Three Smiley Faces or Four?

Nancy Anderson
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The Internet has a wealth of information for travelers. Tech savvy with instant access, they are logging on to see what destinations, hotels, transportation, entertainment and other services the world has to offer. Just about every hotel, motel, bed and breakfast, resort and timeshare has its own website, with enticing marketing copy, pictures, video and audio to extol the virtues of their property and why you should choose them over all the others.

All this information is great, but with every property saying it’s the best, how do you make an informed decision? You can always get a recommendation from a friend or relative, but if you want to go to Katmandu or even the Jersey Shore and have no experience to draw from, you may rely on the customer reviews and ratings that have become a popular a feature on booking and other travel sites.

Comfortable with texting, blogging, tweeting and posting on Facebook, guests go to sites like to rant or rave over the quality of their stay, the lodging and service. These reviews are then online for anyone to view. Unlike the typical paper survey that asks for a number rating on a scale, customers can write narratives making the posts personal and specific. The property reviewed has little recourse. Some sites will allow for a rebuttal, but if not worded correctly, they can sound insincere or defensive.

How can you counteract the negative and enhance the number of positive reviews posted by your guests? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Treat them right. This may sound like “duh, I’ve heard that before,” but it takes on new meaning when your guest need go no further than your own lobby or business center to post a scathing review of your property. When you encounter a guest, ask if they are having a pleasant stay, and then listen and read their body language. If there is a problem, address it right away.
2. Ask your happy guests to post. At checkout, again ask about their stay. If they have become a raging fan or had a particularly excellent encounter, point out that they can write a review online. Tell them you appreciate their business and hope they share their great experience.
3. Make monitoring the review sites a responsibility of your Executive Team. At meetings, go over the reviews and create action items to address problems. This free feedback let’s you know what’s going wrong.
4. Assign responses to the reviews to the department head closest to the complaint. And, no boilerplate response. I read one site where a manager cut and pasted the same response online to every bad review. What was worse, it had spelling and grammar errors which reinforced instead of refuted the property’s image.

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Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a freelance writer, blogger, and consultant. Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in "Training" magazine, "Training & Development" magazine, "Supervision," "Pulse" and "The Savannah Morning News." You can read her blogs at, and on the web at

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