Networking in Berkshire - Business Event Details

How to deal with awkward customer reviews and social media feedback

There’s no such thing as bad publicity, it’s said. But whoever coined that phrase did so ahead of the explosion of social media.  Customer comments and user reviews have taken on immense importance as 21st Century Word of Mouth goes viral.

TripAdvisor reviews have long been contentious issue in the travel and hospitality industry, with claims that the system is open to abuse.  And the site hit the headlines again when a couple left a damning review of a hotel in Blackpool and found themselves stung with a £100 levy on their booking – because they didn’t notice a ‘no bad reviews’ clause in their booking terms and conditions.

Tony and Jan Jenkinson posted the comments on Trip Advisor after spending a night at the Broadway Hotel, for which they paid £36.  Without going into the history of how TripAdvisor ensures that reviews are genuine and how the system is not abused, it does throw up the topic of how businesses can best utilise feedback from customers and clients.

Naturally you want to highlight the good, but equally as important is how you deal with the bad. 

Censorship is not helpful, so your right of reply is key – and if the reviews are appearing on a third party feedback site and not your own website, it’s important to keep an eye on what people are saying about you.

This is where a good social media team earns its crust. Or if your business doesn’t run to that level of investment then an outsourced service provider is crucial. They will set in place monitoring tools that will flag up any review that includes your business name.

Once those reviews are spotted, have protocols in place for responding. That means having a set way of dealing with positive and negative comments. Notice we didn’t say stock answers – nothing winds people up more than thinking they are being fobbed off by a ‘copy and paste’ reply. Instead have a set procedure for addressing people’s grievances so that others who are shopping around can see how you deal with problems.

A good way to take the sting out of any situation is to say that you’re sorry there was a problem and that had it been drawn to your attention at the time, steps would have been taken to ensure that it would have been rectified. This is telling potential customers that should they book with you there will be opportunities for things to be put right in the unlikely event of their own experience being unsatisfactory. People who take the trouble to read reviews will see the difference between a business which responds sympathetically to objective criticism rather than one which dismisses it or ignores it.

If the thought of coping with bad reviews is an intimidating one, Pickle Marketing has a Customer Response Service which can deal with them for you. It operates at many different levels, so speak to us about how we can help. We can do as little or as much as you choose, from monitoring review sites on your behalf to dealing with correspondence that comes to you directly.

Our key piece of advice is to take every comment you receive seriously, however unjust or outrageous the claim. If you don’t, you could become caught up in a whirlwind of publicity that does your business no favours at all.

The Blackpool hotel we mentioned has since said it will refund the £100 charged to Mr and Mrs Jenkinson and has vowed to improve their facilities, but the pictures of dirty socks and ‘tired’ looking facilities are now out there for all to see. And they’re not going to go away.

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