Traditionally hotels have bombarded customers with information about their accommodation or brand, but the harsh reality is their customers are no longer listening to these messages; they now have a spam box full of messages that are almost identical with their constant self-promotion which turns into a white noise of sorts that people have now learned to ignore.
Rather than being informed from the brand themselves, customers now want to hear a genuine opinion from another customer with a trusted and authentic voice in this digital age of online customer reviews.
The customer now has the power over the brand, which is forcing businesses to step up their game and work with their customers but there are growing reports of some websites/retailers trying to prevent those pesky negative online reviews from ever appearing online.
Although I have witnessed first-hand how some websites actually refuse to authorise poor reviews, nothing could compare to the catastrophic attempt by the Union Street Guest House in New York who allegedly advised its customers that a wedding party would be fined $500 if any guest left a negative review of the establishment. However this would dropped upon deletion of the negative review.
The New York Post and Business Insider both reported the story and quoted the following from the guest house.
Please know that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our inn, your friends and families may not. … If you have booked the inn for a wedding or other type of event … and given us a deposit of any kind … there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review … placed on any internet site by anyone in your party.
After Yelp and their Facebook page were bombarded with thousands of negative and sarcastic reviews, the hotel was quick to retract the policy and said it was just tongue-in-cheek, but it was too late, the damage was done and the Union Street Guest House had received world-wide fame for all the wrong reasons and left with an average one and a half star rating on Yelp.
What followed was the inevitable retraction statement from the hotel saying “The policy regarding wedding fines was put on our site as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago. It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced” However Information then began to appear on Engadget that seemed to suggest that this was false and e-mails advising the enforcement of the $500 fine were posted online.
As this story continues to grow, it’s also worth noting that a beach hotel has filed a $74,500 defamation lawsuit as it seeks to find TripAdvisor.com reviewer “12Kelly” over a negative review, The Oregonian reported.
These are just of couple of examples of how your business and your entire life’s work can be left in tatters within a few hours, if you end up in the online spotlight for the wrong reasons, but how should you handle negative reviews?
There are many ways you can constantly monitor what people are saying about your company and there is simply no excuse to not have Google Alerts setup, which will email you each day with anything negative said about your business.
You can perform the same kind of monitoring on Twitter too, so rather than getting angry, use any information learned from listening and use this as an opportunity to improve what you deliver.
Respond to all Negative Reviews With Grace
When customers are reading reviews, they are also looking at how you respond to negative feedback. If you show empathy and address all concerns of the customer in a timely manner, you will come across much better and illustrate that you actually care about the customer experience and are using this as an opportunity to improve your service.
Build a Community
If you invest in building your community with content that helps your users and promote this via your social media channels, you will quickly build up an army of brand advocates that will actually offer support should you come across any unreasonable characters.
All it may sound incredibly simple, but if you monitor what people are saying about your brand and respond personally to each and every comment by being genuine, engaging combined with a dash of empathy and humour in a timely manner, you should avoid problems online whilst building your own online community.
The days of putting your head in the sand are over, you can either pretend those conversations are not actually happening and face the consequences or spend time getting to know your audience and remembering that offering value is more than just the purchase itself, so what are you waiting for?
Have you had problems with negative online reviews? Please share your story and advise how you dealt with the issue.