Responding to social media commentary: Handling repeat complaints, promotion and personalization

08 Aug 2013 by ReviewPro in Best Practices

By Daniel Edward Craig

We clearly struck another chord with ReviewPro’s most recent webinar, Beyond the Basics: Responding to Social Media Feedback Like a Pro. More than 1,000 people registered for the event and we fielded dozens of questions. Here are answers to some of most popular questions submitted by attendees.

First and foremost, I should stress that there are no hard and fast rules to responding to reviews and social media commentary. Every hotel must decide on its own approach based on the unique personality of your brand.

Will responding to reviews on TripAdvisor help my ranking? If not, why bother?

According to TripAdvisor, management responses have no impact on a hotel’s Popularity Index ranking. They can, however, influence traveler perceptions and increase conversions. Responding is an opportunity to show that you’re listening, to apologize, to clear up misinformation and to reinforce the positive.

How do you respond to a negative comment when the guest is right?

If a review is accurate and fair, a response might not be necessary. It’s really up to you. However, it may be appropriate to thank the guest for the feedback, to offer apologies, and to say how you’re following up. If it’s a rare or one-time occurrence, you’ll also want to reassure other travelers that the same thing won’t happen to them.

How do you respond to negative comments regarding topics that you can’t resolve, such as your location?

Not all negative commentary is bad. If accurate, it can help set expectations for other travelers, which in turn can prevent bad reviews.

Hotels respond to reviews in two ways: Internally, which is what you do about feedback; and externally, which what you say in reply to the feedback. Your internal response involves analyzing what led to the disappointment and how you can fix it. In the case of a complaint about location, while you can’t move your hotel, you can take a good hard look at how your promo material describes it. Gone are the days when hotels can get away with saying it’s “steps away” from the city center when it’s a fifteen-minute walk. If you mislead travelers, your reputation will suffer.

As for your external response, depending on the context you may wish to offer apologies for the disappointment and to reinforce what’s positive about your location or the features that compensate for it. But first, keep reading.

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We have two hotels in different destinations. Occasionally with a very positive review we like to recommend our sister hotel by discussing the differences and similarities. Is this too much selling?

This is a great question because it brings up an issue I see all too often: Hotels using management responses as an advertising platform. Some are actually stuffing them with keywords and pasting copy verbatim from promo materials. The result is salesy and off-putting—particularly if the review is negative.

Review sites are primarily a platform for travelers to exchange trip information and advice with other travelers. Hotels are privileged to be able to participate in the conversation. Let’s not abuse the privilege.

That said, some hotels find ways to reinforce the positive in a natural manner that is relevant to the conversation. If you can pull that off, go for it. Otherwise I’d save the selling for your website.

For inspiration, check out responses by our webinar guest Nicholas Gandossi, general manager of Opus Hotel.

We have a constant complaint from our guests: Internet cost. I have addressed this comment in dozens of posts. The fee for the most part is not going away. How can I politely answer this same complaint over and over?

From an internal perspective, reviews and social media feedback must play a key role in budgeting and planning. As a former general manager, I completely understand why many hotels charge for wi-fi. But when making such decisions, hotels must factor in the costs to reputation. How many guests are giving a lower rating simply because they’re annoyed by the charge?

As for how to respond, I would draft a reply that explains the reasons for the fee and why you feel the hotel still offers good value. Rather than respond to every complaint, focus on those that are particularly angry or damaging or are from repeat guests or senior reviewers. Use ReviewPro to track these comments and build a case for changing the policy as merited.

Is it OK to answer tweets that talk about our hotel – but don’t mention us?

Social media places a lot of data at the fingertips of businesses. Some hotels use this to personalize the experience, but it’s a fine line that can border on creepiness. We need to be highly sensitive to privacy concerns.

If your hotel’s name isn’t mentioned in the tweet, it’s a safe assumption that the message isn’t intended for you. If you respond, some people might be impressed, others annoyed by the intrusion.

If you feel the comment needs to be addressed, most people won’t be put off if you say something like, “We saw your comment and want to offer our apologies. Is there anything we can do to help?”

In replying to Facebook commentary, is it important to identify who you are?

It’s really up to you, but I think it add a nice personal touch to sign occasional posts with your name. People connect more with people than with brands. This is especially important when dealing with negative commentary.

The same goes for Twitter. I like how Delta Hotels says who is tweeting in its profile:

When writing responses on TripAdvisor, I tag myself as manager (from their drop down menu). Should I sign my actual name on the end of the response or is that necessary?

Again, I think that adding your name and title adds a personal touch. Bear in mind that review responses are searchable content, so if you don’t want your name forever linked to the review, give your first name and initial only.

How do you expect hotels to respond to social media feedback during weekends and evenings when senior management isn’t around? Who should be trained to use social media for prompt feedback?

Social media has reached a maturity level, having evolved into a guest service channel comparable to the telephone and email. Hotels need to accommodate it, and that means setting up the means to monitor and respond 24 hours.

In my opinion, if a manager or employee can be entrusted with responsibility for a hotel in the absence of upper management, he or she should also be entrusted with overseeing social media channels. It’s easy to learn the basics of monitoring, and responses can be as simple as acknowledging comments and saying someone will be in touch with them shortly. Keep the social media administrator’s contact info on-hand in case of emergency.

Download: How to Respond to Online Hotel ReviewsDownload: How to Respond to Online Hotel Reviews

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