The increase in the number of review sites, consumer forums and social networks in operation means it is becoming increasingly likely that your business, whether you have your own website or not, will have a presence on the web.
As has become apparent recently, that presence is not always a positive one with reports of hospitality businesses suffering at the hands of people either writing overly negative, or even false reviews on websites or customers who decide to complain publicly via social networks rather than directly to staff or management.
No-one is immune it seems. As chief executive of Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, Robert Cook was forced to intervene when one disgruntled guest decided to complain very publicly about the company on social networking site Twitter.
“It was getting serious,” he said at a debate at the last Annual Hotel Conference in Manchester, “so I thought the best thing was to get him to talk to me off-line if I could and I managed to write to him and deal with it that way and he stopped.”
However, Chris Davy, of the British Hospitality Association and owner of the Rose & Crown hotel in County Durham didn’t have as much luck in saving his business from negative publicity when he tried to respond to a ‘corker’ of a review on TripAdvisor, full of what he felt were factual inaccuracies about his business.
“We hope that guests who stay with us and enjoy their stay will post good reports but if we get a bad one we respond to it,” he says. “The difficulty I had in this case was I went back to the guest privately and asked for a name and a date of stay and I couldn’t get the information, so I couldn’t therefore investigate the complaint properly.
“All I can do is put a reply on TripAdvisor and let people read it, but I can’t remove it.
“I know there are hotels who have had far worse that we’ve had and suffered almost slanderous reviews, but again, they’re not normally removed – they just sit there – and that’s a real worry.”
Monitoring the web
So how can you keep a handle on what people are saying about your business and ensure you respond in the right way?
The key, according to David Miles of online marketing consultancy Divadani, is to have an online presence for your business or ‘brand’ and ensure you respond publicly to comments if they’re made in a public domain.
“If someone’s going to be saying bad things about your business they’ll do it whether you’re on Twitter or Facebook or not, so at least if you’re online you can monitor what they’re saying and respond publicly too. No matter what has been said, people will have more respect for you if you respond,” he says.
If you’re not sure how to find out what individuals are saying about you online or don’t have time to trawl the web each day. Miles has these quick tips to monitor your business online:
- Bookmark obvious sites like TripAdvisor and view them every day
- Use free social networking tools such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite where you can set up specific search terms regarding your business
- Set up Google alerts with your business’s name so you’ll receive an email when something is written about you and the link to the post.
All this month, BigHospitality will be focusing on how best you can manage the online reputation of your restaurant, hotel or pub in our five-part feature, looking in-depth at review sites, social networks and your own company website.
We aim to give you practical advice on how best to manage and protect your brand online by enlisting the help of experts in social media, and online marketing as well as views from business owners themselves.
Return to the site on Wednesday 11 January to find out our top tips on handling your business's presence on review sites.
You can find all our articles on the subject here.