For hoteliers, it’s a sickening sight. One glance at your smartphone following a gentle buzz in your pocket, and you’re greeted with one-hundred-and-forty characters of vitriol from a previous guest.
They hate you; they hate the hotel; they hate the staff; the room was terrible; the food worse. They’re going to head straight to TripAdvisor and give you a further roasting there. You’ll be sorry you were born. Every one of their friends, colleagues and pretty much anyone they meet over the next twelve months will be informed about the sorry business you run.
Social media is as brilliant as it is frustrating. And while I may have over-egged the pudding somewhat above, the reality of online backlashes in hospitality aren’t that far removed from our fictional angry hotel guest. People can, unfortunately, be horrible online and, even if they have a genuine reason to complain, the way in which they choose to do so often leaves a lot to be desired.
So how can you deal with such instances? Thankfully, there are some tried-and-tested techniques you can employ to deal with those who take to social media to lambast your lovingly-crafted operation.
1. Step back. Take a breather…
Whatever you do, don’t reply instantly. You’ll likely be rather angry about the backlash, therefore replying now will only force you to react in a way you’ll regret later down the line.
Social media moves fast (which means the tweet or Facebook post will soon disappear among a sea of other updates, remember), but you don’t have to respond straight away.
Take a breather. Collect your thoughts and consider the next pieces of vital advice…
2. Don’t delete the post
You may be tempted to delete the post, if it’s on Facebook (you can’t on Twitter and certain other platforms, unfortunately).
If you do, the person behind the post may well spot what you’ve done and respond by publishing something even worse. They’ll accuse you of suppressing poor feedback and being dishonest.
Leave the post where it is. It’s happened. You now have to deal with it.
3. Don’t leave it too long to reply
Ok, so I suggested you take a breather - and please do - but don’t leave it too long before responding.
Messages on social media are usually tagged with the time and date of posting, and those observing the conversation may wonder why you took three days to respond to the original complaint. Instead, do so within at least twenty-four hours.
4. Be personal in your response
No, not that kind of personal. Avoid a canned response at all costs - people will spot it a mile off and it will do nothing more than make your hotel appear as though it’s run by a robotic workforce.
Show you’re human and that you understand the same goes for the original poster. Address them by name and refer precisely to the details of their complaint.
Before doing so, just make sure you speak to as many staff as possible to get an overall picture of what exactly happened during the guest’s stay. Make detailed notes, but don’t be tempted to post your findings online.
Instead, move onto step 5…
5. Issue an apology and take it offline
Apologise sincerely; not necessarily for what may amount to a false claim of poor service, but for the fact that the guest in question felt compelled to issue such a strong complaint.
Then, explain that you’d love to have a chat on the phone to talk through the issue. Hopefully, you’ll have their phone number in your hotel booking system, but if not, offer as many contact details as possible (email, phone, Skype, etc).
Leave it at that and either make the call or wait for the guest to get in touch. Anyone observing the conversation will by now have seen that you take such complaints incredibly seriously.
One thing is for sure; your hotel will receive a social media backlash at some stage. It’s an unfortunate and inevitable consequence of operating in the digital economy. However, use our tips above, and you’ll stand the best chance of coming out on top each and every time.