How Not To Handle Online Reviews

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn this day and age negative reviews are a way of life. No matter what level of service a business will give, someone will not be happy and take their experience online to share. They could do this on Yelp!, Travel Advisor, Google Places and more.

I am the kind of person that looks at the bright side of reviews. They allow you to see areas you can improve and these could be areas you didn’t predict. Granted, this is if the reviews are constructive or point out what went wrong. When I have left negative reviews I try to stick to the facts. I have acknowledged that this maybe a one off instance and note bad days happen.

However, not everyone does online reviews this way. Some can be very personal and can go off the deep end quick! Many companies want to prevent this type of review. Some have even sued bad reviewers for slander. One hotel in NYC is going one step farther.

The historic Union Street Guest House has a policy on weddings. If a couple books a wedding in the hotel and their guests posts negative reviews online (doesn’t matter where). Union Street Guest House will fine the couple $500 for each bad review. As the site pointed out if something goes wrong the couple could be fined several thousand dollars for the bad comments made.

Time Magazine went on to show information the hotel made about their facilities. It basically said “If your guests are looking for a Marriott type hotel they may not like it here.” They also posted the official policy for fines. “If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event. If you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500. fine for each negative review”

You maybe asking how to avoid the fees. To me that’s simple, don’t stay or have a wedding there. This hotel doesn’t get online reviews. They only want good reviews, but fining people is not the way to do it. As I said above negative reviews are a great way to find areas you can improve and make your service even stronger. If you see something mentioned in multiple reviews, it deserves a look to see how you can improve it or better explain it to your customer.

The Hotel needs to focus on giving great service and not worry about the negative reviews. If you give great service and people see more positive than negative reviews, people know there are those who will never be happy.

Things to consider: How much will their business suffer due to the coverage in the media? How will they find the negative comments across the social networks? What would constitute a fine?

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Tim is the founder of Element33. A social media agency specializing in education, management and strategy for small businesses. He comes from a traditional marketing agency but has embraced all things digital. He considers himself a marketing nerd and believes that all marketing is tied together. This means no matter what silo you are in, social, email, seach, etc, changes in one will affect the other!

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