View Full Version : Student Brewer - Managing reviews

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30-10-2010, 08:33
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Nowadays there are several places to publish reviews on a place like us. Tripadvisor immediately springs to mind - one of my least favourite sites. The reason? I'm allowed to respond, but the rules stipulating what I'm allowed to say are quite restrictive. I gave up on one review who complained the room was small and filled with second hand furniture - nothing like how it was described on our website. This was back when our website only had pictures of two rooms, one of which was the one he stayed in which clearly had in the description 'furnished with period furniture' (this was the website we inherited, a fair bit different to what we have at the moment).

In my response I included a link to the page showing the picture and description to highlight that no, the room was as described on the website. It wasn't published as it linked to the website. Fair enough, I removed the link and just put that 'on the website' the picture and description served the room truthfully. Not published - I was encouraging people to go to my website. After 3 or 4 various attempts with assorted reasons for not publishing my responses, I gave up.

Recently we've had a cracker of a review (http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g190755-d304315-r84321323-Kilverts_Hotel-Hay_on_Wye_Powys_Wales.html#CHECK_RATES_CONT) from a young lady who stayed with us recently. I'm very carefully writing a response that tripadvisor will publish, but to vent my frustration with the system I wanted to clarify a couple of points:

'We only stayed one night!' - final sentence with an exclamation point. Completely true - they only stayed one night because they only booked one night.

'Hairs in the bathtub... noisy and drafty' - Now I'm not saying that we're perfect but hairs in the bath are something we've explained to housekeeping is something we won't tolerate in any shape or form, and we've had no complaints since doing this. Including this customer - no complaint was made about hairs in the bath, or the room being noisy and drafty. So how the hell am I meant to verify the complaint? Not an issue for tripadvisor though - published straight away without worry.

'The owner's son is especially rude and aggressive' - I'm impressed. I'm impressed that the author is so sure about this fact she's happy to write it on a public review website. I'm impressed they've published it. Why I'm impressed is because I have never met this woman. They checked in whilst I was taking down a shed in the garden - I even ate and drank in the garden, not coming in until time to pick up my keys. I had the night off, and they'd checked out before I arrived the next morning. So I'm pretty damn impressed overall.

'The rooms smell' - now this is the one issue that started this whole onslaught of our business. The woman had come down and complained that the room smelt of chip fat. Dad went up, nope, no smell (which the woman then confirmed). She then said the smell was outside in the corridor. Again, both went out and agreed there was no smell. Nevertheless, Dad offered her a different room that she declined. She then started patronising Dad, saying that she felt 'possible aggression' from him and that he should calm down. Dad asked her to stop being patronising, and that if she really wasn't happy with the room that she just confirmed doesn't have a smell in, or another room that was offered to them, would she like him to find her accommodation somewhere else in the town.* This again was declined.

So I think it's fair to say we offered everything we could. By the sounds of it, and we see a couple of these every year, I think the woman was trying for an 'earner' - getting a discount for the room. The clues are the same - offered another room but turn it down, strange smells that vanish when a member of staff investigates. It'll be interesting to see what I'm allowed to write due to tripadvisors rules on replying. Although apparently they're getting sued (http://forums.pubsgalore.co.uk/showthread.php?3793-Tripadvisor-to-be-sued-apprently). I for one would be happy to see tripadvisor taken down a peg or two - allowing a customer to anomalously call me rude and aggressive without ever meeting me (I didn't even take the booking) is a step too far.

But there are other ways of reviewing. This 'review' could have been published on BITE or pubsgalore.co.uk (http://pubsgalore.co.uk/), where I could have commented freely and instantly. It could have been sent in to the Good Pub Guide, that quality annual book that takes pride in getting the facts right (http://studentbrewer.blogspot.com/2010/10/another-pub-guide.html). A guide that, from now on, licensees will have to fork out £200 to gain entry. This instantly make the guide useless to me - as soon as you have to pay to get into one, it's not a true, unbiased report. It's biased to those who can afford entry or those substandard venues which are offered entry as the good ones have all said 'no, we're not paying'. What a shame that an arrogant, lazily edited guide may slowly slide down the pan.

Another place to review is on a blog. Indeed, for ale reviews Pete Brown is now doing video blogs (http://petebrown.blogspot.com/2010/10/october-video-blog-wales.html). Have a look, because most of the beers he describes we have on the bar regularly. Of course, it also means that customers can blog about their experience. It's useful for me to see, as if I'm out of the bar for a service I can find out from a customer's point of view what happened. On Monday we had a terrible service - the cook's head wasn't in the right place, with the checks from the previous night still up on the ticket spikes at the start of service. So he starts cooking food from the previous night, which comes out to tables that didn't order it, and now are wondering why it's taking so long for the food they have ordered to come out.

I can't talk any more about that for the minute, but needless to say if a review is bad but truthful I won't shy away from it. If I didn't get bad reviews from time to time how would I know what to fix? Just because I like something doesn't mean my customers will.

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