If you’re getting a ton of negative reviews, nothing will save you (well, on TripAdvisor at least.) Yet, if you get only the occasional negative review, people will look to your response to see whether the review was fair or not.

If there’s 90 good reviews and 1 bad review, people will obviously give you a chance to explain yourself. The proof, from PhoCusWright:

“84% of users agree that an appropriate management response to a bad review “improves my impression of the hotel” while “64% of users agree that an aggressive/defensive management response to a bad review “makes me less likely to book that hotel”.

The basic goal of responding to a negative review is to come across as a relaxed, friendly person. It’s a bit like a political debate – if one person is angry and aggressive and the other person is friendly, measured and calm, that second person will generally win. The tone of your response is ever so crucial.

There’s three types of negative reviews: the generic ‘I didn’t enjoy it’, the specific but completely wrong ‘they didn’t even bring me water!’ kind of reviews and the specific but seemingly accurate ones such as ‘they used a replacement guide without warning us and he was unfriendly.’ Each requires its own type of response.

Here’s a few simple tips for dealing with negative reviews the right way:

1. Take a Moment. Getting negative reviews is something that ticks most people off, especially where it’s unjust. Don’t respond straight away. Put it aside for an hour or two and let your thoughts circulate.

2. REALLY Take a Moment. It’s too easy to just dismiss negative reviewers as being idiots. The reality is that nearly all your negative reviews give you a GENUINE opportunity to improve. Most people – including negative reviewers – are honest and offer you a path to get better. This became apparent when our team conducted an analysis of negative reviews in Melbourne, Australia.

A disproportionate amount of negative reviews come when a tour operator makes a change to a tour that the guest wasn’t expecting. They might switch in a different guide, take a different route or merge two tour groups at the last moment. All these situations could be improved upon by a tour operator and if not avoided, at least prepared for.

Take the time to investigate the issue but don’t wait too long – you need to get a response up there ASAP!

3. Be Personal – Don’t Use a Stock Answer. “We take all feedback seriously” is (nearly) always written by someone who doesn’t actually take feedback seriously.

Get away from the clichés and stock responses. Do not use words that make you seem like a corporate PR department because that’s a quick track to irrelevance.

4. Don’t Snipe Back. Stay positive and don’t forget that the whole world is reading. If you get upset, make attacks or start using identifying details you’ll lose a whole bunch of customers you could have had.

This is an example from TripAdvisor of a response gone wrong. The customer said she had received a rude email from the owner and this was part of his reply:

“I’m disappointed your experience was not what you had hoped for and that you’ve mistaken my response as being rude and hostile.”

Wow. Passive aggressive much? The response should have been:

I’m honestly shattered that my email came across that way… I really wasn’t trying to be rude or hostile. If you see the rest of the reviews you’ll know that I put so much effort into making people happy. I’ve just sent you an another email, hopefully I can make this right for you.”


Another example from TripAdvisor of a response gone wrong.

5. Address the Issue Directly. State that you have investigated the issue (if it needed investigating) and what you have done to fix it.

Nearly all negative reviews that I see do raise genuine issues where a response is required. Show your genuine desire to improve by actually looking into matters raised and fixing the causes of the problem. Note: in this type of response, it is SO crucial that you use human language here. Use “looked into” instead of “investigated”, “fixed” instead of “corrected”.

6. Feel Free to Express Appropriate Emotion. Express the impact on you and that you’re distraught that someone had a negative experience.

I’m not talking about aggressive emotion. The worst thing (obviously) is to get angry in your response but the second worst thing is a cardboard, impersonal reply.

Much better:

Hey Joanne, we honestly thought you were enjoying yourself! This kind of thing matters really matters to us and I’m shattered to think you had a bad time.”

This leads to our next step.

7. Make it Good. Where appropriate in your response, offer to make it up to them. Say that you’ll do anything to make it right, and if you had just known at the time you would have done something about it.

It’s tricky to say “if I had known at the time” without coming across as snarky. “If you had bothered to tell me…” is quite obviously not the best way to do it.

“We’re always ready to make things good so I’ve just tried to get in touch with you to offer a refund if you need one. Please check your email.”

8. Correct Them With Grace. From time to time, a negative review will be a bit malicious. They might say things which are completely incorrect or neglect to mention the real reason you kicked them off your boat.

You have to tread so carefully here. If you bite back, you won’t look great to potential guests.

This is why you need to open with a line such as this:

I’ve never been a fan of ‘he-said she-said’ situations, but given this review is public I feel the need to respond and help shed some light on what happened here.”

By introducing it like this, you come across as someone who is graceful and has not lost their temper. Do everything you can to avoid getting emotional and come across as calm and in control.

You could have someone sit next to you and give them the mouse to click the ‘submit’ button. In this way, the reply only goes up when both of you are satisfied with it.

9. Don’t Mention The Business Name. If people Google your business name, do you want the negative review to show up? This is why I recommend not using your business name in your responses. So don’t say this:

On behalf of the team at Sundowner Tours, we would like to…”

Doing so could put that negative review in front of more eye-balls than you’d like!


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