Writing an article about online hotel reviews on sites like TripAdvisor has been on my ‘to-do’ list for a long time. The article is still coming, but I recently came across this IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) PDF about how their properties should respond to online reviews on sites like TripAdvisor.
Note that this guide is available on the public web and IHG should have better procedures in place to keep their internal documentation private. In the meantime, we can have have a look at IHG’s instructions for property reviews.
IHG Social Listening Responsibilities
The guide suggests that the property should reply to online reviews daily, if there are many reviews.
All 1 to 3 star reviews should be responded to within 72 hours as well as 80% of the 4-5 star reviews.
The guidelines to respond to a negative review.
Replying to posts that may have legal implications
This is the most interesting part of the document. IHG gives clear instructions NOT to apologize or admit liability or fault.
Case: Bed Bugs – Holiday Inn Express NYC – Madison Square Garden
We use the example that IHG has given us.
It took 10 seconds to find the actual review of the property. The review is very long.
The property didn’t bother to reply to it, so IHG’s Philippines unit (IHGCare) replied using some template sentences from here and there. The response follows the cookie-cutter guidelines how to reply to a review that may have legal implications.
Case: Missed Wake-Up Call – InterContinental Kuala Lumpur
This example is from IHG’s own website. Apparently, the property had forgotten the guest’s wake up call. Additionally the guest had lost his/her spectacles with the hotel unable to locate them.
The property didn’t reply to the feedback that was left on the IHG’s own website, so IHGCare in the Philippines left the usual generic reply of just thanking for the feedback.
Why follow up on a review if the reply contains nothing?
If a property gets a negative review and the hotel management replies to it professionally and in-house, it can mitigate lot of the damage done and demonstrate genuine concern. But if an outsourced IHGCare agent just cuts-and-pastes sentences from a template that has nothing to do with the question at hand, it becomes borderline comical.
It is quite likely that these IHG Care employees have never set their foot on any IHG hotel and are thus really missing the depth and experience that the actual consuming of these services could provide.
Some hotels pay more attention to their online reviews than others. Usually, if a property does not care about the feedback they receive, it will show up negatively at the property level too.
The use of corporate employees who are not affiliated with the properties to generate cut-and-paste responses to feedback is not a viable solution. Simply put, it would be better not to reply at all.