I recently heard an ad on the radio for a company that was promising to improve your online reputation if you’ve been damaged by “misleading or negative bloggers.” This ad really infuriated me because, quite frankly, a business’s online reputation wouldn’t be “damaged” if there was absolutely no truth to the reviews.

That’s not to say that people don’t have bad experiences; no matter how good you are, it’s impossible to make everyone happy. How you deal with those unhappy reviewers can make the difference between a great online reputation and a bad one. No need to hire a company to falsely load up review sites with fake reviews or to flag negative reviews as “spam” when they’re not; all it takes is the willingness to make it right and make your reviewers happy.

Social media has made it extremely easy for people to post their reviews, thoughts and photos with the world. Between Facebook, Yelp, Google and the numerous travel sites, a guest can post their review from their phone, tablet, or computer at their convenience. Many feel that they shouldn’t waste their time at a hotel, restaurant or store if other reviewers overwhelmingly have said “don’t go.” As a business owner or manager, you should take the time to read all of the reviews of your business on a semi-weekly basis and reply to them.

Good review? That’s an easy reply: “Shawn, we really appreciate you coming in! Glad to hear you had a great experience and we hope to see you again soon.” Or if they pointed out something they loved and you can use it as an up-sell, go for it: “Shawn, thanks for coming to stay with us! Glad you loved those towels; they’re available for purchase on our website www.acmehotel.com”

Now for those that leave negative reviews, you must be willing to not only read their criticism without taking it personally, but also to immediately rectify the situation. When someone leaves a negative review, they’re not doing it to personally attack you. They had a bad experience; it was clearly not rectified while they were there, so they feel the need to vent.

Read their comments very carefully and then respond in detail. Address them by name (or username) and tell them who you are, apologize and end with a positive. As an example: “Steve, my name is Dave and I am the owner of Acme Hotel. I’m so sorry to hear you had a bad experience and I’d like to make it right” Follow this by going through, in detail, their complaint and how you’re going to make it better for the future.

If they complained that the room wasn’t clean, explain that you’re going to work with the housekeeping department to institute new protocols and in the future, guests are always encouraged to contact the front desk if they’d like a new room. If the complaint is about a price change in a restaurant, explain your reasoning for the pricing increase. Perhaps it’s weather related or you wanted a better quality meat for the guests.

Also, be sure to give them contact information for you so that they can call or email you to discuss this further. When you speak, offer them something to make it right; a free night stay, dinner for two, a bottle of wine, etc and ask them that if this experience is better than their last, they leave a new review.

It takes work, but these are the people putting the money in your pockets so listening to their cheers and jeers can help you and your employees become better at what you do. Don’t take it personally, but make it a personal mission to make your customers happy.
Learn more about Donna, our VP of Marketing - and be sure to catch her at AMSP Mid-Winter.