Responding to Negative Online Reviews: A Guide for Hoteliers

Admit it. When you see a new negative review of your hotel, you cringe. As soon as you see one or two stars, you start to see all of the prospective customers slipping away. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to mitigate the effects of a negative review—and even improve your hotel’s reputation in the process.

Once a negative review appears on TripAdvisor or another website, responding to it in a timely and effective manner is the single most important thing that you can do. Surveys conducted by TripAdvisor demonstrate that responding to reviews tends to result in higher average scores. And hotels that respond to reviews have a significantly higher chance of being booked by customers.

There are two major benefits to responding to negative reviews. Not only does your hotel improve its reputation in the eyes of prospective customers, but you may also be able to repair your relationship with the original dissatisfied customer.

While it is a good idea to respond to positive reviews and negative reviews, responding to negative reviews is particularly important. Speed matters, so as soon as you see a negative review, owners and managers should discuss the issue with all parties involved.  Once you understand the situation, you’re ready to respond.

Here are five key steps for responding to a negative review.

  1. Acknowledge the customer’s complaint. Customers want their experiences to be recognized by hotel management. Do not try to argue with them or accuse them of fabrication. (If there is obviously false information in the review, you may be able to get the review removed from the site completely.)
  1. Apologize when appropriate. If a mistake occurred, then apologize for the error. Owning up to your mistakes is likely to make a positive impression on prospective guests. People understand that no one is perfect, but a sincere apology can do a lot to compensate for past mistakes.
  1. Explain why the problem occurred. Although you want to be careful to avoid the impression that you are making excuses for failure, it’s entirely appropriate to explain any atypical circumstances that contributed to the customer’s dissatisfaction.
  1. Discuss the steps you are taking to ensure that this problem does not happen again. While acknowledging guest complaints is important, it’s even better to show your guests that you’ve listened to their feedback and are pro-actively working to improve the hotel.  Preventative steps could include any number of possible actions, including preventative maintenance, re-training staff, or instituting a new management policy. By explaining any changes that you will be making, you reassure prospective customers that the problem will not recur if they were to book your hotel.
  1. Invite the guest to stay at your hotel in the future. They may or may not take you up on the offer, but it can’t hurt to try. Many guests will be gratified to receive a thoughtful response from management, and may well give your hotel a second chance. However, be careful not to publicly offer the customer additional freebies or perks. Not only may this violate the review site’s Terms of Service, but it can also look like bribery.

By taking these actions, you can turn a negative review into a positive marketing asset.

About HotelTap:

For employees, managers and owners in limited service hotels, who are using paper log books for communications, HotelTap offers a cloud solution for responding to guest requests, completing tasks, and managing their operations with email and mobile notifications. Visit or call us at 1-844-381-7221 to schedule a demo.

Leave a Comment