How many times have you stayed at a lodge or had something to eat at a restaurant, received bad service and could not wait to rant about it on Tripadvisor or some other Hotel review site? I bet you have done this more than once in your life. Maybe you had an outburst on Facebook expressing your utter disgust about the quality of the food or the uncomfortable pillows. Or did you perhaps write a positive review raving about the friendly and efficient staff?

To write a review on a review site is your right as a customer and the hospitality industry appreciate this. Yes, it is appreciated. Your review is very important.

I want to take you through the process of how reviews are handled when posted on review sites.

Let’s call the person who is responsible for reviews, Annie. Annie is the Public Relations Manager of a Hospitality group consisting of 6 lodges. Each lodge has an average of 30 double rooms, 10 twin rooms and 10 family rooms.

Annie receives a notification that you have written a review. This notification is only received a minimum of 24 hours after being posted on the review site as each review site will read through the reviews before publishing it. It’s a bad one. You were very unhappy about the service at a lodge you stayed. This is what you wrote.

My family and I traveled from the airport to your lodge. We were tired from driving a total of 670km. Upon arrival, it was raining at the lodge, and we had to walk almost half a km from the parking to reception. We were greeted by a very unfriendly and irritated receptionist who clearly did not appreciate us arriving so late and she was wearing her pajamas. I was totally baffled by this sighting but thought maybe this is general practice that lodges in the country close very early and staff goes to sleep as early as the chickens. To make the pajama drill matter even worse, we had to carry our luggage about 1km from the car to our room in pouring rain. No help from the staff or even an umbrella.

I was too tired to even throw a tantrum and decided to just take a shower and enjoy the sound of the rain with my husband. The room was very nice though with a little verandah where we could sit and listen to the rain. No chairs, but who needs chairs right? When I walked into the bathroom, matters just got worse. The tiles were chipped, the shower curtain dirty, and the light didn’t work. I phoned reception to ask for a new bulb to place in the bathroom, but there was automated voice message, stating that reception is only open from 7 in the morning to 6 in the evening. My husband took out one of the bulbs from the room and put it in the bathroom. Problem solved. There was also no air-conditioning in the room and the carpet was clearly very old. The price we paid per night should at least cover some upgrading done.

At breakfast the next morning, there was no juice. I don’t drink coffee or tea. No eggs, only bacon with white bread but no butter or jam. There were also some grilled cold tomatoes on a plate. We reported the fact that the bathroom light was not working and we replaced it with one in the room. The lady said the cost of the broken bulb will be added to our account. Wow, thought things like these are included in the price but okay a bulb is not that expensive. Needless to say, we left immediately and canceled the last two nights. I will NOT recommend this lodge to anyone.

Wow, somebody is going to be in big trouble over this review.

In most cases the reviews are answered as soon as possible, but in a situation like this, an assessment is made.

First, the lodge managers have to be informed about the review. The team has to establish who was on duty that day, and why all these things happened. How did everything go so terribly wrong? Sometimes it may seem that the lodges take a long time to respond to your reviews, but in a very serious situation like this, they want to give you the right answers and not just an automated answer or a simple: please accept our apologies.

Various departments are involved; Human Resources, the technical department, Lodge Management, and off course the personnel who were on duty.

It is not a good feeling for a lodge group to receive such a negative review on the internet where everyone reads it, but it is important and necessary. This way the company knows exactly how people feel about their establishment, where changes should be made and what can be done to improve overall service.

A good example is the comment about no chairs on the verandah. It was raining right, and it could be possible that the chair covers got wet and personnel perhaps moved the chairs until the covers were dry as it has been raining the whole day.

Let’s say there are absolutely no chairs on the Verandah. The request is placed on an agenda, and the possibilities are discussed to buy chairs. It involves budgeting, planning and cannot necessarily be done immediately.

As soon as the Public Relations Manager gets an answer from the lodge about what went wrong, only then can he / she answer a review. At some Lodges and establishments, the manager’s answers the reviews themselves but as companies grow bigger, personnel are appointed to respond to reviews.

There are obvious things lodges know they are doing wrong or need to improve upon, but sometimes they are not aware of the challenges or problems. I want to take a simple example. The waitress calls you on your first name every time she takes your order, but to you this may just be an irritation. Your suggestion is she should rather stick to the old traditional Mrs. or Mr. as it is very impolite to call you, the customer on your first name.

Things that cannot be controlled by lodges are factors like the weather and nature. Sometimes, on a game drive, the animals are just not at the same spots as yesterday and you might not see a lot. Rain, snow, wind or very hot temperatures cannot be predicted 100%, so make sure you pack for all kinds of conditions.

Everything is not always negative. The positive reviews are just as appreciated, because then the people doing the work know they are doing their job right. It also helps the lodges to establish key performers and what works in the industry. What do customers really want when visiting?

I have gathered some tips all over the big wild web on writing reviews that I would really like to share with you.

1. Cool down before you write a review. Do not write a review when you are angry, as this will just make you say things you are going to regret. It’s the internet and will stay on the internet for many years to come. A lot of stuff on the internet cannot be easily deleted.

2. In today’s times, anything you do or say on the internet can be held against you in court. Don’t say anything you cannot prove and don’t contradict yourself. It’s always great to have a nice soppy juicy story, but if a court can prove that some of your statements were untrue, you can be sued by the company you wrote a review about. This goes for all kinds of online content.

3. When you are at a lodge or hotel and things are not up to your expectations, demand to see management. Do not wait until you get home and then make a fuss on a review site or online about it. Just maybe, the manager can do something about the challenges you are facing right there and then. Who knows, you might just end up having the time of your life.

4. Be honest in your review but be fair about what you say. Don’t use hatred, profanity, aggressive or destructive terms and insults to explain your unhappiness. State the facts but also give some suggestions.

5. There are a few terms you should steer clear of : WARNING: BEWARE OF…. Don’t do business with, STAY AWAY FROM or SCAM ALERT.

6. Lastly, give credit where necessary.

Do you agree or disagree with the above? Let me know by commenting below.