Bed bugs may be the dirtiest words in the hospitality industry.
These two words have the potential to send shivers of fear down the spines of hotel and resort managers and have them running to the nearest pest exterminator.
But can you imagine the horror of seeing a nasty online review of bed bug infestation at your hotel?
You know that one bad review with those chilling words can spread like wild fire across the internet, and has the potential to seriously damage your hotel’s reputation and brand.
This is not something to be scoffed at. This is serious stuff.
Do you know that most travellers look at online reviews of the hotel or resort they wish to stay at before they book?
Sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Booking.com share guest reviews and help eager adventurers make their final decision.
In a recent 2014 survey by Trip Advisor and Phocuswright, a travel market research company, found that 77% of travellers look at online reviews before they choose a hotel.
According to another survey of 2,100 travellers, the absence of bed bugs was the number one priority when choosing accommodations.
Bed bug sightings was also the top reason why guests would leave a hotel immediately.
Negative online reviews of bed bug infestations can stay with a hotel for many years after an incident, not only tarnishing its reputation but also affecting the income-making potential of that hotel.
This has serious ramifications for any hospitality business.
Whether the reports of bed bugs are true or not, the online review is still floating out there for millions of travellers to see which continue to wreak havoc on your reputation.
Besides having good prevention practices in place for bed bug infestations, hotels need to spend extra attention on managing negative hotel reviews.
Here are 3 ways to implement damage control to minimize the effects of online reviews…
Make it personal
It is important that you recognize that the guest posting the negative review was an actual person staying at your hotel and not just some random, faceless number. Remember that this person had a negative experience while staying at your hotel.
First of all, thank the person by name for taking time out of his day to express his frustrations and concerns. Be honest, genuine, and transparent.
Express compassion and empathy about the guest’s poor experience and let him know that the hotel will be taking definitive action steps to remedy this problem.
This helps build a foundation of trust and reassurance that the guest’s concerns are being taken seriously.
Gently shift the conversation off-line
Moving the conversation off of social media and other review platforms is critical for minimizing the damage caused by this negative review.
Not only are you pacifying the complaints of an unhappy guest, but you are also shifting the conversation away from the prying eyes and ears of potential future guests.
Gathering more information from the guest is another important reason why the conversation should be shifted off-line.
Perhaps the guest is not exactly sure what a bed bug bite looks like and just assumed that the red mark on his leg was due to bed bugs.
False reports of bed bug bites happen all the time and are often due to other insects. This is a great opportunity to educate the guest.
Follow-up with the disgruntled guest
After the bed bug protocol has been initiated in the infected room, make a point of reaching out to the guest and inform him of the follow-up procedures that have been put in place because of his complaint.
Express your apologies once again and ask if there is anything further that can be done to make this situation right. Listen openly to his replies.
This is also a good time to re-evaluate your own policies around claims of bed bug infestations.
Is this an isolated incident or does this happen on a regular basis? Are there steps the hotel can take to minimize the occurrence of bed bugs?
Is there an easy solution to the problem? Good prevention and management practices are key in defusing such incidents.
Although online reviews have the potential to damage hotel reputations, try to take each complaint as an opportunity to polish up your customer service skills, sharpen your pest control practices, and transform negative reviews into future growth.