Managing Potentially Damaging Online Reviews

In the age of ubiquitous social media use, a guest’s Facebook status or tweet can have a huge impact on the reputation of a hotel. This is especially true when a guest starts posting about sensitive issues such as bed bugs.

Benji Greenberg, founder and CEO of BCV, a reputation management company with a focus on the hospitality industry, has advised more than 100 hotels that have been called out on social media for having bed bugs. According to Greenberg, it is imperative that hotels reach out to complaining guests immediately. “Constantly monitoring social media activity will enable hoteliers to quickly catch complaints and posts made by disgruntled guests,” says Greenberg, who urges hotel staff to interact with dissatisfied customers within two hours.

This window is small, but it is important to intervene quickly. Distressed guests will often post photographic evidence along with complaints, whether it be on a hotel’s Facebook page or their own. This can be difficult to manage because it is very visual, which will lead to others having a visceral response and commenting on the post.

“The first step is to engage them publicly and ask them to privately message the hotel,” Greenberg explains. This is because responding to posts about bed bug incidents will let both those who are issuing the complaint, as well as anyone watching online, know that it is being taken care of. Greenberg adds, “You also want to get the post offline as quickly as possible and get additional details like room number in private so that the problem can be taken care of.” Moving the conversation into a private chat feature will help cut off comments from other panicked guests. It is also very rare that guests will refuse to proactively provide information about the issue.


Hoteliers must always keep in mind that any conversation held via online messaging can be screen-grabbed and posted elsewhere. This occurs most often when the guest is unhappy with the end result. “With any sort of negative or crisis level situation, like bed bugs, you want to make sure you are connecting with the guest as a person,” Greenberg advises. Maintaining an empathetic, sympathetic, and understanding tone is essential. While each situation is different, guests are almost always looking for confirmation that they are being listened to, and that you have knowledge and authority to properly handle the situation, regardless of whether or not you believe their complaints are credible.

And, if you handle these situations well and build a good rapport with guests, they will step in to defend your property if something goes awry. When potential guests ask if a report of bed bugs on your property is true, and are questioning whether they should change their reservation, loyal repeat guests will comment that they’ve never had a problem before. Additionally, if the situation is handled sympathetically and in a timely manner, and the guest feels as though they have been listened to and taken seriously, they will often take their original post down.

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