Which ingredients can turn an unhappy guest into a happy one?
Research on how to best respond to (negative) reviews as a hotel is scarce. In other
blog posts, we already talked about a personal and (in)formal communication style,
and about looking for a balance between accommodating and defensive response
In this post, we will examine the study by Beverly A. Sparks and Graham
L. Bradley (2014). This study was based on research into providing services, and it
proposes several different aspects based on content, response quality, and stylistic
formats. Furthermore, it provides a number of tips that also our HotelSpeaker team
can get behind.
Which elements does a response to negative feedback have to
According to Sparks and Bradley, an answer is best composed of the following three
For starters, a hotel could acknowledge the problem of its customer which led to his
or her complaint. It can do so in different ways: by thanking the customer, by showing
appreciation, by means of a general apology, by admitting to the incident and maybe
even the link with poor service, by claiming responsibility… It’s important that the
response contains at least one form of acknowledgment.
Another important part of a successful answer is explaining what precisely allowed
the problem to occur in the first place. Again, the most important rule is that the
answer needs to contain at least one explanation to appease the customer. If it’s not
possible to provide a credible explanation, Sparks and Bradley propose using a
justification or a sincere apology.
3. Actions Taken
Besides acknowledgment and an explanation, guests want to see a real solution to
their problem. As the hotel, it’s best to mention the measures you’ve taken since
then, or will be taking in the near future, to rectify the problem. You can appease the
customer by ensuring them that their complaint is being investigated, or by
mentioning that the information will be passed on to the department in charge. The
guest will be even more satisfied if the hotel demonstrates a willingness to adjust its
products, service, or policies. A less common option is for hotels to promise
additional training for their staff, or to make changes to an existing training program.
Other options include: inviting the guest to contact the hotel for further assistance,
and proposing a compensation (financial or otherwise).
What does the content need to convey?
Imagine that you’ve just written a negative review on TripAdvisor. What would be
important to you? Without a shadow of a doubt, you would at least appreciate a
response. You also want to be taken seriously, and receive a fitting and honest
response to your specific complaint. According to Sparks and Bradley, a successful
response must convey the following three traits: sincerity, thoroughness, and
Which communication style can be used?
The way a hotel styles its communication determines how it’s perceived by the
customer. In order to make a competent impression, it’s best to use a professional
communication style. Hotel visitors also attach a lot of value to kindness, an
impression that according to Sparks and Bradley can be conveyed using an informal
style of response. For certain complaints, it might be necessary for the hotel to take
on a slightly more defensive stance. The use of custom stylistic formats could be a
sign of professionalism, kindness, or assertiveness.
Ingredients? Check. But who’s going to prepare them?
In today’s world, the importance of a professional, thorough, and successful response
strategy to negative reviews online has become crucial. In practice however,
responding to reviews can be a time-consuming process. Aside from that, it can
also be expensive, and the hotel staff often lacks the necessary expertise. This is
where our team comes in: we respond to the comments of your guests in the name of
your hotel, and we’re trained to formulate a response that fits both your hotel’s
communication style as well as specific types of reviews.
Sandra Rasmussen and Babette Dobbenie