How to respond to a negative reviewJan 14, 2021
I always feel slightly nauseous whenever the “You have a new review” email arrives in my inbox. My inner chimp, the one that’s been saying “Right, now they’re going to find you out” for many years, starts getting all excited.
Luckily, most of those reviews are positive, and the chimp can go back to chilling. But very occasionally THAT review pings into my email.
I remember my first negative review - the demanding guest, who I went above and beyond with all weekend, but had to ask to leave 1.5 hours past check in time because I needed to go out - gosh she wasn’t happy.
I do a lot to avoid poor reviews; work hard to attract my ideal B&B guest, try to exceed guest expectations, recognise when things go wrong and do my best to make it better…
But luck comes into it too. No matter how hard you work, there’s always going to be that ONE guest. The one who gives you ⅖ for location because he actually needed to be in a town 40 miles away or the ones that gives you ⅗ because the “rubber duck wasn’t to our taste”
TripAdvisor tells us guests will be more likely to stay at a B&B with a bad review when the owner responds constructively.
It can take quite a bit of mindset work, but, after letting my chimp out to swear a bit, I do try and see a bad review as a marketing opportunity.
Read my 10 steps to responding to a negative review below 👇
The 10 steps to responding to a negative review
Step 1 - Move away from the PC/Phone/Tablet
The crucial first step when responding to a negative review about your business, is to disconnect yourself from the internet.
It’s really important that you don’t reply straight away and end up writing something you are going to regret.
Step 2 - Acknowledge your feelings
If you don’t have some sort of emotional reaction to receiving a negative review about your business, then you are probably super man/woman. And I take my hat off to you.
It’s very difficult not to take it personally - as a B&B owner you are probably responsible for all aspects of the B&B. So it's going to hurt when someone criticises some aspect of it.
Step 3 - Write the response you’d really like to write
With the internet still disconnected, get a piece of paper and a pen and write the response you’d really like to write to the reviewer. Go all out, enjoy it, get all of your thoughts and feelings out.
Feel any better? Good - now destroy that piece of paper. Burn it or shred it.
Step 4 - Ready to write your response?
Rather than seeing the review as something negative, try and see it as a marketing opportunity; a way to show yourself and your B&B in a good light.
I’d give it 24 hours before you actually sit down to write the response that you’re going to make public.
And then I recommend you open a Google Doc or a Word file and write your first drafts in there. Don’t write it directly into TripAdvisor or wherever the review is. There’s always the risk you might accidentally publish it before you’re completely happy with it.
This will give you the opportunity to write, review and update it.
Step 5 - Remember who you’re writing your reply to
You aren’t writing your response to that person who left the review.
You're writing to all of the hundreds of potential guests who are reading your response and deciding whether you’re the sort of B&B owner they want to stay with.
Imagine your ideal B&B guest and the sort of reply they want to see. If they have a problem when they’re staying with you, they’ll want to see that you’ll act swiftly and with grace! Write your response as if you’re talking to them.
Step 6 - Keep it short
Over the years, I’ve helped a lot of B&B owners edit their review response. And, without exception, the first draft of their response is ALWAYS TOO long.
They try to address every single point in the review. I suggest keeping it to half a page; a couple of paragraphs at most. Look through and see which points it’s vital to address.
Step 7 - Acknowledge that the guest’s expectations weren’t met
Even if you disagree completely with what the person has written, something has gone wrong somewhere for them to write a negative review.
It might be in your marketing - the guest has expected something that you don't offer. It might be your marketing is appealing to the wrong sort of person.
It may have nothing to do with you at all or something you have no control over. In which case you could use your response to emphasise your policies or a service you offer.
For example, if someone has complained that there were no pubs within walking distance. You could say something like:
“There are no pubs within walking distance, but we offer a choice of platters for guests to enjoy in their rooms” or “it’s possible to get a bus/train/taxi to avoid using the car”
I would never mention any compensation offered in a review. It may open the floodgates to people booking and complaining just to get a freebie.
Step 8 - Be honest with yourself
It’s easy to get defensive when faced with negative feedback, but try and take a step back and look at it with neutral eyes. Did something actually go wrong or do you need to be doing something differently in the way you run your business?
For example, If you have no pubs within walking distance, is that absolutely clear on your website and other marketing?
A bit of honesty in a review will be looked on favourably by future guests:
“We’re very sorry you didn’t have enough hot water for a shower. We’d had a power cut that week and had forgotten to reset the timers. From now on we’ll be checking the hot water timer before each new guest arrival”
Step 9 - Before you post your response
Send it to someone who is in the B&B business, but not directly involved with your business, and ask them to review and suggest edits. And make sure it’s someone who will be honest with you!
Even when you know all of the theory of writing a good response, it’s still difficult to take the emotion out of it. I speak from personal experience. I will always get someone else to review my own responses.
Step 10 - Post your response
Reread your review for the final time, then hit the submit button.
If you haven't already got one, I suggest you compile a smile file. This is a document filled with all of the good reviews guests have left, positive comments from your guests books and nice things people have said to you.
If you're continuing to ruminate on the bad review, reading your smile file will really help!
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