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.”