How to Respond to Negative Hotel Reviews: Tips, Examples and Templates

image from How to Respond to Negative Hotel Reviews: Tips, Examples and Templates

There are so many OTAs and review sites where clients can comment about their stay at your hotel (TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google or, that it’s quite a challenge to keep up with all of them.

This week on the Bedvine Blog, we’ve spent time digging into the way to respond to bad hotel reviews.

Electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) platforms, which encourage users to share comments, ratings and reviews have presented customers with new ways to make travel purchase decisions.

Today, TripAdvisor alone influences $546 billion USD of global tourism spend annually. This meteoric growth has created incredible opportunities for hotels to interact with previous and future customers using electronic-word-of-mouth (eWOM).

That’s why we built a series of 3 articles about hotel on-line reviews: To help you understand the rise of on-line reviews and their importance in the digital marketing landscape, as well as how to response to them appropriately.

This three-part series will take you on a journey through the world of on-line reviews, helping you to understand why on-line reviews are important for your hotel and exactly how to reply to them.

3 articles to help you become a hotel on-line review expert:

  1. Bad Hotel Guest Reviews: Should You Be Worried?
  2. How to Improve the Digital Marketing Strategy of Your Hotel
  3. How to respond to bad hotel reviews: Tips, examples and templates

Reading reviews is on a path to become the primary way for people to make travel purchase decisions. If you want to succeed in the hotel digital marketing world, replying to good and bad reviews is a must to make an impact.

We believe that replying to every single review you receive, including the worst ones, is a key element to demonstrate excellent customer care and transparency. We’d love to tell you how successful hotel brands are doing it.

Just received a bad review for your hotel and have no clue how to answer it? Let’s fix that.

Keep reading to see how replying bad hotel reviews appropriately can drive your brand forward, and present unique opportunities to connect with your potential audience.

How to master bad hotel review responses: tips outline

1. Reply to all reviews you receive. No exceptions!

  • Most hotels aren’t responding to all on-line reviews they receive, and yours might be one of them.
  • Most hotels don’t think too much about responding to the on-line reviews they receive. They just reply whenever they fancy.

If this sounds like you, then you need to get smarter with your reviews management policy, at least if you want your bookings to grow.

You may be thinking that replying to bad reviews is not worth your time, as many comments are biased or subjective.

What Patrick De Pelsmacker, Sophie van Tilburg and Christian Holthof realized, back in a study in 2017, though, is that there are fundamental problems with this superficial approach: Being a passive listener, and not replying to reviews, especially to the bad ones, can send the wrong message to potential customers. Businesses that fail to respond seem inaccessible, neglectful, and even uncaring.

They may think you don’t take customer opinions seriously, which could ruin your chances to be booked by other browsing customers.

At Bedvine, we believe review websites are amazing tools for hotels to engage into service recovery opportunities and build a strong customer relationship management.

Indeed, studies have shown that responding bad on-line reviews can raise customer satisfaction levels at your hotel, which gives you an even greater chance to stand out and get more on-line bookings.

If you are not totally convinced, we strongly recommend you read this article, published by the SEO company Moz in 2018. According to the author, times have changed and a vast majority of customers today expect businesses to reply to their on-line comments. If you show a real commitment to reply comments in a mindful way that can help fixing customer problems, they may decide to amend their reviews and increase your ratings!

Now that you know replying to all bad hotel reviews is a must, we will dive into what makes for an on-line review-worthy response.

2. Reply in a timely manner

An hourglass on a table

Back in the Moz article mentioned earlier, Miriam Ellis clearly states her point of view vis-à-vis expected response times:

The safest bet will be the fastest possible response. If resources are limited, I recommend prioritizing negative sentiment, aiming for a reply within hours rather than days as the best hope of winning back a customer. “Thank yous” for positive sentiment can likely wait for a couple of days, if absolutely necessary.

Our friends at Xotels generally recommend that hotel managers respond to on-line reviews within 24 to 48 hours.

If you are part of a small team and don’t have too much time to spend on reviews, we suggest that you give priority to bad reviews, as suggested in Ellis’ article.

If you are looking for a list of tools to simplify your hotel reputation management, here is a list of possible options you can go for:

Moz is perhaps the most famous SEO platform on earth. They have plenty of advice to share about responding to customer reviews. Here is another of their blog on the topic you should definitively read.

Moz website screenshot

Moz has the Fresh Web Explorer, which sends you alerts every time someone mentions your brand on the Internet.

If you are looking for a more dedicated platform specialised in the hospitality industry, Bedvine is certainly the product to go for. The Bedvine service gets you instantly notified every time you receive reviews on the big OTAs, review sites and Google. You can also centrally reply to all of them from an easy-to-use dashboard.

If the possibility of remotely monitoring your reviews without the need to use a specific software excites you, I suggest learning more about Google Alerts and how to be notified by email every time your brand is mentioned somewhere on the Internet.

3. Remain polite and empathic

A smiling receptionist receiving a customer

One important step in our own on-line response vetting process is to make sure your employees are properly trained to reply every single comment your business receives.

No one wants to get bombarded with dozens of dreadful comments on the Internet. This can quickly become overwhelming and stressful.

Without proper training on how to handle bad hotel reviews, members of your staff could be engaging in defensive replies that could create more harm than good to your hotel brand.

That’s why you should make it clear that they should never represent your hotel brand poorly via aggressive on-line responses.

Any sign of narcissism, anger or snobbery in your response could severely damage your hotel reputation.

By responding to criticism in a respectful manner, your team will be able to better defend your hotel reputation and hone customer perception.

