How to handle negative reviews

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The Internet and social media networks have placed the power of mass communications in users' hands. Now, hostel owners must focus on customer satisfaction as never before. If guests have a bad experience on your hostel, they can share their experience on social networks, where this information can spread like a virus. On the other hand, if they post positive comments and recommend your hostel, we like to call this viral marketing.

These relatively new review systems empower guests to make informed lodging decisions. Travelers trust other travelers' opinions, so these social reviews can influence travelers’ purchase decisions. If they only see negative comments or no reviews about your hostel, they will be very likely to choose another one.

How to handle negative reviews

No matter how good your service or how comfortable your beds, there will always be unsatisfied guests. When you find a negative review, you have two options: ignore it or join the conversation.
We think that you ignore negative reviews at your peril. You may ignore it, but your potential customers will not. You don’t want negative viral marketing to go unanswered; however, most customers who post negative comments are not your enemy. Often customers want you to read their feedback, so you can know how to improve the experience for others. In many ways, social media has replaced the physical suggestions box you may have seen at restaurants and hotels in the past.

Regardless of the tone or content, answer all reviews in a polite manner. If a comment makes you angry, don't answer immediately. Arguing with a guest on social media is never a good idea. No matter how rude or unreasonable the comment is, it will not benefit you to get into an argument. On the contrary, you should by polite, professional and factual. Admit that they weren’t satisfied and this disappoints you. Explain what happened from your perspective and let them know that things can be seen from another point of view. If your staff did something wrong, say that you will correct the problem. But then you must be true to your promise.

Very frequently, business' owners are tempted to defend themselves rather than taking responsibility for the mistake. This behavior is very likely to make things worse, so we strongly recommend to avoid denial. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential guest. If you read about a negative experience at a hostel, but then read the hostel owner apologizing and saying that he will fix it, you are likely to feel this is a good place to stay. On the other hand, if the hostel owner simply rejects the complaint as false, do you feel comfortable booking a room there? Probably not.

You should learn to handle bad reviews with intelligence and maturity. Avoid taking negative comments personally, because we know that no matter how hard you work to avoid unsatisfied customers, there are always things that go wrong. So apologize, accept the mistake and transform the negative comment into a positive situation: learn from it and tell others that you will learn from it.

The challenge is to turn those negative reviews into concrete actions to improve your hostel management and customer satisfaction. After all, although they're negative comments, it should be considered constructive feedback for you to take into account.

Tips to answer reviews

First of all, try to answer as soon as possible. This way, you are hitting two birds with one stone: responding with respect to your customer and avoiding prospective guests seeing negative comments without an answer. You can also answer your guest publicly, but contact the guest in private, showing you are deeply concerned about the issue.

To reduce the time between comment and the answer, a good strategy is to

have a model ready for this situations:

  • Thank the guest for the comment and feedback
  • Apologize for bad experiences and explain possible reasons without sounding evasive
  • Talk about possible actions you will take to improve the situation
  • Invite the guest to return again, and give him or her some benefits or discount.

Delete comments or block users

Believe it or not, there are people with lots of free time who enjoy generating discussions with no aim. These people are known as Trolls or Spammers. We recommend not to play their game and only in these odd cases, erase the comments or even block the user, if possible

Bonus track: how to know who is talking about my hostel?

Google offers a service called Google Alerts, which you can use to track mentions on the web. And the good news: it´s free!
There are other tools you can use, but actually this is the simplest one, and you don't have to spend any money.