The phrase ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ became outdated as soon as reviewing online became popular.
The internet being as free as it is leaves a lot of people feeling nervous and as much as I am inclined to disagree, I do understand. If a mistake or slip-up goes viral, there’s little room for explanation and even when an explanation is made, you can’t guarantee that your naysayers will see it. It’s something that we’re all adapting to from your average person to huge companies and for now, there’s no defined answer.
Personally, I try to avoid writing bad reviews online. I write about music but only music that I want to promote. I don’t want one bad night/poorly recorded album to be the name a band is given due to my writing. If I particularly enjoy a meal, I’ll rate the restaurant on Tripadvisor but if not, I don’t say anything. I’ve left one bad review for a hotel and I really did feel I ought to warn people about how terrible the place was.
This week Tony and Jan Jenkinson were fined £100 for their review of a Blackpool hotel. The hotel in question does state (somewhere) in the terms and conditions that any bad reviews will result in a £100 credit card charge so at least they’ve been decent enough to be honest about their blackmailing tactics…! The hotel is now being investigated by trading standards but this case really begs the question of how should we be dealing with poor reviews?
I’ve seen a few strange responses. The most recent one was the hostel owner in Glasgow who actually argued with the reviewer in question. Apparently this actually turned out to bring in more visitors but I wouldn’t advise it – more visitors due to online scandal is short-lived.
Whatever your response, readers will be looking for drama. Not resolution. For this reason, it’s best to deal with it, wherever possible, offline. If you respond to the comment online, be polite, courteous and not ever defensive. Your customers matter and so do their opinions. This needs to be consistent when reviews are good and bad. Explain that you really are sorry and you’d like to discuss it with them in person, through a phone call or through emails.
Don’t offer a free night, free dinner etc in return for a better review. It’s a low technique and buying good reviews is just as loathsome as fining bad reviews. Offer them a free experience because their last one wasn’t good enough by your standards and what you aim for your business to be. What they do with that experience is up to them but chances are, if you come up good in the face of criticism and controversy, the customer will only have good things to say.
A bad review isn’t generally a reflection of a bad customer, it’s a reflection of poor service and this is something to keep in mind at all times when dealing with negative reviews.
As a consumer, what can you do to support hotels, restaurants and small businesses?
Write good reviews. If you enjoy a meal, a stay at a hotel, a museum experience… anything! Write about it. Not only does it support the business in question but it also evens out the scales. Praise is just as important as criticism and if you really do think people should visit the places that you enjoy visiting, be mindful that people look at sites like Trip Advisor when planning trips and it really will go a long way.