Not everyone has something nice to say

I don’t know about you, but I tend to be suspicious of any business that has only positive online reviews. In fact, most people, like me, tend to believe all those positive comments are from employees and not actual customers. No matter how good you are at what you do, someone is going to have a bad experience.

In any business, it’s inevitable that someone is going to post a negative comment online for everyone to see. Try as you may, you can’t control the opinions of your customers. However, the way you respond will make a world of difference to current and future customers.

bad-review1So how do you respond to negative online reviews? Well, not the way one New York state hotel did. The hotel took a stand against negative online review by issuing a policy that fined guests $500 for any negative review posted online on any website.

The policy even included guests of wedding parties booked at the hotel and even those attending weddings at other venues in the area – not just at the hotel! Couples booking weddings were warned in advance they would be held accountable and fined should any member of the wedding posted a negative comment.

The policy read:
“If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at {hotel}, there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of {hotel} placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event.”

The policy also stated that any fines levied would be refunded once negative reviews were removed.

Once customers started receiving fines, the news media spread the story. The hotel received a page full of one-star reviews on Yelp,

some from people who never stayed at the hotel. Shortly after, the hotel removed the policy and issued a statement on Facebook (later removed): “The policy regarding wedding fines was put on our site as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago. It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced.”

Too late! The damage was done. It is impossible to calculate how much business the hotel lost because of this. So how should a business handle negative online comments?

Deleting the comment won’t work. Once something is posted online, it never really goes away. You just cannot sweep negative comments under the rug and hope no one notices.

Instead, respond immediately. A quick and public response lets everyone know you care about your customers and your brand. Even if you do not have enough information to answer the negative comment properly, respond immediately and publicly.

A public response — sometimes just a simple, “Thank you for your comment, please send contact information so we can discuss further

good-news-bad-newsto resolve the situation,” — demonstrates you care about your business and that you are trying to make it right. A public response also helps quell any potential backlash.

You must respond in a thoughtful manner. Always stand by your brand, but show you want to help the customer. And, before you post your reply, consider any negative ramifications that might be read into your comments. It doesn’t take much for a simple situation toturn into a PR nightmare.

Honesty and transparency are critical when faced with any online negativity. Responding quickly and positively to negative comments show you care. It also helps cynics like me to see that even though not everyone may love you, you do address your customer’s concerns.

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