak but we will take a look and see if we can silence it. Hope we will be able to welcome you back very soon.”
Use the opportunity to talk about your hotel!
“Our Executive Suites are jewels to us and we are so glad you found your stay comfortable and enjoyable. We adorned our walls and shelves with original artwork and custom designed furnishings, we like to say the hotel is a living art project. I am so glad you could meet our Vice President, who has hand selected much of the original artwork and antiques you’ll see in the hotel. From small NC Antique stores to Venetian Markets, each and every piece of XXX has a story and experience…”
When crafting your response, look at it from several angles and use the opportunities that’ll help you stand out.
This is a great way to draw attention to your hotel –
don’t let it pass you by!