How do I respond to a FALSE complaint online?
So what happens when I find a false complaint online, what can I do? Some more examples from F&B managers and Tripadvisor.
It appears that businesses are finally waking up to the importance of monitoring and responding to online reviews. TripAdvisor reports a 203% increase in hotel responses to negative reviews last year. Unfortunately, this equates to a mere 4% response rate.
As reviews become ubiquitous, playing an
increasingly critical role in consumer decisions, businesses can no longer
afford to let complaints go unanswered.
What kind of tone should I use?
Some managers write like it’s the Victorian era and they’re running Raffles Hotel. In social media you can be more informal and to the point, though always professional. Address the guest directly, but bear in mind you’re speaking to an entire community. As difficult as it may be at times, try not to take negative feedback personally. And don’t be dramatic, as in “I’m shocked and devastated by your comments”—it’s a guest complaint, not a death in the family. Avoid humour and especially sarcasm, and never be defensive, petty or condescending. You might think you’re concealing your true feelings, but people can read between the lines.
Bad response: “I sure hope all these bad reviews aren’t being posted by our competitors. Just kidding.”
Good response: “We take all feedback seriously, and sincerely regret that we did not meet your expectations.”
What if the reviewer makes false claims?
Dispute the review with the host website, providing backup. Be forewarned, however, that this can be a slow and often futile process. In the meantime, post a reply to set the record straight diplomatically and respectfully. Never accuse a reviewer of dishonesty or exaggeration; erroneous claims are often the result of a misunderstanding, not maliciousness. If a reviewer is obviously delusional, don’t feel obliged to respond; people will understand. Accept that occasionally you’ll be the victim of unfair or false claims. Support your team and move on.
Bad response: “Your claims are at best pure fabrications and at worst a deliberate attempt to slander our good reputation.”
Good response: “We can find no record of this incident, and it certainly is not in keeping with how we treat our guests. We urge you to contact us directly to discuss.”
What if the claims are
true but I can’t fix the problem?
Be transparent. Acknowledge that it’s an ongoing issue that may take time to resolve, and apologize. Complaints such as a noisy neighbourhood, limited food availability, your place is in need of a renovation, or an inconvenient location can help set expectations for other guests and thereby reduce complaints. Use feedback to make a case to ownership for upgrading facilities and services.
Bad response: “Sorry, but we can’t control noise from the street. You should have asked for a quieter private dining room.”
Good response: “We sincerely regret the disturbance. Our downtown location can mean extra street activity on weekdays, as much as we try to contain it. On your next visit, we would be happy to assign one of our quieter, dining rooms upon request.”
What if the complaint is about high prices?
Likely the issue is less about pricing than perceived value. The customer may be unfamiliar with pricing levels in your destination or calibre of your business. Resist the urge to lecture. If guests feel they did not get good value for their money, you share responsibility and should express regret.
Bad response: “Our restaurant is not, as you claim, a ‘RIP OFF’. If you ate out more often you’d understand that it’s pricey here and we’re by far not the most expensive.”
Good response: “Our pricing is in line with similar places in this area and we feel that we offer good value given our central location and excellent food. However, in your case it appears we failed to meet expectations, and for that I am truly sorry.”
What if we already handled the complaint?
Given that the guest is posting a complaint, it’s a safe assumption that you didn’t handle it to her satisfaction. If you have the guest’s contact info on file, call her directly and try to resolve things, with the objective of having her remove the negative remark or post a follow-up comment. In the meantime, post a reply to acknowledge the complaint.
Bad response: “We already gave you a free dessert after your alleged ‘near-death experience’ from mussels in our award-winning restaurant. I guess you’re looking for more freebies.”
Good response: “We were under the impression we had resolved this issue to your satisfaction at the time it was brought to our attention. I am sorry if this is not the case. I have left you a message, and look forward to discussing the matter in more detail.”
How do I encourage positive reviews?
Never, never let a guest leave dissatisfied and don’t be shy about asking happy guests to share feedback. If you’re not using feedback to improve, it doesn’t matter how good you are at responding to complaints. Above all, be remarkable deserve a great review.