b'GUEST VIEWSo, We Built a CampgroundErin and How to Deal with Bad Reviews Dan ThiemWhile bad reviews require time and energy to manage, they are an opportunity for you, as the business owner, to address grievances, complaints and misinformation in a professional and public way.What do you do with the entitled cus- prevent a bad review in the first place.tremely rude. She yelled at us for notQuiet time = 9 p.m. Its not a bedtime, tomer whos throwing a fit, making yourFree add-ons, site changes and even justchecking in immediately and for drivingbut we want noise confined to your site employee cry and demanding a refundlistening can go a long way to assuaging6mphwhentheresorthasa5-mphand lights dimmed a bit; it lets people see or else theyll write a bad review aboutthe concerns of grumpy customers. speed limit. Also, this campground has athe stars and enjoy nature sounds. People your business? Sometimes, however, customer re- quiet hour of 9 p.m. and people are verydont come camping here to listen to your What campground owner hasnt ex- covery isnt an option, or were not awarestrict about not even talking after thatmusic late or to hear you play drinking perienced this situation? of the issue in the first place. Some ex- time. What a way to put a damper on agames. Our advicelisten to them rant foramples of this are when people havegood night.Check-In = required on arrival. It tells a limited window of time, wish them anoisy neighbors, but dont contact staff;This customer has captured the nar- us youre here and on-site and keeps us pleasant day and dont be held hostageor customers who dont like a policy andrativewere too strict, we yell at ouraware of guests and vehicles. Plus, you get to the potential of a bad review.get grumpy when its enforced. Thesecustomers, make them check in imme- important info like the bathroom code WilltheygoonTripAdvisor,Yelp,sorts of issues often drive bad reviewsdiately and go to bed early. Of course,and what movie is playing. Google and Facebook and tell everyonebut are not always things we can do any- this review is not a true reflection ofIf these are too cumbersome on the they know about how horribly you runthing about. Its hard to quiet down awhat happened or our policies, so itsrule front, best to find somewhere else to your business? Probably. Is this the worstnoisy neighbor when its 10 a.m. the nextour job to set the record straight andcamp. thing that can ever happen to you? No,morning. highlight some important policy points.-Dan whispers I run this place and heres why.In these cases, we embrace the badAgain, take back the narrative and focusWeve been accused of being snarky While bad reviews require time andreviews and focus the response on high- on something positive. Here was our re- inourreviewresponses(especially energy to manage, they are an opportu- lighting what the customer did wrongsponse:Dan), but the responses are intentional. nity for you, as the business owner, toand, more importantly, why were okHi Jimmy,In this case, we correct the record so addressgrievances,complaintsandwiththepolicythatupsetthem. WeI saw your vehicle speed through campreaders know there might be something misinformation in a professional andoften start a response with: Thank youmultiple times, much faster than 6 mph.more to the story, then we go about public way. You are not beholden to thefor allowing me to explain some of ourIn any case, it sounds like you dont likeusingthecomplainttohighlightour narrative that bad reviewers share aboutpoliciesour policies. We are very upfront aboutpolicies and why theyre important. your business, but you can take controlThat simple line takes command ofourpolicies,soImalwayssurprisedAt our campground, slow speeds and of the storyline to educate and win overthe narrative and lets the reader knowwhen people book a reservation and thenan early quiet time are important to a lot future customers.that there might be something more tocomplain about the rules they agreed to.of our family visitors. By highlighting How do you do this? First, be honestthe story than what the reviewer says,For all you future campers that get en- these points and letting readers know with yourself. Does the reviewer have aespeciallyhowourpolicieswerefol- tertainment from reading one-star re- that were enforcing them, readers know point? Sometimes we flat-out fail at cus- lowed (or not).views:to either steer clear (because they dont tomer service. Its important to acknowl- There are other times when we like toPro Tip: If you want to drive fast andwant a quiet time or speed limit) or they edgethisandaddressthefailuresaddress the reviewer directly, especially instay up late, please dont camp here.appreciate our enforcement and think directly in a review response, and howcases where weve had personal interac- Speed limit = 5 mph. Its dusty andthat sounds great for their family of tod-youve fixed the problem. Second, re- tions with them. Heres an example of athere are a lot of other humans sharingdlers. For over-the-top reviews, we also member there are a lot of customer re- one-star Google review for our business:the road; it keeps the dust down and hu- try to make the response a little witty. coveryoptionsavailablethatcanThe woman who runs this place is ex- mans safe.Our hope is that future campers find it a littlefunnywithoutbeingtoodisre-spectful when we point out some of the absurdities in the review. Online reviews are often a quagmire ofnegativity.Sometimes,theyrejust grumpy and dark; nothing we say will change the negativity those guests see in the world. Sometimes, theyre a reflec-tion of misaligned expectations that we can highlight for future campers. If were lucky, theyre little gold mines of impor-tant feedback where we can own up to ourshortcomingsandcommunicate how were going to fix the problem. Whatever the reason behind the re-view, tackle it head-on, making sure to focus on the facts, the policies and the reasoning behind why you run the busi-ness your way. Weve had enough posi-tive feedback on our one-star review responses to know that people appreci-ate us telling it like is. It sets a clear ex-pectation for behaviors at camp and projects a sense of honesty and integrity about how we handle guests, even when they dont like what we have to say.With any luck, readers will use the re-viewsandresponsestoself-filter whether our campground is a good fit forthecampingexperiencetheyre looking for.Erin and Dan Thiem are the owners oftheInnTownCampgroundin Nevada City, Calif. WCM38 February 2023Woodalls Campground Magazine'