Nobody really likes receiving negative feedback. It stings, and as a hotel owner or manager, you immediately start kicking yourself for the missed opportunity when a guest leaves negative feedback about your hotel. A recent report from PwC, “Experience Radar 2012: Consumer Insights for the US Hospitality Industry” supports this. The key to surviving, however, is to embrace these negative comments for what they actually are – golden opportunities.
Part of the beauty of negative feedback is that you know where you stand. You know what went wrong and what you need to do to improve. There’s nothing more dangerous than a hollow review or a 3-star rating. What can you do with that? More importantly, when you receive negative feedback, you have the power to turn the very same author of that feedback into a walking, talking, raving advocate for your brand.
If a guest goes to such great lengths to give you negative feedback, whether it’s a Tweet, Facebook post, comment card, feedback system or review site, there’s clearly a great deal of emotion in the experience and passion within the individual. Anyone that has that much negative emotion can easily have an equal amount of positive emotion with just a little bit of TLC if you come at them in the right way.
1. Listen and care
The foundation of any culture of listening – and in turn action – is simply caring. Take great interest in what your guests are saying, and demonstrate that interest publicly. Actively soliciting feedback from your hotel guests while they are still in your hotel carries the sense that you are constantly striving to improve. Showcasing the ways that you make changes based on the feedback cements that idea. If you care about your hotel guests, your hotel guests are going to care about you.
2. Respond in real time
Your guests are infinitely connected. At any given point a person can email, call, text, post on Facebook, Tweet or send up a good old-fashioned flare to the universe to what could be your other potential guests. Your response time as a business is a direct indicator of how much you value your guest feedback. With each passing second, a wall builds up between you and your guests that harbors a certain level of dissatisfaction.
Further, while the ability of your guests to spread negative information about your hotel increases, so does your risk for “Reputation Hell”. Each and every guest that you have now carries an audience with them. You can’t afford to have a single negative experience turn into the loss of hundreds of guests simply because you weren’t equipped to deal with guest feedback in a timely fashion.
3. Offer to make it better even if it’s not your fault
Anytime you receive negative feedback, you have the ability to showcase your hotel’s ability to go above and beyond to satisfy guests. In many of these situations the guest doesn’t necessarily deserve it, but that’s not the point. You have to account for the bigger picture. Going above and beyond for one guest can touch far more potential guests and drastically improve your brand’s perception in ways that no other marketing tactic can. It’s not about that single guest at that specific point in time; it’s about using that situation to create a guest-oriented positive impression for your brand. In a sense, these are investment opportunities with the potential for huge ROI.
4. Follow-up, a.k.a. going the extra mile
After you’ve immediately addressed and remedied the situation with your guests, follow-up. Ensure that you’ve rectified it not only in your mind, but theirs, and let them know how much you’d like their business in the future. This gesture shows your guests just how committed you are to their long-term business. It also demonstrates the extraordinary effort you made to keep a guest happy – an action that should win back multiple guests.
You’ll never be able to keep conversations from happening, which is why hotels need to rapidly shift their focus to have a voice in these conversations and ensure that their guests speak well of them. Transparency is absolutely vital – it showcases the hotel’s willingness to make situations right, and it also keeps watch over someone who is unjustly bashing them, as there’s a built-in accountability when writing in front of an audience.
There is certainly no magic pill that makes negative feedback sting any less. By acknowledging it for what it really is, creating a culture that embraces all types of feedback, and empowering your staff with the tools and resources to act upon it, you can dramatically curtail the instances of negative feedback and ensure that you’re turning each guest into a living, breathing billboard for your brand.
As published on Tnooz – June 27, 2012.