This involves pairing copy writing techniques and diplomacy to create responses that appeal to both your dissatisfied customers and future prospects.

But on-line reputation management is about much more than being polite when answering reviews. It’s about making sure you apologize to your clients every time something goes wrong.

4. Always apologize

A post it note on a table with the word sorry written on it

Let’s start with the basics.

It goes without saying that when someone leaves a bad review for your hotel, you should always start by replying with a sincere apology.

Have a look at this negative review the Four Seasons in New-York city received some time ago:

A screenshot of a negative review left on-line

Now pay attention to their response:

A screenshot of a reply to a negative review left on-line

Ideally, you want this kind of apologetic statements to show at the beginning of your answer, so as to make the client feel understood and comfortable.

This will only make the process smoother to further discuss the details of their disappointing experience.

The truth is: the advice is fairly easy to understand. But you also need to up your game with hand-crafted answers that are necessary to boost your customer care standards.

5. Hand-craft your replies

A close-up of a pen writing on a piece of paper

Unfortunately for you, some of the best strategies to efficiently reply to on-line reviews require using hand-crafted answers that you can’t fully automate.

First of all, start by reaching out to the people who wrote you the review, using their first or last name.


Back in the article we published on How to Improve the Digital Marketing Strategy of Your Hotel, we also stated that:

Whether you’re replying to an angry customer or receiving lots of positive feedback, you need to make your reply as personal as possible. This involves some effort, but this strategy can really pay off when implemented with care.

On-line customers are incredibly smart; they will smell duplicating generic responses from three blocks away and will forget about you.

Responses that also convey a detailed description, telling them who you are and what you are about in this hotel is certainly a plus.

In the above example by the Four Seasons, the General Manager gave the reviewer his full contact details, including his name, position and phone number.

A screenshot of a reply to a negative review left on-line

Despite this piece of reply being excellent and purposely crafted with the intention of cooling the client’s feelings, things could have been pushed even further.

In this particular example, the reply was given by the General Manager of the hotel. At Bedvine, we think that this task should be delegated to your operations team instead. This is because they are the ones directly engaging with guests on a regular basis.

6. Let your functional team reply to on-line reviews

A reception in an open area

Because executives rarely interact directly with customers, they should almost never reply to them.

According to the study published by Patrick De Pelsmacker, Sophie van Tilburg and Christian Holthof, functional staff are better prepared to deal with this task.

They accumulate plenty of operational insight during the day-to-day activities making them better prepared to address customer remarks.

7. Professionalism and honesty are everything

Smiling woman shaking hand of a business partner

Speaking honestly and transparently with your hotel customers can help build a brand people love.

You should be clear and right off the bat with your client about what happened.

So if you have a bad hotel review, you should first and foremost try to find and resolve the cause of this bad comment.

If you were to reach out to a dissatisfied customer who left a negative review, you should try to address the problem(s) and show that action has been taken to improve customer experience.

This might be a simple and powerful way to reassure on-line readers.

8. Move the discussion off-line

An illustration of a hand holding an old phone

You may have noticed that in the Four Seasons example mentioned earlier, the General Manager invites his guest to contact him directly for further discussion:

A screenshot of a reply to a negative review left on-line

This way to go for is certainly good, as it gives you the opportunity to get a frank and private discussion with your guest, while putting vindictive arguments and tough words outside of the Internet.

Asking to be contacted back is probably the best way to recover your guest’s trust and to clearly display a high standard of customer care to potential buyers.

That could also be a good opportunity to greet them to back at your hotel on a future trip.

Now that we got you covered with this list of tip outlines, let’s have a closer look at usable examples and templates.

Responses to bad hotel reviews: examples and templates

To conclude this series of articles about hotel on-line reviews, we thought it would make sense to share some examples of good review responses we got inspired from.

Here is a small selection, with comments below them. Enjoy:

If you pay close attention to our previous Four Seasons example, you can see it matches most of our previous recommendations:

An example of a reply to a negative hotel review with the best practices highlighted

Plenty of effort is being deployed in apologising and being polite and respectful with the client.

The General Manager tries to customize his response by addressing the client by his name and by taking the customer’s journey into context.

Now, imagine that he published the same piece of content without mentioning the clients name, nor his own name and position within the hotel.

Chances are this reply wouldn’t have been appreciated that much, as it provides a very impersonal and generic answer.

Then, why does the sentence “We take your concerns very seriously” works well?

Because that’s an excellent way to show your commitment to give feedback the attention it deserves and to improve the quality of your service!

A screenshot of a reply to a negative review left on-line left by the operations team

In this new example, you can see that, unsurprisingly, the responder is again very apologetic and polite, stating: “We are very sorry to learn” and “Please”.

Next, sift through this reply again and note how the writer clearly displays his name and position within the company so as to hand craft his message.

This time, the writer is not the General Manager of the hotel, but seems to be in charge of a more functional role, “Director of Mission & Ground Control”.

By leaving his contact details, the writer is again seeking service recovery opportunities that could well take place off-line.

Besides, as you already know, the cornerstone of many review response recovery strategies requires being honest and working on addressing the issue the client faced.

In the review above, the hotel tries to simply explain what caused the problem and how to fix it.

It’s a great way to rebuild trust with a disappointed customer.

Final thoughts

If you follow all of the tips above, you are likely to be on top of the on-line reviews game. When managed well, reviews can be a significant business generator.

Are you experimenting with any bad review responses that have resulted in improved user feedback? Please don’t hesitate to share your tips!

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