With the interactivity of the Web comes the risk involved with free speech: guest critiques.
According to Hotels.com, guest reviews have become a crucial
component of decision-making. Ninety-two percent relied on guest
reviews for family vacations, whereas 96 percent said a dirty room
would prevent them from booking a property. Ninety-five percent
said bed bugs would keep them away, and 85 percent said poor
location and rude service would deter them.
Not only might the comments appear on your own Facebook page, which
is still under your jurisdiction, but the comments can appear on
any number of travel sites. One heavily trafficked site, such as
TripAdvisor.com, can harbor a bunch of negative
comments. On the bright side, experts say people also often post
positive reviews as well.
The best way to handle these outside sites is to visit them
frequently. “We respond to all … comments with our
management team,” says Jim Struna, director of marketing
revenue management at Nickelodeon Family Suites in Orlando. “We look
at them constantly and it’s very important to us.”
Jim Jalek agrees. “We respond to the negative ones and
find out what didn’t meet their expectations,” says the
account supervisor at Jacobson Rost in Sheboygan, Wis., the firm that
manages Kalahari Resorts’ Web presence.
Responding to negative feedback takes savvy. Neil Salerno,
president of Hotel Marketing Coach in Sarasota, Fla. says never,
under any circumstances, blame the customer. And avoid answering
with the phrase, “Our policy …”
“If that’s your policy, then it’s
wrong,” he says. “If a hotel was wrong, an admission of
fault is in order. That’s when the compensation comes in,
either a free return trip or some way to show, not tell,”
that management is sorry.
Always thank the customer for posting the comment, whether
it’s positive or negative. “When somebody takes the
time and effort to go online and make a comment, they deserve to be
acknowledged,” he says. “They’re not talking to
Susie the travel agent. They’re talking to the general
public. Comments from the consumer are the most powerful sales tool
you can have.”