We received an interesting question this morning from a hotelier that highlighted the fact that we, as an industry, are on the leading edge and are thus inventing the future of best practices when it comes to social media and hospitality. The question was whether it is appropriate or not to reach out to a consumer who posts a bad review about a competitive hotel. I thought about this, then put myself in the consumer's shoes and said, "Yes, but only if it's done carefully."
If you are monitoring a competitor's reviews on TripAdvisor, and a reviewer says, "I'm never going back" or "I'm taking my business elsewhere" or you know you can do a better job based on the review, there is no reason why you shouldn't send a private message to the reviewer. (And as if you needed it, this should provide further incentive to make sure you do a great job!)
My advice is to say something along the lines of, "I closely monitor my hotel's reviews to see how we can improve our business and I happened upon your review of the X Hotel, down the street. I would love to invite you to try out our hotel and I will personally oversee your stay to ensure it meets your needs. We are known for our X and Y, as you can see from the reviews posted on this site. Please let me know if I can answer any questions about our services or amenities or help with reservations. It would be our pleasure to have you at the hotel. Thank you."
Don't apologize for your competitor. (eg I'm sorry to hear about your terrible stay in San Francisco.) Don't disparage the hotel or try to one-up your competition. (eg If you're looking for a truly relaxing spa experience, you should've come to us.) Doing so may make you appear too competitive and needy. Instead, lead with your promise of a great stay and keep it positive, personal and professional.
Of course, sending this type of note will greatly raise expectations of your hotel so make sure you can deliver a quality stay. If not, you can be sure the recipient will write a review and throw you under the bus. But if you can deliver an exceptional experience, you will likely have a customer for life.
But what if the review or comment is on social media and not a review site? Should you engage? If the comment is posted to Twitter, I would follow the person and learn a bit about him by reading his tweets. Is this person someone that complains a lot about brands? If so, steer clear. You don't need a chronic complainer at your hotel.
If the person is engaging with many people and brands regularly, he may follow you, which will allow you to send him a direct message (privately). If he doesn't follow you, your only option is to send a public message. I would send a tweet that says, "Hope you had a safe flt home. Let me know if I can help next time u r in SF."
What if the comment is on public Facebook page and you have the option to send a private message? Personally, I would be ok (even excited) if a brand reached out to me but many people that I speak with think that Facebook is a platform for trusted relationships. Many people that have public pages don't even realize that their pages are set to public so tread lightly here. If, when looking at the page, you see engagement with brands or other clues that lead you to believe that he would welcome your note, say, "I hope you don't mind me reaching out to you. Your page is viewable to the public and I see that you recently visited San Francisco. If you should return, I would love the opportunity to win your hotel business and I would personally oversee your stay. Please let me know if I can help you with reservations or questions about the city. Thank you."
Agree? Disagree? I'd love any feedback below.