Imagine coming back into work after the New Year’s celebrations, doing a quick search for your hotel’s name online, and finding a link to this 2 star negative review for the world to see.

“I had a horrendous stay at this hotel. Totally not what I was expecting!! The bedrooms do not even look like the photos on the website. The furniture needs an upgrade, and regarding hygiene, I had to get them to change my pillow case.”

Without a shadow of a doubt, this type of negative review can damage your hotel’s reputation if it is ignored or not handled appropriately. It can also potentially reduce the uptake of room occupancy, and your profit, because guests select their accommodation based on rating scores and whether others would recommend your hotel.

A negative review is not an asset to your hotels reputation and it can be upsetting to read when you know you have done your best to satisfy your guests. It makes you realise that you are always one customer away from a negative review so you need to be prepared.

The New Year has arrived and it’s now time to reflect on how your guests have evaluated and rated their experience with your hotel. If you have acquired negative reviews over the festive period, simply apply the following 5 practical steps below:-

Step 1: Remain Calm

When you discover an unflattering review, which you believe is incorrect and puts your hotel in a vulnerable position, simply pause and take three more deep breaths. The breathing will help you stay calm before taking any action. I understand it’s easy to get emotionally charged when you think your hotel is being criticised unjustly, but do your best not to.

Avoid, at all costs, having a public argument online as it could escalate out of control and damage your hotel’s reputation even further. Publicly disagreeing with your guests in a defensive manner could adversely impact on how your existing guests and prospects perceive you. There’s a good saying I learnt a long time ago: “It’s not what happens in life, but how you handle it.” Remember this saying when you’re faced with a negative review.

Step 2: Investigate The Problem

Research indicates that customer satisfaction potentially increases repurchasing behaviour. Hence, put the unfavourable review into perspective by not getting angry but instead find answers. Whatever the situation might be, speak to the relevant staff members involved to collect all the facts. Attempt to pinpoint what day the situation took place, and who or what the guest is referring too inside the review.

Step 3: Write An Appropriate Response

A guest’s negative review can have an impact on the number of reservations you receive. Thus, it’s crucial to write an appropriate public response back to the guest and everyone else to read online. It’s also essential to ensure that you don’t put your business in harm’s way by breaking the guests privacy inside your response (i.e. do not expose any personal information about the guest or information that could potentially get you into legal trouble.)

The worst thing you could do is ignore a negative review because it could potentially cause a loss of revenue and put off future guests. It’s all about communication, so let your guest know you are available for them to approach you at a suitable time. This will show them that you are listening, interested and that you care.

Always respond to a negative review in a professional tone. If the negative review is about a specific staff member, let the employee involved take ownership by responding to the situation. For example,

“Dear Jane, thank you for informing us about your experience with [company name]. We sincerely apologise and have taken note that you do not think our photos matched your actual experience. We strive to ensure that all our guests have a 1st class experience during every stay. This is a top priority to us. We value your feedback and would appreciate if you can get in touch with us on (555) 555-555 to give us a chance to change your opinion. Many thanks. (Name of Staff and job title).”

Others will read your positive response and will be influenced by it too. Furthermore, the customer might eventually delete the review too due to your correct attitude and approach. It is crucial to remember that in your review response, do not reveal what incentive you will give your guest. This is not for the public to see. Let your guest actually engage with you in person, or over the telephone, to get this information.

Step 4: Take Responsibility

If you have had plenty of bad reviews about your hotel online relating to room cleanliness, hotel maintenance or unfriendly employees, there could be some changes you might want to make. There may be things happening inside your hotel that you need to start addressing immediately because it might continue to damage your corporate reputation. Use the feedback from the reviews to make key business decisions, such as introduce new staff training.

Step 5: Encourage Customer Reviews

Encouraging your loyal guests to post what they think about your hotel’s service on TripAdvisor, Google +, Yelp or on your Facebook page will be beneficial. It will help win trust and encourage potential guests to take a leap of faith to do book to stay at your hotel for the first time. It will also support in pushing down your negative reviews in the search engine rankings.

“This article originally appeared on www.hotelowner.co.uk.