Blog/ Guest Experience

Step into the Arena: When Complaint Resolution Goes Public

3 minute read

This article provides recommendations for managing negative reviews from online review sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google Reviews.  For tips on responding to posts on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, click here.

In the book Hug Your Haters, Jay Baer put it nicely when he said, “Complaints online are a spectator sport.”  Gone are the days where you could rely on private conversations to resolve an issue without it having a substantial impact on your reputation.  Nowadays, for many consumers across nearly every industry, the primary way to give feedback to a business is by telling them… and the rest of the world at the same time.  Therefore, when responding to negative online reviews, it takes a slightly modified process to resolving issues.

When responding to negative reviews, you are not just doing a service to the guest who was impacted, you are also showing off your service recovery skills to anyone who may consider doing business with you, and are curious to how to deal with negative situations.  The recovery process, including the LAST model, remains the same as feedback from guests directly, but since the conversation is happening online, the following five components must also be considered:

  1. Respond quickly
  2. Validate the concern
  3. Thank them for the feedback
  4. Stress that this is not the standard
  5. Convert offline


Respond quickly

Time is not on your side when it comes to negative feedback in any form. And when it’s online, you need to act fast.  Make sure you have alerts turned on for every channel where guests can post, so you waste no time in addressing the issue.  A negative review doesn’t sort itself out and the guest who posted it doesn’t have the patience for a lagging response; think of it as a problem that festers and worsens with every passing day.  There are many schools of thought in terms of how quickly you should respond – some say within a week, others 24 hours, and the most persistent experts say it needs to be within minutes; whichever guideline you adopt, the main goal should be fast.


Validate the concern

In a negative review, validating a guests’ concern carries a new level of importance compared to when you are speaking to the guest privately.  Passion and pride do not often agree with service recovery, especially when the complaint is posted publicly.  Oftentimes I have read a negative review online only to be met with a response that completely debunks each of their points.  It’s a bad enough feeling if you were that guest who made the initial post reading this response, but imagine if you were a reader who was scrolling through.  Whose side would you be on?


Thank them for the feedback

Any time a guest expresses any form of feedback, whether positive or negative, public or private, it is worthy of expressing your appreciation for it.  Yes, you would have preferred that they called or emailed you directly, but this is still feedback that you can use to help your business improve.  Always thank the guest for taking the time to share their feedback on their experience.


Stress that this is not the standard

It is especially important to communicate that this is not the standard, especially online, and done so with the same level of tact and intention as it is with the guest directly.  An online review is generally going to be a statement of perception, not of fact, and your reply should address the words that they wrote, and that what they describe is not the experience you intended for them to have.  You can even align it with the channel that you are on.  For instance, “As you can see from the high volume of positive reviews we receive regarding our staff, the service that you describe in your review does not meet our standard.”  You are replying to what they described, not assigning blame or admitting fault for poor service. 


Convert offline

Your response is not the end of the conversation!  In order to complete the service recovery process, you must switch to a private channel.  You will not always have the guest’s contact information, but your reply needs to stress that you are ready to solve their issue.  On review sites like Trip Advisor, Google Reviews, Facebook Reviews, and Yelp, provide the best phone number, an email address, or both and indicate that you want to speak to the guest directly.  Do not phrase the request as an option, such as stating, “If you would like to discuss this further…”  Of course, the guest may or may not follow up and contact you, but you are stressing that the conversation is not over.

Similar to managing guest feedback on social media, managing online reviews is a combination of marketing and customer service.  The most important factor to remember is that anything you say, suggest, offer, or dispute, is up for scrutiny by any reader, not just the guest you intend to communicate with.  Running an imperfect business is understandable; in fact, 82% of consumers actively seek out negative reviews as a positive indicator of a business.  A negative review is the perfect test for your hospitality standard and commitment to right a wrong when it comes up.  When dealt with correctly, your reputation is saved and even strengthened.  On the flip side, a poor response (or no response) can cause more damage than the original complaint itself.