Reviews: how to stand up for yourself without offending anyone

Reviews: how to stand up for yourself without offending anyone

Every hotel receives a negative review every now and then. What many hotel managers ask themselves, is how to best respond to this. How do I prevent this from damaging my reputation, knowing that potential customers are more easily influenced by negative reviews rather than positive ones?

Simply ignoring these negatives reviews is never a good idea. That way, the hotel will disappoint the customer twice. On the one hand, the customer is unsatisfied about a certain service and on the other hand, his complaint goes unheard. By answering to these reviews, the hotel can regain some credit both with the original customer and with future guests. Doing this will create the impression that the hotel staff cares about its guests and is willing to invest time and effort in them.

But how do you formulate your response? A study by the Chinese researcher Victor Ho (2017) in Journal of Pragmatics offers an interesting analysis of the response strategies hotels are currently using to respond to negative reviews.

A negative review … now what?

Imagine you’re a hotel manager and you’re faced with this negative review:

Translation: “Last week I stayed in your hotel and I was NOT satisfied with the room and the staff. The room was filthy and the staff was unfriendly. I will never be returning.”

How can a hotel respond to this? Victor Ho determined two types of response strategies for negative reviews, which are referred to as accommodating and defensive. No idea what we’re talking about? Don’t worry: we’ll get you up to speed with what these strategies entail.

By adopting an accommodating strategy, the hotel doesn’t try to face the customer head-on, but rather attempts to meet them halfway. This can be done by apologizing or by showing appreciation. Defensive answers occur when the hotel disagrees with the customer’s complaints and demonstrates this implicitly or explicitly.

As the above image indicates, accommodating answers are self-explanatory. They all seem very beneficial for the relationship with the customer. And yet, according to Ho defensive answers are very common and most often combined with accommodating strategies. Is it really a good idea to respond to a customer defensively?

Warning, danger of frustration!

A defensive strategy could potentially carry with it two grave dangers if a complaint is simply swept under the rug. On the one hand, the customer might feel like they are being attacked by the hotel. On the other hand, the hotel blocks any type of communication if it doesn’t respond to the customer’s complaint. In that case, there is a total lack of empathy, or the hotel is unwilling to offer an explanation. This may offend the customer.

3 reasons why a defensive strategy can be worth it anyway

Victor Ho concludes that defensive strategies occur fairly often in reviews. This may point to the fact that hotels feel the urge to set a number of things straight in the hopes of diminishing the fallout from negative reviews. We can discern three functions in a defensive strategy:

Firstly, a defensive answer by the hotel management offers an explanation for possible misunderstandings. This can be successful in combination with a strategy of stating that the problem is incorrect and supporting that claim with evidence. It also works when the hotel ‘questions the problem’ or ‘labels the problem an exception’.

Secondly, a defensive answer can suggest that the hotel management is helpful and empathetic. The main strategy here is to propose a solution and to offer recommendations. In this manner, the hotel shows its customers that they would have had certain facilities at their disposal if they had consulted the reception desk. This demonstrates to future guests who might be reading reviews beforehand that the hotel could have solved the issue.

Lastly, defensive answers also offer an opportunity for promotion. In this instance, the hotel could use the strategies of ’emphasizing accommodation and service’ and ‘focusing on maintaining a certain standard and mission’ in order to promote certain aspects of the hotel.

What tips does HotelSpeaker offer?

  • First, take your complaints seriously.

Social media and travel websites have created what is referred to as customer empowerment. It’s becoming easier and easier for customers to share both positive and negative experiences with others. At a rapidly increasing rate, those reviews are starting to reach more and more people, which makes them more important than ever before. Hotels cannot afford to simply ignore these reviews. Ignore them, and face the negative consequences: damage to your reputation and your financial income.

  • Second, respond quickly and adequately.

It’s important to respond to these reviews quickly and adequately, also when, and especially when you disagree with the criticism. This doesn’t mean you have to start simply accepting unfounded complaints.

  • Third, use both an accommodating and a defensive strategy, depending on the context.

Both accommodating and defensive strategies can be effective when you’re trying to satisfy customers. However, this only works when you use them correctly. That is why HotelSpeaker combines both strategies with a focus on emotional intelligence. This way, we’re able to offer the right response for each and every situation.

Nele Vandenberghe und Fran Dendooven

Source: Ho, V. (2017). Giving offense and making amends: How hotel management attempts to manage rapport with dissatisfied customers. Journal of Pragmatics, 109, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2016.12.001

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