The Dos and Don’ts of Responding to Bad Reviews

Bad reviews happen to the best of us. Experts share how to handle them.

by | May 8, 2019

Most operators will tell you that positive reviews are paramount to encouraging more bookings, greater sales and more excitement about their tours, activities and attractions. Most major online travel agencies (OTAs) have public reviewing capabilities, and most factor average review scores into their rankings. Plus, reviews are vital to the trip planning process. Research shows that 53% of people won’t even consider booking until they read reviews, and an incredible 83% of respondents read reviews to help inform their purchasing decisions.

But even the most dedicated five-star operators sometimes receive subpar—or downright bad—reviews, which can hinder other potential customers from booking. Whether the disgruntled reviewer was just having a bad day or if you actually messed up and provided a poor experience, it’s important to address bad reviews to mitigate the damage. This expert-backed advice shows you how.

Don’t take it personally. It’s hard to separate a review about your business from a review about you—especially if you’ve dedicated your heart and soul into providing positive guest experiences. But it’s important to feel a sense of detachment about reviews, says Chris Torres, director of Tourism Marketing Agency, a consultancy for tour companies. “All customer service workers have to deal with bad feedback at some point. Don’t take it personally and keep it positive and professional,” says Torres.

Take a few deep breaths before responding, and check your anger and frustration before clicking “Post.”

Do respond publicly. Respond directly—and publicly—to the comment to demonstrate your  business takes guest experience seriously. “We encourage owners to respond thoughtfully and factually and tailor the response not only to the individual reviewer but also to the larger TripAdvisor community and future guests,” says a TripAdvisor spokesperson, an OTA that deals with a massive amount of reviews. “By providing a thoughtful response to traveler reviews, you’re showing future customers that you care.”

If you don’t respond publicly, future customers could potentially just see the poor review with no explanation—and then move on to other experience options.

Do respond the same way across all platforms. Consider all of your interactions with guests as public—even if you’re responding to complaints through private email, text or phone. “For this day and age, whether it’s public or not, who is to say that a customer isn’t going to take a screenshot and share it; or record a phone call and share it,” says Torres, who recommends using non-accusatory language while responding to reviews.

Phrases such as “We believe this happened …” instead of “You’re wrong …” can help keep the peace.

Don’t delete bad reviews. If reviewers continue to comment after your response—and seem like they want to start a fight—consider turning off that commenter, says Torres. Only delete a bad review if it contains offensive language, and consider letting the website’s service team know.

Do respond even if the review is wrong. Really! If a bad review was erroneously posted on your tour’s page (for example, it was intended for a different operator), Torres recommends turning this into an opportunity to potentially acquire another guest, and show other customers the review doesn’t pertain to you.

Try, “Thank you for the review, but we have no record of you ever being a customer of ours. You may have left a review for the wrong company because you didn’t take one of our tours. But you’ve obviously had a bad experience—we would love to host you!”

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