Why Tripadvisor Is Like Marmite
Like the mature 44 year I am, I spent most of last weekend stomping round the house saying “it’s not fair, it is JUST NOT FAIR” to anyone who would listen. My husband, after 30 minutes of “I know, it isn’t” suddenly found something very important to do out in the shed, my daughter decided she urgently needed to go to the shops and even @murphythebnbdog decided his paws were in immediate need of a good clean, best done the other side of the paddock.
So what sparked these middle aged tantrums? It was bound to happen sometime – I had my first “less than glowing” Tripadvisor review. I had actually been waiting for it all week. You know, as a B&B owner, when a guest is not happy.
I am friends with a lot of B&B owners and the majority of us work exceedingly hard to achieve the best possible experience for guests. We create comfortable places for people to stay, cook hearty breakfasts, bake cakes & biscuits, clean like mad and then greet guests with a smile & a chat. For most of us, the B&B is our home and an extension of our personalities.
But we’re also human, which means we’re not perfect and everyone’s expectation of what they will find at a B&B is different. One day, no matter how accurately you describe your B&B on the website or in your welcome email, someone will stay with you who just doesn’t get what you’re doing or they haven’t done their research carefully enough or something just goes wrong.
When someone writes something on the internet that is critical, and could damage your business (I’ve gone from #1 B&B in Shropshire on Tripadvisor to #10 because of that one review), it can be very hurtful. To many accommodation providers Tripadvisor is like Marmite, you love or hate it, depending on the reviews that have been written.
As B&B owners we have the right to reply to any review and “put the record straight”. However it’s not that simple. Behind many TA reviews there is another story or agenda and one that a smart B&B owner, though desperate to do so, will never put into print. A wise B&B owner will never make public the guest who walks off with your bathrobes, breaks the shower, cancels last minute, wrecks your room or smokes. Sometimes, no matter how painful, you just have to take it on the chin.
I think that the response a B&B owner gives to a TA review is sometimes more important than the review itself. I had a splendid afternoon yesterday reading the responses one B&B owner gives to her negative reviews (always good therapy if you’re feeling a bit down about a review or guest comment). She really doesn’t come across very well at all, but says she has more people coming to stay as a result of her bad reviews.
So is it true that no publicity is bad publicity? I think for most of us, who want guests to visit us for what we offer in terms of comfort & relaxation, rather than because we come across as a female Basil Fawlty, we need to handle things a bit differently. Potential guests want to know, if they have a complaint whilst they’re staying with you, you’ll handle them calmly & not throw a hissy fit. If you get defensive on the internet how do they know you’re not going to do it in person?
There’s lot of advice out there on the best way to respond to negative online reviews. Heather, @forfeng, wrote an excellent post here.
Here’s what I did.
- I wrote the response I wanted to write in a WORD document. I embellished it, I made it funny, I then deleted it.
- I then put myself in the next guest’s shoes, the person who would be reading that review on TA. I wrote a response which was factual.
- I sat on it for a while, checked for any emotion, I rewrote it.
- I then sent it to a fellow professional in the hospitality industry and asked for their honest opinion.
On the positive side it provides me with good material for my B&B courses. I have actually been through the process of responding to a negative review & come out the other end.
So do I like Marmite? At the moment I’m favouring a rather nice homemade apricot preserve………