Buying a holiday home to let is not just as easy as purchasing a property and the bookings come...
Many holiday cottage owners fear receiving bad guest reviews, whether they are in person or online. But your response to feedback– good or bad – is your chance to make amends and show your property in a positive light. Feedback of any sort is also an opportunity to improve what you are offering – so try to see it as a positive.
To help you deal with negative guest reviews in the best possible way, here we look at some tactics for tackling complaints, so you can approach them with confidence.
While it can be tempting to ignore bad reviews from your guests online and bury your head in the sand, they can potentially have a huge audience and be one of the first things a customer finds when searching for your property on the Internet. Responding offers you the opportunity to show how much you value your current customers’ opinions and, if you get your wording right, could help potential customers trust you and book with you.
Love it or hate it, TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel site with 795 million reviews and 490 million monthly average unique visitors. And many travelers will read reviews on here to help them decide whether to book a property or not. So it’s important to respond to negative reviews on TripAdvisor in the right way. Some useful tips include:
• Respond to guest reviews promptly to show how important customer feedback is to you and so potential customers see both your response and the complaint. But this doesn’t mean you should respond instantly with the first thing that comes to mind, as your initial reaction might be too emotional.
• Keep your response as personal as possible using both the name of the customer who is complaining (if you know it) and signing the response off with your name rather than the name of your property. This will show customers that there is a real person behind your online presence.
• Even if you don’t agree with the complaint or review from your guest, always remain polite. You should thank the reviewer for their opinion, acknowledge their complaint and, if you have made a mistake or done something wrong, apologise for it.
• If you can, offer a solution as part of your response – for example, if something was broken, explain that this will be fixed. But make sure you actually do this to prevent further complaints about the same thing.
• A nice response to negative reviews could be to invite the reviewer back to have a more positive experience. This shows you still have faith in your property and, if the second visit goes well, you may turn a disgruntled customer into a loyal one.
Another place that customers may head to leave negative reviews is social media. As with TripAdvisor, it’s important to respond to complaints in a positive way as potential customers may visit social channels to decide whether they want to book with you or another company. Some tips to help you get it right on social media include:
• If you’re busy, it can be tempting to ignore your social media channels. But it’s important to make time for them and read what customers are saying on there to show you care about what customers think. Regular monitoring will also allow you to respond to negative guest reviews in a timely manner.
• As with TripAdvisor, keep your response personal using your name and the reviewer’s. This is especially important on social media as a customer is probably commenting using their own personal account. But this doesn’t mean you should be flippant or treat the review less seriously than elsewhere – always respond in a professional manner.
• Acknowledge the reviewer’s complaint, apologise for it if it was your fault and offer solutions instead of excuses to show that you care. For example, offer some money off another stay or, if you know you’re in the wrong, perhaps offer some money back. Once you’ve made the offer, though, take the conversation to email or give the customer your phone number so you can talk one-to-one.
• If you have a business Facebook page, consider turning off the feature to allow anyone to post on your page. Customers will still be able to comment, but only you will be able to create the prominent posts.
As the world’s most popular search engine, Google is where many customers will start their search for a holiday cottage. So your business listing and reviews here could make a huge impact.
Apply the same formula as with TripAdvisor and social media, and make sure that your polite, personal, timely (but not rushed) and positive reply is what potential customers see in response to a bad review. It’s fine to admit if you’ve made a mistake, as it will show that you are human and real.
While negative reviews online can be hard to respond to, those in person may be even harder as you’ll need to give an instant reply and won’t have time to draft your answer. So, prepare yourself – and any other members of staff you have that meet customers – to deal with these. Some tips include:
• While a customer is complaining to you, try to remember that it’s not personal and stay calm. Think in advance about how to do this and remember that you are representing your business.
• Remember to listen to what your customer has to say in full and, no matter how hard it is, try not to interrupt. You may learn something about your business that you can improve and the customer may calm down after being allowed to get what’s upset them off their chest.
• Once you’ve heard what the complaint was, even if you don’t agree, try to empathise with the customer and to see the problem through their eyes. You could repeat what you think their complaint is back to them to make sure you’ve properly understood it.
• Once you understand the complaint, try to find a solution rather than an excuse. This could be to fix something that a customer has complained is broken or offer some form of compensation if something that you know is your fault has ruined their stay. This may actually result in the customer leaving and recommending your property as they feel valued.
Just as responding to a negative review shows that you care about your customers, replying to positive reviews shows you appreciate them. So it is just as important to reply. As with negative reviews, respond in a timely manner and remember to:
Watch our Owner Q&A from July 2019, with more tips on replying to guest reviews, as well as autumn/winter essentials. Our guide on furnishing a holiday let offers more advice on things to do to keep the positive feedback rolling in!
*Based on a 7 bedroom property in the Lake District with bookings between October 2017 to September 2018.
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