Advice for Managing Negative Reviews of Hotels or Small Businesses

If you’re a small business–or one that operates only in a particular geographic region–you might be forgiven for seeing “online reputation management” and think it doesn’t apply to you. Think again.

You’re not a big brand, you don’t have to worry about the Wall Street Journal or Newsweek writing about your business, so why worry?

While managing a national reputation may not be of concern, I’ll guarantee that there’s a local web portal or trade journal that keeps tabs on what your customers think about your business. No better example of this than the hospitality industry. Most hotel managers look upon online reviews as a thorn in their flesh–there’s just no pleasing some guests, so why even try?

Well, as spotted by my wife–who just happens to be a Hawaii travel writer–there’s one hotel manager that absolutely gets it.

The ResortQuest Wakiki Beach Hotel might not be the most famous or luxurious hotel in Honolulu, but that doesn’t stop its “Guest Service Manager” from engaging every single guest that takes the time to leave a comment on

Of course, it’s easy to respond, when your guests have nothing but nice things to say…


Notice how each response is personalized to the guest’s comments? How valued do you think that guest feels now? How likely do you think that guest will be to re-book and tell their friends?

But, what about the negative reviews. How do you respond when your hotel doesn’t get it right? Here’s an extract of one such complaint…

Here’s the response from the hotel…

Pretty much the perfect response.

OK, so what about some tips for other hotels and small businesses that are subject to local portal reviews. First, advice for managing positive reviews:

  1. If someone takes the time to leave a positive review–how much time does it really take for you to say thank you? Make it a daily/weekly part of your routine–it will take you less than an hour a week.
  2. Did you get an email praising your staff or complimenting you on your premises? Reply, thank them, and provide them a link to a place where they can share their comments online. A simple “Thank you for your kind comments, if you find yourself with a few spare minutes, we’d love it if you could share your feedback here” will do wonders for increasing the positive reviews of your business.

What if the review is negative or at least contains some constructive feedback? Here are some tips for handling negative reviews:

  1. Thank them for taking the time to leave a review.
  2. Highlight first any positive aspects or comments the reviewer left–you want to draw readers of the review to these, not the negative points.
  3. Let them know that you’re shocked to hear their experience was anything less than 100%. You want this guest, and future ones, to know that this is an atypical experience. (side note: obviously, this only works if you mean it!)
  4. Apologize for any legitimate complaint. Sure, you can explain some mitigating circumstances, but what the reviewer really wants is an apology–they want to be heard by your company.
  5. Explain how you’ll act on their feedback. If you read the above negative review–and had subsequent concerns about the quality of the hotel’s elevators–you might feel better knowing the management is taking action to address any problem.
  6. Provide an offline channel for continuing the conversation. Do you really want to get into a debate with a single guest about the quality of your breakfast? You’ll likely enter a conversation that will distract others from deciding to book with you. Instead, leave a lasting impression by inviting the reviewer to call your office, where you’ll personally listen to their comments and review their concerns. What a strong message you’ll send to future guests? “Wow, this hotel really cares about its guests!”

OK, there’s much more to online reputation management for small/local businesses–you’ll find more in my new book Radically Transparent–but these tips should at least give you some pointers, the next time you’re staring down at a negative review.

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Reprinted with permission from Andy Beal