Negative reviews. They suck in any industry. Especially in travel.
Back in the day, you may have received a phone call or an angry letter. Today, consumers have all the power, with the ability to ruin your reputation overnight, in a very public online space.
Whether a customer posts negative feedback via a review platform or on social media, the big question is - should you reply? If so, how do you respond?
During our team’s 50+ years in the industry, we’ve learned a thing or two about customer service and how to deal with negative reviews in travel.
Here is our helpful guidance for dealing with negative reviews…
Deciding if you need to respond
First things first, take a deep breath and try to look at the review objectively. Sometimes feedback from customers isn’t actually that bad. Travel reviews that are on the whole complimentary, with only minor complaints, can be ignored, as they’re probably not worth your time responding.
If you absolutely feel that these types of reviews need a reply, keep it short and sweet and simply thank them for their feedback.
On the other hand, some reviews can be awful. You know the ones. Big angry capital letters, written in pure rage, littered with aggressive, frantic typos, and on the whole, pretty threatening. For these types of rants, it’s probably best to draft up a response ASAP so you don’t look like you’re ignoring the issue.
If the reviews are seriously threatening, contain inappropriate language, or look like spam, you can always request them to be removed as a last resort of dealing with an issue.
Top tips for responding to negative reviews
Remember what we said about taking a deep breath? While it can be very tempting to respond angrily to a customer who you believe may be lying or just out to get a refund, unfortunately, you can’t just become a keyboard warrior and verbally attack them. That’s just not cool! Plus, it’s more likely to do more harm than good.
Here are some things to consider when responding to negative reviews:
Do your research
Before you look at responding, make sure you have all the facts. Do the reviewer’s claims add up? If you have time, it might be worth calling the hotel or service the customer is complaining about to check if their experience was recorded or acknowledged by the establishment. This will also show the customer you are taking the review seriously and trying to tackle their issues.
Be polite & apologise
Always begin by apologising to the customer and reassure them this is a rare incidence and you often provide much better service. Be polite throughout your reply, including please and thank you, and avoid statements that shift blame, e.g. ‘according to you’ or any phrases suggesting they are lying, as they may frustrate the customer even more.
Address each issue in your response
In most cases, there may only be one or two issues, which you can address and overcome quickly. However, some reviews may contain a lengthy description of multiple problems. In this instance, it’s best to respond in bullet points or paragraphs addressing each issue individually.
Again, this shows you have genuinely listened and are concerned about the customer’s negative experience, rather than just trying to palm them off with a generic reply.
Ask to discuss the issue offline
You can always respond to your customer in the short term by apologising and asking them to email or phone your company, rather than discuss it online. This way, it looks better on your part, as you are responding quickly to the review and also giving yourself time to prepare a more thorough reply.
Don’t wait too long to respond
If your customer has a grievance and they’ve taken the time to leave feedback, especially if it’s a particularly terrible review, it doesn’t look good if your company simply ignores it or replies weeks later.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. You’ve spent a considerable amount of money and potentially used up valuable time off work to enjoy a relaxing holiday and you’ve not had the experience you were promised. Then, you try to speak to someone about it and they completely ignore you. How would that make you feel? Always try to think about your customer’s perspective in your response.
Nominate one person or team to handle reviews
Depending on the size of your travel business, there may be times when people wear many hats in your company. As a CEO, you might even be the one reading reviews on a daily basis. Or perhaps your tight-knit team discusses reviews regularly within earshot.
This could mean you are inclined to take things very personally and tempted to respond yourself. Instead, it might work better for the business if you nominate a person or department to deal with review replies. This works out better, as all responses will be uniform and written in the same tone of voice.
DO NOT ask the customer to remove their review
Whatever you say or do, asking the customer to remove their review is a big no-no. This could aggravate them even more and make them think you’re only interested in your image, rather than addressing their problem. Even worse, they might be inclined to share the email or comment where you ask them to do so on other channels and leave even worse reviews online.
At a push, you could ask them to amend their review with a comment confirming you addressed all their issues, but this depends on how receptive they are to your reply. Either way, it’s much better to show how you handle negative reviews rather than trying to hide each one.
Try not to take it personally
At the end of the day, you can’t please everyone! Try not to dwell on negative reviews and treat them as a learning curve to help your travel business understand how to tackle any issues raised in customer feedback.
Ending on a positive note, reviews can actually help build more trust in your travel brand, as they reveal authentic experiences. If you have all positive, glowing reviews, consumers may be inclined to think they are fake. This shows your potential customers that we are all human and mistakes can happen, but it’s how you address the problem that really counts in travel!