Manage negative guest reviews with the 3 Rs

guests-leave-hotel-reviews-GuestRevuIn a previous article we talked about the importance of TripAdvisor rankings, and why, for your brand’s sake, you need to take reviews very seriously. Not everyone will be happy with what you offer all of the time, so make sure you are prepared for the day when someone is unhappy, and says so!

Having a bad review on TripAdvisor, or any online site, can either hurt or build your online reputation. A simple, polite response to a bad review can do two things for you:

  1. It can minimise the damage to your reputation by making prospective guests think more highly of you
  2. It can repair your relationship with the unhappy reviewer

87% of users agree that an appropriate management response to a bad review “improves my impression of the hotel” while 70% of users agree that an aggressive/defensive management response to a bad review “makes me less likely to book that hotel” - TripAdvisor

Brian Payea, Head of TripAdvisor Industry Relations, says the most important thing is to use the negative feedback to help you make your next guest’s experience better. A three-step response is suggested.

Using the “Three R” method of dealing with negative reviews

The Golden rule is never, ever ignore a negative review. A timely response is one of the most effective marketing tools you could possibly have at your disposal. You are not just responding to the person who wrote it but to the hundreds of people reading it too, and if you handle criticism well it creates a human element to your business that instils trust and forgiveness.

Here are the three R’s of turning a negative review into a better reputation:


No matter how outrageous, malicious or petty you think the claim is, it must be taken seriously and dealt with immediately. A response should be given within 36 hours of a bad review, so do internal investigations as quickly as possible before typing a single word. If necessary, gather an account from all members of staff who dealt with this particular client to get a clear understanding of why this person is unhappy with their experience. If you dealt with them personally or know where the complaint is coming from take time to draft a response.

How to manage bad hotel reviews


A response must be written by someone in the highest level of management. Be personal and polite and never condescending, dismissive or defensive, regardless of whether or not you think the complaint is coming from someone looking for a ‘freebie”! A generic or defensive response, seemingly written by someone without the authority to make any changes, will have the online community grabbing their pitchforks faster than you can say “it wasn’t me”.

Let your response read like an old-fashioned letter. Make it honest, personal and heartfelt with impeccable language and grammar. Yes, unfortunately people will judge your professionalism not only by your excellent hospitality, but also by your spelling. Always sign off using your name and designation.


A response has to include an apology, a solution to the problem and an invitation to re-review. Always invite the reviewer back to experience the changes you have implemented. Unless there is proof that they were treated terribly, you do not have to offer complimentary compensation, just acting on and responding to their complaint shows good service and confidence that the problem has been dealt with and that you are willing to risk being publicly reviewed by them again.

At the end of the day, you can’t stop people from leaving their thoughts about their experience online if they want to, so make sure you capitalise on their feedback whether positive or negative to improve your online reputation rather than damage it.