Here’s How to Stop The TripAdvisor Blackmail


TripAdvisorWhat do you do when someone threatens you with “TripAdvisor Blackmail” by posting a very negative review if you don’t give into their demands, even if they are unreasonable?  Even if “the customer is wrong”?

Let’s take a step back for a moment…

A recent survey – conducted by PhoCusWright – reveals that more than half of global respondents do not want to make a booking commitment until they read reviews and find out what other travelers thought about the property.

According to the study, respondents turn to TripAdvisor on a regular basis. Twenty nine percent visit the site several times a month, 12 percent say they check the site at least once a week and 26 percent regularly use the site more than once a week. Overall, this means that 67 percent of respondents check TripAdvisor a few times a month or more.

More than 80 percent say the site’s reviews help them feel more confident in their travel decisions, and help them to have a better trip. Of those polled, 93 percent of respondents feel that a hotel stay is very important to the overall trip experience.

So, what do these figures mean?  They mean that many people trust the opinions of others before they make their decision on what and where to spend their travel money.

This also means that customers may believe their complaints, assuming they are valid, will carry weight with the business they believe has “wronged” them.

If a bad post or complaint on Facebook gets your situation escalated to upper management and gives you as discount or preferential treatment for a future visit, so too may a complaint or negative review on TripAdvisor.  But it gets worse…

There are those who like to be preemptive in their complaints and will state;

I’m going to write a bad review on TripAdvisor if you don’t (insert assorted complaint)!

Ever run into one of these?  It’s not fun.

It has become customary, and “necessary” to respond to each and every negative review on TripAdvisor in a way that “saves face” for the business.  “The customer is always right” is the time-tested mantra of many in business and we shouldn’t go against conventional wisdom, right?  But what if the customer is wrong?

It does happen…

People trash hotel rooms, throw chairs into the pool, break vending machines, take towels and accuse the housekeeper of stealing their camera – these are the obvious instances when the customer is wrong.  But there are the not so obvious ones…

Six people plan on going to the restaurant for dinner but only four show up on time.  The restaurant happily seats them at their table and patiently waits for the rest of the party to arrive.  Drinks are offered and served, family-style appetizers are ordered and consumed but still the last two guests have not arrived.  It’s already 50 minutes into the seating when the last two arrive at the table.

Now, after small talk and additional drinks are ordered for the late-comers, the dinner choices are finally picked and the waiter enters them into the computer system and it’s time for the kitchen to start cooking.

Oh, I forgot, they ordered 3 courses of food that ultimately stretches their total dinner experience to almost 3 hours.  They loved their food – the waiter kept checking in on them.  Drinks kept flowing – the waiter was very attentive and thorough.  They sat for a long time and all left with a smile.  Then it happens…

My dinner took more than 3 hours last night, that was ridiculous, I’ve never has such slow service in a restaurant in my entire life.  Is this what I have to look forward to for the next 3 days of my vacation here? 

This is the complaint from the customer to the Front Desk manager the following day.  Then comes the threat…

If you don’t do something about this, I’m going on TripAdvisor and writing a scathing review about this place, you better fix this.

What’s a Front Desk agent to do?  Do they say this is not possible, something else must have happened or take the side of the customer?  Do they assume the customer is correct or just trying to get a freebie of some sort?  Or do they apologize and offer a discount on their hotel bill.  We know the answer.

As my colleague Dale Blosser states, and who provided me with the idea for this post:

“A good way to prevent TripAdvisor blackmail is to give guests a “satisfaction speech” at registration. Verbalize your commitment to guest satisfaction and ask the guests to contact any staff member or manager if there is ANYTHING that is wrong or if there is ANY way to improve their stay. Then, call the guest’s room a half hour after check-in and verify their complete satisfaction with the room, etc. Continue to ask guests periodically about their satisfaction (including on phone calls). That ensures that a guest cannot “justifiably” complain (at checkout) that there was a problem or issue with their room.”

That makes a lot of sense.  A similar tact can be used for restaurant meals, as described above, or most any other interaction.

If the guest threatens to write a bad review if you don’t comply with his demands, Dale goes on to say:

“Let me get this right, at arrival we informed you how committed we are to your satisfaction. We called and asked about your satisfaction when you got settled into your room. We asked you several times the last few days if you were satisfied with your stay, and you were. And now, you are telling us that you are dissatisfied with something. Is that what you are saying, Mr. X?”

Every hotel stay and restaurant meal should be perfect and memorable.  That’s what is expected from a traveler and the business too.  But is this possible?  Of course not.  We must be fluid in our approach to a situation and adapt to the ever changing needs of the customer.

So too must the customer/traveler be fluid in their expectations.  Never settle for second class, don’t willingly be subservient to the whims of a poorly run business.  Take your money elsewhere if this is the case.

If and when a business fails to meet your expectations, please give them an opportunity to make it right.  Don’t make unreasonable demands with the threat of “TripAdvisor Blackmail” if you sense an opportunity for a discount or freebie. And on the flip side, don’t remain quiet then wait until you’re home to write a damaging review on TripAdvisor while sitting at your kitchen table wearing your pajamas and fuzzy slippers.  The business can’t help you then.

Ultimately it comes down to the business performing at their best, at all times.  Staff properly, train consistently, purchase quality products and monitor your performance.

A business should not be surprised when a customer comes to complain, it should already have been noticed and steps taken proactively to address and rectify the issue. Don’t let the guest leave unhappy!

100% guest satisfaction is becoming the mantra in the hospitality industry.  Maybe this is not possible but we must have this as our goal.

I don’t mind losing a customer that puts a burden on my business or creates an environment that is detrimental to my employees or other customers.  Your threats of a bad review will not give you the satisfaction you desire.

But at the same time, if we are wrong we MUST “own up to it” and do all we can to make it right.  With or without the blackmail…

Have YOU used TripAdvisor, Yelp, Facebook, etc. to ‘blackmail’ a business?