Should Hotels Respond to Online Reviews? (Part 1)
London Hotels Insight
Thursday, 10th December 2009
Hoteliers in London often ask me how to deal with TripAdvisor comments; a recent survey by TripAdvisor/Market Metrix found that 85% of hotels have no guidelines on how to handle negative guest reviews published online.

In this two-part article, we focus on London hotels that appear to do this well.  We hope this will encourage others to follow suit in the knowledge that complaint recovery is one of the best ways to build customer loyalty.

We all love to use TripAdvisor, but it does have faults.  It's not surprising that this blog's TripAdvisor User Guide is one of our most popular posts.

Occasionally, people do also use TripAdvisor malevolently.

I know one very solid London hotel for which someone posted a lot of negative comments when they returned home and asked friends and family (who had of course never stayed at the hotel) to do the same.

These negative comments went against the grain of most other reviews in a hotel where I personally know the management to be very diligent.

If the hotel can prove foul play in such cases, management should contact TripAdvisor directly to see if invalid comments can be removed.  TripAdvisor is usually understanding and even-handed in these situations.

But back to the original question: assuming a negative comment is genuine, how should hotel management respond to it, if at all?

Some hotels put in standard responses – the worst possible solution.

By entering some "blah blah" about how you value their feedback, etc. (without addressing the specific underlying issue) a hotel's management is simply being arrogant.  It's better not to bother responding at all.

Other hotels respond to negative comments by thanking the guest (a good start) and mentioning some specific steps they may have taken.

Better still, they may actually give ownership of the issue to the hotel department head responsible for that area, who responds in person.

That for me underlines that complaints are a genuine improvement opportunity – if the hotel in question is fundamentally well-run of course.

One hotel that does this well is the Lanesborough.  We've featured this hotel several times on the blog and admire its management , the staff training, its hi-tech amenities (including free WiFi) and the ethos of transparent pricing which is so unusual in super-luxury hotels.

Whenever a comment appears on TripAdvisor, the relevant department head at the Lanesborough actually follows up on the specific experience that led to the comment.  The response is then personal, written by the person directly responsible and acknowledges the issue raised.

The Lanesborough is by no means a cheap hotel – in fact it houses one of London's four most expensive hotel rooms within its distinguished walls.

But I'm impressed that it is not too snooty to respond to TripAdvisor reviews (when several of its top-end competitors in London do not seem to bother acknowledging online guest comments at all).

In part two of this feature, we identify a hotel that goes even further than the Lanesborough in responding to online guest complaints.

Photo credits: The Lanesborough.

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