Would you dare? One business’ risky approach to negative online reviews - Utter Digital
Online reviews The customer is always right (sometimes)

Dealing with criticism online can be a minefield, and it can quickly escalate into a PR nightmare if mishandled as many big brands have discovered, such as this example of a poorly handled Twitter experience by RTE.

But I recently came across an example of one business owner who took a seemingly very high risk approach to a negative review on TripAdvisor. Of course, TripAdvisor reviews can do serious damage to businesses in the hospitality industry, and many struggle to deal with negativity – whether that’s on TripAdvisor, Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else online.

Belmore Court & Motel have an excellent rating on TripAdvisor, so when they received a negative review they could have dealt with it in a number of ways – let it go and hope it’ll be buried quickly, respond at source, try to take it offline and offer a resolution…

Instead, they took action in a way you wouldn’t expect.

Risky Business…

The Motel has almost 10,000 Facebook fans. They decided to post the negative feedback they’d received on their Facebook Page for all to see. “WTF?!” I hear you cry. Yes, on the face of it this may sound like a suicide mission.

Imagine if McDonald’s put out a similar post: “We’ve recently heard that a customer in one of our restaurants has had a poor customer service experience and we’re shocked. What has your experience been like?” Their PR team would be punching the panic button and reaching for the virtual life jackets in preparation for the impending flood of negativity you’d imagine.

But the Belmore Court is not McDonald’s. It’s a business which clearly prides itself on high quality service. They know their customers and their audience, and they’ve built a happy and engaged community on social media.

So the post may have appeared to be high risk, but in reality the risk was probably much lower than it would be for many other businesses or big brands. I’ve checked out TripAdvisor, and Belmore Court is top of the heap in terms of ratings, with a 4.5 star rating from over 1,300 reviews (of which 96% are rated excellent or very good), and the reviews themselves are pretty impressive. No sign of the review in question, so I can only assume TripAdvisor decided it wasn’t valid and have removed it.


Accentuate the positive

So, here’s the Facebook post from Belmore Court:

Handling negative online reviews on TripAdvisor and Facebook

In fact, the reviewer had never even stayed in the Motel, and the reality is, if you’re going to get a complaint, this is the type of one you’d probably opt for. A mix up with the booking in this day and age would have most of us suspecting that the booking was never made in the first place. After all, as some of the responses pointed out, surely they’d have an email confirmation?

Regardless, it was a negative review, and the response to the Facebook post was impressive, with over 70 previous customers stepping in to share their positive experiences…

Positive responses to negative online feedback Online reputation management positive response to negative reviews Dealing with negative online reviews on Facebook

And there were several more similar comments which you can find on Belmore Court’s Facebook Page.


So what next? Well, with such a positive response, why not use it to your advantage? In steps “T” (Terry McCartney, Owner of Belmore Court) to do just this, directing the fans to TripAdvisor to share their experiences there..

Dealing with negative TripAdvisor Reviews

And to top it all off, Belmore Court may have even picked up a new customer or two..

Turning negative online reviews positive


So for Belmore Court, the risk seems to have paid off in style – not only did they get a hugely positive response from previous customers, they also demonstrated their commitment to customer satisfaction, showed that they take their guests’ feedback seriously, probably bagged themselves some new customers, got more positive TripAdvisor reviews, and the cherry on top side effect of increased engagement on their Facebook Page does no harm for organic reach.


Is it worth the risk?

Well, for Belmore Court it certainly was, but this isn’t a tactic I’d be recommending to most businesses. You’ve got to be rock solid if you’re going to take this approach. Ask yourself:

  1. Are you willing to deal with a potential barrage of complaints in a public arena if this goes wrong? If not, then step away from the keyboard. You are openly inviting people to criticise you – what happens if they do?
  1. Do you think your audience are happy enough with your product or service to jump to your defence? Remember, even if you haven’t heard about the bad experiences, it doesn’t mean they haven’t happened. And we’re not just talking ‘satisfied’ here. Even if 99% of your customers are satisfied, it doesn’t mean they’re happy enough to step up and openly praise you on social media. You’ve got to have truly delighted if you’re to expect this type of response. Have you?
  1. Have you built the type of relationship with your online community which means they will engage? You could have egg on your face if you openly post about negative feedback and ask customers to share their experiences, only to be met with the social media equivalent of a tumbleweed moment – complete silence. If nobody responds in a positive manner, will it be perceived as a silently negative response? And don’t be tempted to have family and friends lined up with overwhelming praise either – people will see right through this and it’ll likely backfire too. It’s got to be genuine.
  1. Is the negative feedback deserved? If so, fix it – end of.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering how to deal with reviews on TripAdvisor, they have some pretty good advice here.

The short answer for most businesses is no, this approach is probably not worth the risk, but a hat tip to Belmore Court. Whether or not this was the expected response, this is one of the best examples of turning negative online feedback around I’ve seen. Ok, so they may not have pleased the actual complainant, but turning one negative review into 70+ positive ones is a pretty good return I reckon.

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