Why selective hospitality is not okay

By Guest Contributor on 1/28/2013

Imagine a guest walks up to the front desk of your property and says, “I absolutely love your hotel! It has the most comfortable beds ever, your staff could not be any nicer and the meal I had last night in your restaurant was the best I’ve had in ages. Outstanding!” The person behind the front desk just looks at them and says nothing. Not a word. Complete silence. A blank stare. You would be appalled. That’s the opposite of hospitality, and, in fact, it’s just downright rude. 

So why is it okay when a guest writes a glowing online hotel review that it can go unanswered? No reply, no thank you, not a management response in sight. I must have missed the memo that it’s okay to opt out of being nice to guests online.

Quite frankly, you are making a mistake if you are letting positive feedback fall on deaf ears. It’s not okay to practice selective hospitality. Thanking people for their praise and feedback is not optional, whether it happens online or in person. In fact, it has been proven that hotels that respond to guest reviews average review scores 6% higher than those that don’t, based on a recent study

Facts and stats aside, we should be responding to our guests because it’s the right thing to do; it’s common courtesy. We’re in the hospitality business, and that means we have to be hospitable in person and online. Ignoring a glowing review is really no different than a staffer giving a guest the silent treatment in person. 

We want our guests to go and tell their friends, tell TripAdvisor — tell the world if humanly possible — how much they love us. Yet when a guest goes home, posts an awesome review and hears crickets, you are sending a message: Out of sight, out of mind. We don’t care what you have to say when you leave here. So what if you love our hotel?

Imagine how different it would be if this were the management response seen underneath the review:

I can’t begin to tell you how happy it made me to read about your experience at our hotel. The team here strives to make each guest experience as close to perfect as humanly possible. When we accomplish that goal we’ve done our job. I am so honored that you choose NAME OF HOTEL while you were in NAME OF CITY. And we’re extremely grateful that you took the time out of your busy schedule to share this wonderful feedback. I really appreciate it and know the team will as well when I share it with them. We look forward to welcoming you back again the next time you are in town. If I can do anything for you during your next visit to our hotel, please do not hesitate to call me. The front desk would be happy to connect you to my office.   

The guest who wrote that review just fell in love all over again. They are thinking: “Just when I thought this hotel couldn’t get any better, I get this thoughtful reply.” Not only do they want to come and stay with you again, they want to shake your hand. Class act. 

Now let’s say someone is looking to come to your city. They head to this review site where you have posted the above management response (and this will happen, because the majority of consumers consult online reviews before making a booking decision). They check out your competitor, and there are some good reviews, but — you guessed it — no response from management. Then they see your reply. Their decision somehow becomes much easier to make. They get it because you get the full hospitality picture.

The next time you think of letting a glowing review go unanswered, you might as well tell your staff to put the phone on mute when they answer. 

Takeaway lessons

  • Common courtesy needs to be carried over online.
  • Don’t take guests’ feedback for granted. 
  • Selective hospitality is the anti-hospitality.
  • Online reputation management done right leads to more revenue in repeat guests and new guests who read and appreciate your thoughtful responses.

Contributed by Carla Caccavale, hospitality consultant and brand strategist, New York City

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