b'The Good, Bad & the Ugly:Experts Weigh in On Tackling Online Reviews nBY BEN QUIGGLEOnline reviews, while they can be frustratingLearning how to deal with negative reviews and leaving and deflating at times, are a key part of oper- emotions out of your response is key. Photo: Shutterstockating any business, especially one in the out-door hospitality industry. While most parks receive positive feedback on a regular basis, it can be the one negative review that sticks with owners/operators the most. Learning how to respond to any type of review is key as search engines like Google can utilize the information when it comes to search rankings and more.Evanne SchmarderWoodalls Campground Magazine (WCM) touched base with several experts in the indus-try and tasked them with helping readers un-derstand how to better handle responding to customer reviewsnegative or positive. Evanne Schmarder, a columnist for WCM and principal at Roadabode Productions; Erin Forrest, corporate director of sales and mar-keting for CRR (Contemporary Resorts and Residences), which owns numerous parks; and Casey Cochran, vice president of busi-ness development at Campspot; all took partCasey Cochranin this story. Combined, all three experts have decadesCochran noted to WCM that responding toare engaged and care about what people aredown in one of our bathhouses and weve of experience in marketing and offer some per- positive reviewstime permittingalongsayingeven if it is negative.been waiting on parts. Thats a difficult thing spective on how park owners should respondwith negative comments allows campers toForrest agreed and mentioned to WCMwith the way that the supply chain is right to reviews and why the proper responses areknow that you saw their review and appreciatethat a high percentage of customers read re- now. We respond by letting them know that key to boosting business and maintaining ait.views and want to see how the business en- we are working on the issue that they had, parks positive image.It often encourages more positive feed- gages with its customers and that it helpsand it will be resolved. back because they know you are looking atwith your search engine rankings.If its something that we cant resolve, Should a park owner/operator respond tothem, he explained. The most importantWhen you are responding to those re- again, we thank the guest for their feedback both positive and negative reviews? thing is to respond. People like seeing that youviews, the positive and the negative, thoseand the majority of the time we will ask if we guests see that you are active in your onlinecaneithercontactthemdirectly,either presence, and they see that theyre going tothrough phone or through email, or if they can be taken care of as well, she said. In addi- contact us directly, so that we can discuss tion, especially on Google and any of thosewhatever challenge that they had, Forrest third-party sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor or oth- added. We certainly do not want to get going ers, it also helps with your search engine op- back and forth on social media or a review timization. Google puts a lot of value into itssite with the guests. We want to handle that Google My Business platform, and whendirectly. A lot of times, negative reviews are a youre responding to those reviews, it helpspersons perception. You just have to keep in your listings.that in mind as well when responding and Schmarder noted that park owners andhandling those disgruntled guests. operators who are busy can always prep re- Some of the complaints that CRR proper-sponses ahead of time and quickly personal- ties receive include children being unattended, ize them before sending them out.people not picking up after their pets and For example:more. Dear HAPPY GUEST, We have 20 associates while there may Wow, we are so happy you enjoyed yourbe 500 guests on property, Forrest noted. time at PARK NAME. Its especially nice toWe cant see and be everywhere and we rely hearhowmuchyoulovedon guests to help us with some of those AMENITY/EVENT/STAFF MEMBER NAME. Us,things. So, we also try to respond by telling too! people that if they see something to say Thank you for your wonderful review. Wesomething. That way future guests can also cant wait to see you again!see that we want their feedback and their help Orwhen they are on the property. Dear HAPPY GUEST,Schmardermentionedthatoperators Your stay at PARK NAME sounds like ashould first try to understand as fully as pos-great success, especially your enjoyment ofsible what is troubling the camper.AMENITY/EVENT/STAFFMEMBER.WereDo not let the heat of the moment color thrilled that we could be part of your memo- your reply, she said. Its not a personal at-rable summer. Thank you for sharing your ex- tack, even if youve poured your heart and perience. Hope to see you again soon! soul into the business. Empathize, try to put Acknowledging their experience can helpyourself in their shoes. If their comment is strengthenyourrelationship,explainedvalidsay the pool was unexpectedly closed Schmarder. apologize and add a brief reason why. Commiserate. It is a disappointment when What if the review is negative, how do Isomething that one has looked forward to is respond without making the situation worse?unavailable. Weve all experienced that feeling.Forrest said that she encourages operatorsOn the other hand, rowdy, inconsiderate to always thank the guest for providing feed- guests have been known to trash-talk a prop-back first.erty just because they were asked to tone it Ifitssomethingthatweareactivelydown, Schmarder added. Perhaps a distur-working on and can control, we try to addressbance was discovered by a security drive-by. those concerns in our response, dependingMaybe a guest (or guests) called it in. Either on what the problem is, she explained. Forway, arguing is not the answer. Instead, be kind example, weve had a couple of showersOnline Reviewscontinued on page 3634 December 2022Woodalls Campground Magazine'