TripAdvisor – One man’s meat or another man’s herd of wildebeests?

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Should I be worried? I’ve been reading TripAdvisor reviews for the hotel we have booked for two weeks in September and the latest one says, “the sea is not good”.

The hotel, part of a high end global chain, has virtually wall to wall five-star reviews, except for this one, where it was marked down because …  despite the food being “extraordinary” and the ice cream lady “awesome” … “There was lot of wind which makes lot of wave and the sea is not good.”

It makes me ponder on the fairness of TripAdvisor for some of our clients. It’s undoubtedly an incredibly useful resource in a review driven society and a vital part of their marketing. Good reviews make good hotels feel better about themselves and make bad hotels address their problems – well at least some of the bad hotels address some of their problems … sometimes.

In recent times one of our hotel clients has been accused – many months after the celebration - of stealing a wedding present. They faced three scathing reviews from the three individuals who had contributed £10 each for the gift – none of whom had actually stayed in the hotel, just been evening reception guests.

Another was told, in a mostly positive review, they were being marked down because, “As an American, driving in the UK can be a bit tricky … Getting around Edinburgh was nothing short of a nightmare.”

Can it be fair that an establishment is judged on things so out of their control as the traffic in the capital city and the wind at a coastal resort?

Or be heavily criticised when a guest who purchased a deluxe spa pack at an additional fee, mistakes the complimentary toiletries – which can be replaced on request - for the larger spa pack ones and complains vociferously on TripAdvisor that she was denied further “complimentary” toiletries.

(Overly) demanding guests who are not getting ‘their way’ – or a £20 jar of body lotion for free – can be heard in hotels and restaurants across the globe threatening to vent their ire, pettiness and hysteria in this most public of forums on a daily basis. However, what is written often says more about the writer than the establishment they visited.

Usually by the time their ‘opinion’ ends up on TripAdvisor, most hotels have already dealt with their issue on site as they see fit. Then, more time has to be taken to craft a response for trip Advisor which is not worthy of Basil Fawlty.

We work with our clients to get them over the personal hurt feelings a scathing review causes and to understand that, in responding to any style of review they are providing a reply not ultimately to the reviewer themselves, but instead to those reading reviews as they are the ones considering the hotel for a future visit. Yes, the specific comments of the reviewer ought to be addressed, but so should all of the circumstances surrounding the issues.

Some hotels don’t respond to good reviews – perhaps they view it as a pointless task as a good review means the reviewer liked the hotel so why bother to engage. However, TripAdvisor’s own research shows that 65% of their users are more likely to book with a hotel that responds to reviews (versus a similar hotel that doesn't), and 85% of their users say a good management response to a poor review improves their impression of a hotel; 80% of TripAdvisor users believe a hotel that responds to reviews cares more about its guests. It’s vitally important to respond to the good, bad and indifferent. Each response give the chance to reinforce your brand to potential visitors.

No one likes a negative review – especially if the review appears to be unfair and relating to things beyond the control of the hotel. But it’s important not to react rudely or to blame the reviewer. Irony and sarcasm can be equally catastrophic for your establishment’s reputation – 69% of TripAdvisor users said that they were less likely to book a hotel that responded in a defensive or aggressive manner. On the other hand, 85% said that a thoughtful response to a bad review would improve their impression of a hotel.

Think tactful and professional – and perhaps steer clear of this hostel owner’s approach to the introduction to his comments on a negative review:

“I hope you will also appreciate our honest feedback on your feedback because I am about to give you a spanking, so pull down your pants, bend over my knee because here it comes. Feel lucky I am not giving you an English lesson based on your review…”

Or, Basil Fawlty’s response to the expectations of Mrs Richards:

Mrs Richards: When I pay for a view, I expect something more interesting than that.
Basil: But that is Torquay, madam.
Mrs Richards: Well it's not good enough.
Basil: Well may I ask what you expected to see out of a Torquay hotel bedroom window? Sydney Opera House perhaps? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically...


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