How to reply (and not to reply) to reviews? Part 2: a personalized communication style

How to reply (and not to reply) to reviews? Part 2: a personalized communication style

In one of our first blog posts, we mentioned that Hotelspeaker aims to respond to reviews in a personalized manner. In the message greeting we use the guest’s name, if possible. We specifically address every element the guest mentions in their review, and we do our best to be creative and bring variation to our formulations. We do this because we sense intuitively that this leads to an increase in customer satisfaction. Research seems to back us up on this.

In the past few years, a number of studies have been conducted on personalizing web care messages. From these studies we can conclude that it’s better to use personal pronouns in individual names, to address the specific content of reviews, and to not always repeat the same standardized sentences.

But there’s more: researchers have found that as a company it’s beneficial to adjust your online conversations to mimic the customer’s communication style. If a customer speaks to you in a rather formal way (e.g. “Dear Sir”), then it’s better to respond formally and vice versa. This proves to the customer that your company is willing to invest in their trust, which in turn leads to them placing said trust in your brand.

This communication advice somewhat contradicts the well-known motto that companies need to be as consistent as possible in their communication style. According to the researchers, this is part of what today’s customer expects from a company. While it’s true that companies must work to safeguard their image, and shouldn’t take any actions that might damage their image (e.g. branding yourself as an ecological hotel but offering plastic cups), it’s also important to apply customer oriented thinking, and to adjust to their customers’ specific needs and expectations.

Why do customers prefer a personalized approach? This can be explained with the help of a typical human psychological mechanism: our natural tendency to respond positively to businesses adopting personal traits. Thanks to the services of Hotelspeaker, a hotel can communicate with its customers in a personalized way and will therefore appear more ‘human’. It shows that the hotel is open to pleasant dialogue and is willing to take its customers seriously.

Customers will experience the hotel as ‘having a heart’, and working hard to improve the relationship with its customers. This leads to the formation of trust, satisfaction and loyalty in guests, and it boosts the hotel’s reputation.

Be careful though: there is such a thing as persuasion knowledge in consumers. This is knowledge which allows them to unveil a company’s attempts to influence or persuade. As a company, you want to do everything to prevent your consumers from feeling this way, because they will approach your company’s communication more critically, labeling it as insincere.

Through an experiment, researchers at Ghent University were able to determine that a personalized web care message is the best solution as a response to negative customer feedback in a context of crisis. However, this is not true when considering a reaction to positive feedback.

In the latter case, the respondents were more skeptical towards a personalized approach than towards a non-personalized web care message. Perhaps they thought that a personalized message in that specific situation is too much of a good thing. It’s therefore important to use the right dosage depending on the situation!

This is one of the biggest benefits Hotelspeaker has to offer. On the one hand we want to gather the necessary scientific knowledge, and on the other we only want to employ redactors who demonstrate a high level of emotional intelligence.


Crijns, H., Claeys, A.-S., Cauberghe, V., & Hudders, L. (2017). Who says what during crises? A study about the interplay between gender similarity with the spokesperson and crisis response strategy. Journal of Business Research, 79, 143-151.

De Clerck, B., Lybaert, C., Plevoets, K., Decock, S. (submitted). The (combined) impact of CHV-features in online complaint management on satisfaction. International Journal of Business Communication.

Jakic, A., Wagner, M.O., & Meyer, A. (2017). The impact of language style accommodation during social media interactions on brand trust. Journal of Service Management, 28 (3), 418-441.

Sung, K. H., & Kim, S. (2018). Do Organizational Personification and Personality Matter? The Effect of Interaction and Conversational Tone on Relationship Quality in Social Media. International Journal of Business Communication.

Vanhulle, Karen. Sorry, our bad. Your bad what? An experimental study on the impact of specific vs. generic organizational replies to minor vs. severe TripAdvisor complaints. Universiteit Gent, 2017.


Copyright 2019 The copyright concerning the data mentioned in this contribution lies with the authors and Hotelspeaker. The copyright is limited to the way in which the author has approached and written down the topic’s problem. The author respects the original copyright of the individually cited studies and any accompanying documentation, such as tables and images.

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