How To Respond to Ratings on Travel Review Sites
Best Practices from Experience with Sundance Vacations Reviews
With the growing popularity of sites like TripAdvisor, Hotels.com and Yelp, travelers are drastically shifting where and how they talk about their trips.
It used to be that if someone didn’t like your business (regardless of whether their issue was legitimate), they would just tell their friends and you might lose a customer or two if the issue went unresolved. Usually the complaint was relatively contained.
Today, that is not the case at all. People flock to rating and reviews sites to tell the world about their experience. Literally the world! Sites like Yelp and Google+ are active in the U.S., Spain, Norway, Japan, and dozens more countries.
In just the month of June 2015, Yelp.com lists that it had 83 million unique mobile visitors and 79 million desktop visitors. TripAdvisor has more than 160 new contributions posted a minute. That’s a lot of potential for someone to see that review you just received.
So how exactly do you respond to reviews, especially negative ones?
Everyone has something different to say: respond to every review, only respond to the bad, apologize for what happened, don’t ever apologize but offer a solution to fix the issue. The list goes on and on.
We’ve done research here at Sundance Vacations. Reviews are an important subject, and here’s what we’ve concluded works well for businesses in the travel industry.
Responding to Negative Reviews, Sundance Vacations suggestions
Yikes! A one-star rating! What did your company do to deserve that? Before you break a sweat, read through these suggestions for handling any review.
1.) Acknowledge The Way Your Reviewer Feels
Most reviewers simply want their issue resolved. A little empathy can go a long way. Instead of saying “I’m sorry,” or saying the slightly insulting, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” make it less apologetic and more about making their experience better. You’re here to listen to their problems and offer them a solution, because even if the problem wasn’t your business’ fault, there’s still a problem in your reviewer’s mind they want rectified.
You could say something like, “Thank you for taking the time to tell us about your experience with us. We understand why staying in a room with no towels would be frustrating when you just want to get ready to go out for dinner! Our policy is to always provide fresh clean towels in every room and we’re looking into what happened so we can improve our services.”
Whatever the scenario may be, simply thanking them for informing you and repeating back the experience to show some empathy can make the reviewer understand that you value there feedback. Psychology 101. But it doesn’t stop there.
2.) Never Make The Reviewer Look Bad
Even if the reviewer misinterpreted something or is rude, don’t fight fire with fire; your business will be sure to get burned. Pointing out that they are mistaken or simply correcting them can be viewed as crass. Be kind and attentive, showing them that your number one priority is to resolve their issue and help change their mind about your establishment.
The reason you shouldn’t immediately apologize to a reviewer is because you may not even know if their allegations are true. The social media manager of your large company is not informed about each and every detail of what happens within your business, and if s/he apologizes for something your business didn’t even do, it makes it look as though you did in fact do it.
Do some research. See if the reviewer’s claim is legitimate. Did they have a room with no air conditioning or are they trying to get money knocked off their stay? Was the manager really rude to them or were they rude to the manager? In the end, a lot of uncovering the truth is impossible and it’s up to you to handle the stir.
Simply never make it out to be the reviewer’s fault, nor your own unless you are sure it was a fault of your business. Basically just don’t point any fingers; just focus on pleasing the reviewer. If you do discover the situation was on your business’ end, by all means apologize, but this can be done privately after an initial response to the public post. So how do you handle replying back on the public review site before you contact them privately?
3.) Tease The Audience But Fully Satisfy The Reviewer
Once you determine if your business is at fault, or conclude the fault is unknown, it’s time to start by giving the reviewer’s post some loving. The review is usually a way for the reviewer to be heard and their situation should be handled uniquely by your business. Most responses can be curtailed online to simply show that you acknowledged their issue and that you are taking steps to correct it or listen more to the reviewer.
Usually it’s better to give the “audience,” that is, anyone who can view the review (which is basically anyone), something to see. For example, if a reviewer posts a review claiming your company isn’t getting back to their phone calls and that they’re frustrated, address their frustration by repeating it back and then show that you are taking further steps to acknowledge it.
Try saying something like, “We understand that you’re frustrated that no one has been in contact with you. Could you email your number to email@example.com or privately message us your number on TripAdvisor? We’d be more than happy to call you!”
Typically if the reviewer’s name is in your database you may not even have to ask for their contact information.
You could also offer them SEO primed solutions online to maximize keyword engagement. Link a site that leads them to a helpful answer.
“We understand that you’re frustrated that no one has been in contact with you. If you have not already, be sure to look over our (Name of Company) Contact Page for more information. Could you email your number to firstname.lastname@example.org or private message us your number on TripAdvisor? We’d be more than happy to call you!”
Adding this link could be helpful in letting the reviewer check to see if their concern is valid and brings traction to your website for others to learn more about you. This approach shows the audience that you have attended to their concern, but it also gracefully makes the matter private between you and the reviewer, leading us to our next step…
4.) Take It Offline
Usually if someone is upset enough to complain about your business on a public platform, they are inclined to also publically share personal details about their situation. As a business owner or manager, it’s almost always better to discuss negative matters offline. Usually it’s more beneficial for the reviewer too, because they are talking to someone one-on-one who is able to address their concerns, possibly immediately.
