New research suggests one way to improve your spa’s online rating

Bad reviews can really hurt your spa or salon business. But a new study had found that you can mitigate some of the damage by responding to them.

No matter how hard you try, sometimes things go wrong and a client goes away unhappy. And, as we know, disgruntled customers are more than happy to share their negative experience online, after which your ratings can go down. They can also convince their network to stay away from your establishment. To wit: negative feedback can often spread faster and farther than positive feedback.

Therefore, it’s important to make sure that your guest experience is impeccable, but also to take matters into your hands when things go wrong.

We recently wrote an article about how to handle negative reviews of your spa, in which we advised publicly responding to the review. And the study suggests that this is indeed the smart thing to do.

For the study, the researchers examined tens of thousands of hotel reviews and responses from TripAdvisor, which uses a review scale from 1 (terrible) to 5 (excellent). On TripAdvisor, roughly one-third of reviews receive a response from the company, and nearly half of all hotels respond to reviews.

“By analyzing these responses, we found that when hotels start responding, they receive 12% more reviews and their ratings increase, on average, by 0.12 stars. While these gains may seem modest, TripAdvisor rounds average ratings to the nearest half star: A hotel with a rating of 4.26 stars will be rounded up to a 4.5, while a hotel with 4.24 stars will be rounded down to a 4. Therefore, even small changes can have a significant impact on consumers’ perceptions. Approximately one-third of the hotels we studied increased their rounded ratings by half a star or more within six months of their first management response.”

To establish causation and control for other factors such as improvements in service or renovations, the researchers compared the results to reviews of the same properties on Expedia. They say that while nearly all hotels in the data set were reviewed on both TripAdvisor and Expedia, the vast majority of them responded only to their TripAdvisor reviews, allowing for the use of Expedia as a control. What they found is that when hotels started responding on TripAdvisor, their TripAdvisor ratings went up, but their Expedia ratings remained unchanged.

They wrote: “If hotels had made improvements — unobserved to us — at the time they started responding, we would have expected to see Expedia ratings improve as well.”

Thus suggests that the improved ratings can be directly linked to management responses. Why? The researchers suggest that if a consumer notices management responding to reviews, they might think twice before leaving a harsh or negative one in order to avoid an uncomfortable online interaction.

They also found that responding to positive reviews has the same benefits as responding to negative ones.

The moral of the story? Always respond. Say “thank you” for kind reviews, and respond to negative ones – not angrily, but nicely. Ask what could have been improved or what you can do to make things better. Never blame the customer. Remember this is your reputation, and a guest’s word carries a lot of weight.


For more on how to handle a negative review, read:

How to handle a negative online review of your spa (+ 5 examples of terrible spa/salon experiences)

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