How to best (not) reply to reviews? Part 2: a personalised communication style

How to best (not) reply to reviews? Part 2: a personalised communication style

We already talked about it in one of our first blogs: at Hotelspeaker, we think it is important to answer reviews in a personalised way. In the greeting, we use - if possible - the guest's name, we address specifically what guests mention in their review, and we do our best to be creative and add variety to our wording. We do this because we intuitively sense that this leads to greater customer satisfaction, and research joins us in that.

There have already been a number of studies around personalising webcare messages in recent years. From those studies, we can see that it is indeed better to use personal pronouns in individual names, to go into the specific content of reviews, and not to start repeating the same standard phrases over and over again. But there is more: researchers have also shown that, as a company, you can do well to adapt to the customer's communication style in online conversations with customers. For instance, if you are addressed rather formally (e.g. 'Dear'; 'your service') by a customer, then it is wise to also reply rather formally and vice versa. This makes the customer feel that you as a company are investing more in your relationship with them, which also leads to more brand trust. While this communication advice goes somewhat against the well-known motto that companies should be as consistent as possible in their communication style, according to the researchers it is part of what customers expect from companies today: while companies should watch over their image and not take actions that damage it (e.g. as an eco-hotel not offering plastic cups), at the same time they should also think customer-oriented and adapt to the specific needs and expectations of their customers.

Why do customers actually prefer a personalised approach? This can be explained by a typical human psychological mechanism, namely our natural tendency to react positively to things that have human characteristics. A company that communicates with customers in a personalised way comes across as 'human': it shows that it is open to an enjoyable dialogue and that it takes you seriously as a customer. Customers then perceive this company as a 'company with a heart' that works on the relationship with the customer, resulting in more trust, satisfaction and loyalty among customers towards this company.

But note: there is also such a thing as persuasion knowledge among consumers, knowledge that allows them to unmask influence and persuasion attempts by companies. As a company, you definitely want to avoid activating this knowledge in consumers, as it leads them to then view a company's communication critically and as insincere. For example, researchers at Ghent University found in an experiment that while a personalised webcare message in a crisis context is the best option in response to negative customer feedback, it is not so when responding to positive feedback. In the latter case, respondents were more sceptical about the personalised than the non-personalised webcare message, perhaps because they felt that the personalised message is a bit too much of a good thing in that particular situation. So dosing correctly according to the situation is the message!


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. Ghent University, 2017.