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Dealing with the Dreaded: How to Handle Bad TripAdvisor Reviews

Management 9 minute read 01 August 2019

In 2017, a Northumberland fish and chip shop made national headlines thanks to its somewhat questionable approach to customer relations.

Responding to a disgruntled customer’s complaint about a lack of space in the dining area, the restaurant countered the review with, "this is a gross exaggeration of our seating arrangements, which are perfectly acceptable for normal people”. As if that wasn’t enough, their ‘PR Manager’ even told one unhappy punter that they should spend time in jail due to incorrect use of the term ‘al fresco’.

There’s certainly a cheap laugh to be had if you search Google for bad TripAdvisor management responses, but there’s an awful lot that can be learned from them if you’re running a hospitality business about which you care deeply.

The reality is rather hard to bear; at some stage, you will receive a negative TripAdvisor review. It’s inevitable. Even if your team is at its best and the service you provide at the top of its game, you’ll still encounter one or two unhappy clients online.

It’s how you deal with those bad reviews that sets you apart from the competition, and we’d like to help you do just that.

Examples of bad responses

Before we get into the best way to respond to bad TripAdvisor reviews, let’s have a look at how not to do it.

Don’t get all sarcastic…

No matter how much a customer review riles you, and no matter how quick-witted you can be, now isn’t the time to demonstrate your sarcastic side - as demonstrated by the manager below, who turns to an ill-conceived quip about plastic surgery to overcome a complaint about a ‘no-show’ on behalf of the tour operator:

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Don’t pull the sympathy card…

Hotel understaffed and under-priced? That’s not the guest’s fault, is it?

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Don’t be sorry - unless you really mean it

“Sorry not sorry” is a perilous trap to fall into when responding to bad TripAdvisor reviews. The response below is a perfect example of this, and in no way offers the reviewer (or passers-by) any reassurance that the complaint was valid or to be remedied.

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Examples of great responses

So, what happens when managers get it right? Here are three great examples of TripAdvisor responses:

Honesty and transparency

If you’re confident with your pricing and know it’s set at a level that is both sensible for your business and capable of delivering value, you have every right to explain (nicely) to poor reviews that suggest you’re too expensive. This is a great example:

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Taking the rough with the smooth

The review below mixes positive feedback with constructive criticism, and the response is perfectly judged. It also provides any passers-by with a clear indication that such feedback will be acted on in order to improve the experience for future guests.

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When things aren’t quite so bad

We thought it prevalent to raise the spirits of this blog post a little with an example of a great review and an equally great response.

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Among those bad reviews you receive, you’ll have far more of the positive variety. The trick lies in responding to as many of them as possible - particularly when they give you the opportunity to up-sell your additional services and tempt the reviewer back for more!

5-step guide to responding positively to negative reviews

So, you’ve received a bad review. It sucks. But here’s how you can turn that bad experience into something far more positive with our super-simple 5-step process.

1. Don’t reply immediately

When you receive a bad review, you’ll probably want to start bashing away on that keyboard immediately.

Don’t.

As with anything in life, an immediately emotive response will probably only land you in even hotter water. So, step back, take a breather and collect your thoughts before responding.

2. Respond within 24-hours

Although it’s sensible to take a breather before replying, you don’t want it to last a few days. Responding promptly is still important if you want to demonstrate that you’re on the pulse with guest feedback and keen to address any issues that arise in good time.

Make sure you respond within 24-hours. This will prove that you haven’t attempted to ignore the review but have clearly taken a bit of time to consider your response.

3. Thank the reviewer

This might sound odd - particularly if you’re in that heightened emotional state that arrives immediately after you’ve received a poor TripAdvisor review.

Every piece of feedback you receive about your business is valuable - negative or positive. Therefore, the fact this person has taken the time to tell you what they think deserves thanks.

It’ll also calm the situation and provide the perfect platform from which to further the conversation.

4. Issue an apology and outline your commitment to resolve the issue

No matter how wrong you might think the reviewer is or how unfair their criticism, you should always apologise - even if, in your mind, it’s only for the fact they feel so aggrieved.

Explain you’re just as unhappy that they haven’t received the experience you aim to offer all customers and make it clear you’ll do all you can to resolve the problem.

5. Take it offline

Good news - you don’t have to resolve the entire matter online with the world watching.

If the complaint is particularly bad and requires further investigation, explain in your response that you’ll contact the guest directly in order to discuss in more detail and find a resolution.

Come good on your promise and do just that - after you’ve spoken to every member of staff who encountered the guest and decided on how you’ll turn their bad experience into a positive one.

Wrapping up

If you’ve either received a negative review or are preparing for what will inevitably arrive on your TripAdvisor listing at some stage, we hope our tips above have given you the confidence to respond in the best way possible.

Before we go, check out this great list of pre-prepared responses to poor reviews. Bookmark it and make them your own, because you will, unfortunately, need them at some stage.

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