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How to avoid bad reviews from hotel guests

  Posted in Online Reviews  Last updated 1/12/2023

Beware the dreaded negative hotel guest review. At your hotel, you’re probably aware that the drama in that statement is not overstated. The sobering reality of managing online reviews and hotel guest feedback is that people who have a bad experience are much more likely to leave a review than those who enjoyed a positive experience.

In 2016, 85% of traveller reviews were positive about the products or services they’d encountered. Unfortunately it only takes one bad review to potentially sway other potential customers to steer away from your property and choose a competitor.

In fact, it’s said that for every bad hotel guest review you could lose 30 potential bookings.

That’s why it’s vital to understand how a negative review might occur and how to make sure your hotel avoids it at all costs.

Why will a hotel guest leave a negative review?

There are some obvious reasons for guests to give you bad feedback. The good news is that you should be able to solve all of these issues if you take the appropriate action when it comes to reputation management. Here are the main factors contributing to unhappy guests:

  • Rude or unhelpful staff

Naturally if the hospitality of your hospitality business isn’t up to scratch, it won’t bode well for your reputation online. If guests are greeted by unenthusiastic staff who show no interest in their needs or are hard to find or contact, it will sour their whole experience no matter how amazing your hotel is.

  • General cleanliness and condition of rooms

It may go without saying but it has happened plenty of times before. If guests enter their room to find it hasn’t been cleaned and last night’s sheets are still on the bed, it might be enough for them to turn and run immediately. It’ll certainly be enough motivation for them to warn their peers about staying at your hotel on travel review sites.

  • Unrealistic expectations

Liken this to a balloon being burst. When guests arrive at their destination, excitement is at fever pitch. They can’t wait to see everything they were promised on your website or advertised as ‘highly recommended’ via your online profile. If you’ve promised more than you can deliver in reality, guests will be especially disappointed. Even if nothing is ‘wrong’ with your hotel, nothing is right because you’re giving guests an experience a level below what they believed they purchased.

  • A lack of understanding or empathy

Often it’s not what the guest has complained about that’s the issue, it’s the way the problem is resolved by your staff in charge of customer service. Guests will be far more peeved about you being delayed in fixing their broken doorknob than the fact it was broken in the first place. Whatever the ailment, guests want to be heard and taken seriously. If you don’t care about their gripes, they’ll go online to review platforms where they’re sure to find someone who does.

  • A play for compensation or reward

Some guests may play a sneaky game of blackmail. Put simply, they expect that if they complain about something they’ll be given compensation or apology gifts. It’s an unhealthy habit some travellers form and it can be very frustrating for hotels – so teach staff how to manage this effectively when explaining your review management processes.

How to avoid the bad reviews aimed at your hotel

Most guests will be reasonable and if you make a concerted effort to make things right, bad feedback can be turned into a positive review. Take note of these tips:

  1. Don’t shirk on guest experience

Think about when people visit their friends houses for dinners and parties. They get treated according to all their personal preferences and nothing is too much to ask, while the venue had been meticulously prepared to please and entertain.

If you treat every guest like a friend, taking pains to make their stay convenient and personalised in your great location, you should have no problems.

As a minimum, ensure staff are warm, friendly, and available and keep rooms and amenities in impeccable condition.

  1. Listen, understand, and connect

As much as you might feel like shrugging off an annoying guests request, it’s important to treat every enquiry with respect. Make sure you’re on the same page as your guest and build a rapport with them. Make it obvious you care about making them happy.

Your verbal language, tone, and body language are all vital here. If a guest brings an issue to your attention it’s important to be act grateful they’ve made you aware and accept any negative feedback as constructive criticism. Then, when you go about resolving the issue, check in with the guest to be sure your solution is to their satisfaction.

  1. Be proactive

Instead of waiting until check-out or beyond to ask guests if their stay is up to standard, strike up conversations daily about what they’re enjoying and what could be improved upon. Not only will this give you valuable insight for future guests, but it will show your current customers that you’re working hard to give them the best experience possible.

  1. Read and respond to all reviews – both positive or negative

If, heaven forbid, a bad review does crop up on your TripAdvisor page, take a breath before replying. It’s never easy to accept negative feedback and you may be tempted to defend yourself in a reactive manner, but generally it’s better to look at why the comment was made and how you can act on it for the better.

Politely thank every guest for their review and respond specifically to what they have to say. If you’re heartfelt in your response and apologise to the guest, along with whatever recompense you feel is necessary, most guests will give you another chance and be convinced to change their review.

One of the most overarching reasons for bad reviews is frustration. If you can alleviate the potential for this at your hotel, guests will be much happier and your reviews will be largely positive.

Hotels can take positive steps towards managing their online reviews.

By Shine Colcol

Shine is the SEO and Content Manager of SiteMinder, the only software platform that unlocks the full revenue potential of hotels. With 5+ years of experience in content strategy, Shine has produced informational content across various industry topics, mostly about operations management and continuous improvement. She aims to share well-researched articles for hoteliers to discover how to optimize their time and increase room revenue.


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