10 Tips for Responding to Negative Reviews
Negative reviews of your travel agency: Really, it happens to the best of us. In some ways, to get a negative review is to reach an important business milestone. But responding to negative reviews, that can raise the ol' blood pressure!
Negative reviews are a bummer, and that’s an understatement. You try so dang hard to deliver the best product to your customer, to go the extra mile. But there will always be the client who thinks every restaurant should be exactly like Wendy’s no matter what. Or the serial negative Nancy that has a bone to pick with the entire world, and today they are taking it out on your business. Or maybe you were having a bad day, and you know things just weren’t 100%.
It’s cliché to say that you can turn an obstacle into an opportunity, but in this case it’s true. If negative reviews are the lemons, then the marketing opportunity it can become is the lemonade you can make from it.
In fact, when I was digging around for travel agencies that took the time to respond to negative reviews, what I noticed is these negative reviews were the exception . . . not the norm. What do I take this to mean? That responding to negative reviews can potentially leverage the positive view of the great service your business provides.
We have some tools to help you when responding to negative reviews. Deep breath. In. And Out. Congratulations on your negative review. You’ve arrived.
1. Time is not on your side
The sad truth is that people tend to cling to the negative. Humans can’t help it. It’s entwined with their survival instinct. According to Psychology Today, People are so sensitive to negativity bias, that in one study it was found that in order to counteract a negative reaction, there needs to be 5 times as much positive feeling. 1
What does this mean? It means that negatives review leave an impressions on your readers/clients to a disproportionate amount. So while it might be tempting to dismiss a negative review as unfair or absurd, if you let it just sit around it will literally cause fester and rot to the reputation of your agency.
It’s important to respond thoughtfully to the negative review as soon a you’re able. This will show a level of professionalism and care for your customers, and begin to temper a reader's negative bias with your own positivity.
2. Leave it to leadership
Do not delegate this task. It might also be tempting for you, the boss-person, to delegate the unpleasant task you don’t want to do. But responding to negative reviews is a job for the Grand Poobah of your travel agency—the CEO, president, founder or whatever the fancy title might be.
And while we’re on topic, make sure you sign your reply with your name and title at the end of it. This is not only personable, but it’s impressive to readers to your audience that someone in a leadership position took the time and care to respond to and resolve a negative review.
Are you the only one who works for your agency? Well, we’re not telling! Put your title on there anyway 🙂
3. Perfect Pitch: Get your message across with the right tone
It can be really hard to swallow your pride and respond kindly to a review that frankly, may totally irritate you. Well go out and take a breather or shout obscenities to your heart’s content into your pillow. But it’s important to make sure the tone of your response conveys deference, not defensiveness.
Be polite, respectful, and even humble in the tone of your reply—even if every fiber of your being is fuming with rage and defensiveness. In the long run, reacting in a defensive way will only fan the fire of the bad review. Show your readers that you can respond graciously to even the most scathing review. 2
While this review is not what I would consider scathing, Denise really goes out of her way to take ownership of the error and to apologize for the lapse in communication.
4. Your reviewer is a special Snowflake, and so is your response
A stock reply to negative reviews won’t do, even if they are polite and carefully crafted. Dang, right?! You can use it as a template or guide, but the reply to the negative review should address the concerns listed in the negative review directly and specifically. Otherwise, the reviewer will feel like they have not been heard, and readers will be able to sniff that out in two seconds.
Here’s an example of a travel agency review that gets to the root of the issue and also addresses the challenging circumstances of the traveler 3:
5. Take Responsibility (and don’t forget to apologize)
Out sick a few days without emails? Encounter a family emergency? Forgot to put on your out of office reply? You don’t have to make excuses, but it’s okay to fess up if you dropped the ball. It will humanize you to readers.
In your reply, don’t forget to apologize for what upset them specifically . . . do not gloss over your apology with “I apologize for the inconvenience,” or “I’m sorry that happened.” In fact, you can even use their wording to say what you’re sorry about.
Here’s a great example of a travel agent who handles a negative review on Facebook gracefully (and honestly) 4—and bonus points for replying within 24 hours!
6. Cite action steps you will take or have taken:
If you’ve already taken some steps to try and resolve the issue, list what steps taken to resolve their issue as peaceably as possible. If the issue is news to you, list the steps you’ll take to remedy their complaint (and similar complaints) in the future.
If you can resolve the issue in a negative review, the reviewer might amend their review (or if it’s particularly inflammatory) they may even ask for it to be removed. Here’s an example a review that lists steps they’ve taken to resolve the issue on BBB 5
If the reviewer is vague in their dissatisfaction or if their complaints are particularly complex, it's cool to ask them to reach out over phone or email. This reply also does another nifty thing at the end . . .
7. Invite (and entice) reviewer to use your services again
You are fearless and won’t let criticism scare you away. At the end of your reply, express your hope that they’ll give you another chance to provide superior travel services.
You can go the extra mile and offer a complimentary service that addresses their original issue (offer an add-on or voucher for their next stay, waive a service fee etc.) and/or reiterate that you value them as a customer despite their grievances.
8. Get a second opinion
Have a colleague, friend, or family member take a look at your reply for a fresh perspective to make sure that the tone comes across, and that you have adequately addressed the reviewers concern.
9. Don’t fan the flame
There’s no need to reply to a negative review more than twice. Even if you are replying in the most humble and kind way, if you have a long back and forth online, the toxicity of the negative review will only spread.
If you reply a second time, simply apologize again and suggest that you chat in on the phone or over email so you can more adequately address their concern.
10. Solicit positive reviews
The last thing you want is for a negative review to be at the top of your review queue. Positive reviews are a salve for negative reviews. When you have a customer that gushes about your customer service, thank them and ask them if they’d be willing to share their experiences online via a review. It's good to strike while the iron is hot!
Heck. There’s no reason not to reply to positive reviews too! This makes your agency seem really engaged and committed to providing excellent customer service.
The gold at the end of the rainbow.
When you really nail it, a reviewer might even amend their review. While it's probably not appropriate to ask them to, it's a great bonus when they do.
Sites that Review Travel Agencies:
Here’s a list of sites that have travel agency profiles and user reviews. Are you listed there? If so make sure you keep up with the reviews posted on your agency or sign up for review alerts.
- Facebook: If you haven't verified your business on Facebook yet, link here to learn how!
- Google: The link goes to a form about how to respond to reviews. The $100 Marketing Plan video walks you through listing your agency on Google (and other local listings) if you haven't already!
- BBB: You can register your business on the Better Business Bureau here!
- Yelp: Claim your business on the Yelp site . . . it's one of the definitive review sites.
- Manta: Lesser known to me, but a review site nonetheless. Follow this link to list your business on Manta.
Are we missing any sites? Any other thoughts on responding to negative reviews? Let us know in the comments below!
- https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200306/our-brains-negative-bias ↩
- Review Source: https://www.yelp.com/biz/ast-travel-agency-hayward?sort_by=rating_asc ↩
- Review Source: https://www.bbb.org/washington-dc-eastern-pa/business-reviews/travel-agency/tripmasters-in-rockville-md-17245/reviews-and-complaints?section=reviews&reviewtype=negative ↩
- Review Source: https://www.facebook.com/pg/McDermottTravel/reviews/?ref=page_internal ↩
- https://www.bbb.org/washington-dc-eastern-pa/business-reviews/travel-agency/tripmasters-in-rockville-md-17245/reviews-and-complaints?section=reviews&reviewtype=negative ↩