“Industry Guide To Managing Negative Online Reviews” is a guest blog from Wherewolf, written by Natalie. Natalie Ryder is originally from Otago, New Zealand. She is the Customer Success Manager for Wherewolf, a digital waiver solution that provides operators with daily guest management, review generation emails, and marketing analytics based on their guest data. Natalie is currently based in Denver, Colorado, where she’s making the most of Wherewolf’s latest office location to rock-climb, hike, and ski in the surrounding mountains.

Online reviews are a great way for potential customers to find you and for you to discover what your previous customers loved the most. However bad reviews can affect team morale and your bottom line, with sites like Tripadvisor giving your guests an open podium to share their opinions. The best thing you can do as an operator is to stay prepared with strategies to manage bad reviews and encourage great reviews. 

1) Talk to your customers

More often than not, guests who leave a bad review are doing so because they feel like their concern had not been addressed properly, or that they couldn’t share it with a staff member at the time. Encourage your team to engage with customers after their experience and make sure there are measures in place to help them respond to any feedback – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Hearing negative feedback can be difficult for staff members so it’s crucial that they know how to listen with empathy and respond professionally, and to make sure this feedback is reported. These are learning opportunities for you to discover what part of the guest experience requires improvement. 

An automatic follow-up email is a great way to extend a channel for your guests to share their thoughts with the management team. You can invite guests to respond directly to the email with any feedback that would like you to be aware of, and send their responses to you for resolution. If a guest sees that you’re interested to personally discuss any issues then they are less likely to walk away and plaster their grievances online (where it can cause internal disruptions or damage your reputation). Your follow-up email can also contain links to sites like Google Reviews and Trip Advisor, and you can explain to customers the benefit that their positive feedback can have on the team and on your business. Wherewolf users can talk to our support team about how to edit their follow-up emails. 

2) Check your listing regularly

If you’re not paying attention, your review listing could run riot on your business. There is a treasure trove of information there so monitoring your listings will help you keep things under control. The photos and videos associated with your business or the address and opening hours should always be accurate and up-to-date to avoid confusing customers. Read about what people are noticing and how your business looks to them – the great parts of your experience deserve a reward, so if a staff member or a part of your experience gets a glowing mention, make sure you acknowledge that with the person who deserves that compliment and keep your staff motivated! 

3) Process bad reviews carefully

So a guest has gone online and left a critical review on your listing? The first thing to do is to take a moment – we know you’re passionate about your business, so a bad review can be anything from mildly upsetting to downright devastating. However, it’s important to step back and make sure you have a clear perspective before actioning anything. Read the review and carefully process what was communicated. Try to sidestep any intentionally blistering language they’ve included – that is not going to get you anywhere. You need to focus on what the customer experience was and formulate a plan. Find the customer in your records (Wherewolf users can use the ‘Search’ bar on your Wherewolf dashboard if you know their name or email address) and look into that day’s logs. Consider if this is the first time you’ve heard this, or whether there are multiple reports of this happening. Talk to the staff members and dig deeper into the guest’s experience, then start strategizing on how you could use their feedback to implement any relevant improvements. 

4) Submit a response

The best thing you can do is respond as soon as possible. This shows other review-site users that you are active and engaged, and that you care about your guests and their thoughts. If you’ve reviewed the feedback and found there to be a valid concern, then accept these and describe how you plan to mitigate this in the future. It’s your opportunity to demonstrate sincerity and dedication to fantastic customer experience, so take time to write a well-thought-out and genuine response. 

5) Ask the review site for help

We all know sometimes guests don’t tell the full story, they can be knowingly malicious. Google Reviews can help you flag reviews as inappropriate – they won’t get involved with he said/she said disputes, but they will help you manage content that violates their review policies. Trip Advisor will also help you report any reviews that violate their guidelines, so act promptly and ask for help where you think it’s warranted. 

If you’re looking for more ways to streamline your business and enhance your online presence, ask a Wherewolf team member about what we can do for you. 

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