Introduce yourself to the reviewer to make it more personal; let them know you are not just an empty voice calling them because it’s your job. Sharing just your first name and title is frequently good enough to make them feel they are talking to the right person. Be sure to thank them right away for their business and more importantly their feedback. This will show them that you wish to help them come to a solution and that your only intention is to make their experience as pleasant as possible.
Take time to listen to their issue without interrupting to correct them or cut them short if you’ve heard a similar situation before. Once they express their problem, repeat back what they said again to ensure you understand their concern without immediately offering a solution.
“So it sounds to me like you’ve been trying to call us a couple times and we just kept missing each other because our office was closed. You left both Linda and Greg a message and they haven’t returned your call and you’d like to hear back from someone as soon as possible.”
Once the reviewer says yes, outline a few ways you could correct the issue.
“Alrighty. Well there are a couple different ways we can ensure you’ll talk to the right person about booking a room. I could personally give Linda or Greg your phone number. If you would give me a list of times and days your available, we can work out a time to talk that works for the both of us. They could have been off since you buzzed them yesterday. Or, I could give you our hours for you to call back and speak to one of our other reservationists as soon as possible. Which would you prefer?”
Giving the reviewer choices makes them feel in control and more confident they will resolve their concern in the best way. Be careful not to tell a reviewer what you are going to do to fix it; instead make them feel as though they came to the solution on their own with gentle guidance from the right person.
Again, it is ultimately up to you if you would like to apologize to the reviewer for the situation. Just remember, make sure to not apologize for something your business did not do, because it gives the reviewer the impression that you did fact cause the issue.
Responding to Positive Reviews, Sundance Vacations suggestions
Now to the fun part, positive reviews! These are the people who loved your company and think you are the bomb-diggity of travel. How do you thank them for taking the time to tell others about you? Let’s take a look at how we suggest you show your gratitude!
1.) Decide to Respond
Some people will decide not to respond to positive reviews. These businesses will typically decide where and when to invest their time and, concluding that it’s more beneficial to focus on correcting the bad than appreciating the good, opt to save some typing. Typically larger businesses that get a big influx of feedback will choose to do this to save time. However, if you want to show your appreciation for someone’s feedback, the decision to reply to a positive review is up to you.
There are just a few things to keep in mind when deciding to reply to reviews:
Sundance Vacations knows that responding to a highly ranked user could be beneficial to any business. People with more engagement on their reviews tend to receive a badge of notable mention and their posts tend to stick higher on the review page than infrequent users.
You can add to the conversation and imbed SEO keywords to enhance their post to rank higher than others, perhaps even burying some of the resolved bad reviews. Including helpful links to your website will lead others to your business and hopefully bring more happy customers.
2.) Avoid Overkilling With Kindness
Although you certainly appreciate and show your gratitude for that stellar 5-star review you received, it is possible to come on too strong in your “thank you” response. Businesses are expected to maintain a certain level of professionalism, and replying in a lavish way with capital letters and a million explanation marks is a good way to make your business look childish.
Keep it simple and short. A brief thank you for a great review and a small acknowledgment of something personal within their review is the perfect way to show that you took the time to read and appreciate their compliment. For example, if a reviewer posts a review praising your business on its amenities, be sure to mention it in your response.
“Thank you for the detailed review about our amenities, Stacy! We’re glad that you enjoyed our central air and the balcony. It really is the perfect spot to unwind and watch the sunset. We hope you’ll stay with us again!”
Planting the seed about a repeat visit is fine. Actually, it’s probably a nice cherry to stick on top to compliment your response. It gets the idea in their head that they can enjoy themselves that much again soon and makes your business seem welcoming and warm.
Be careful not to prattle on and on about other rooms you offer with great amenities or when is the best time to come again. There’s no need to convince them you’re wonderful- they already think you are!
3.) Don’t Offer Something Special
It may seem nice at the time to offer your reviewer a coupon or a small gift for taking the time to say such delightful things about your business. It’s not surprising your initial reaction would to be to thank them for the support, but it may not come off as that way to your audience.
People often see a gift or extra incentive as a bribe or reward for reviewing your business. Again, you’re not trying to convince someone to like you; you’re merely thanking someone for their praise.
Cut the gift and offer a genuine thank you; that will still make them feel just as appreciated.
So what does all of this mean from Sundance Vacations? Reviews are going to be both good and bad. When receiving reviews remember that no matter what, there are always going to be people that don’t like your business. Look at Apple for example. They sold 5.52 million Macs last quarter, which is enough to give every single person in Ireland their own computer, and yet, there are still thousands of people who opt to use other devices.
Moral of the story: you can’t please everyone. In fact, profiles with all positive reviews are often looked at as fake or unreliably rated.
One or two bad reviews can actually make your business look legitimate, and the way you reply can boost your likeliness. Even those negative reviews can be spun into positive engagement and show that you’re a good-natured business that responds well to feedback.
According to Yelp.com, 43% of their ratings are 5 star and 24% are 4, so almost three fourths of their reviews are positive. There’s that silver lining you’ve been looking for!
Simply be attentive and understanding, and your reviewers will respond with some golden stars.
Check out some of our Sundance Vacations Reviews here to see how we respond.
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