All may not be fair in review and war

Fair reviewIn the name of acceptable common ethics and decency, a fair review is viewed as normal. However, it seems not all of us have a guilty conscience and have seen it as a logical course of action to bend the rules, or break them.

Should a guest complain and reap the rewards?

The owners of Casa Nostre restaurant were left waging a public relations war in a bid to clear their name after a female patron confronted staff when their meal bill arrived. The woman in question told Casa Notre staff there was a hair in her dish and for dinner free-of-charge. When this offer of Ôpeace settlement’ was declined by staff, the lady then threatened to write a bad review, before proceeding to write two highly negative reviews within two hours of the dinner on Trip Advisor. Casa Nostre staff were effectively held to ransom online, were they not? It then remarkably emerged that the woman in question had indeed planted a hair of her own in the dinner, and this was caught on CCTV footage.

This is theÊstory of the one that didn’t get away. But who has used the online nature of reviewing to blackmail staff? And what protocols are in place to stop this occurring?

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While Trip Advisor, a central system of rate and review to the entire hospitality industry, does screen reviews to ensure they meet posting guidelines, the system can leave restaurant staff and hoteliers feeling vulnerable and reliant on the common person’s fairness and decency. Trip Advisor has a team of moderators that examine questionable reviews, whereby those reviews that need closer examination are flagged for review, which can be reported for ÒInappropriate ContentÓ. A number of actions are considered by Trip Advisor to be fraudulent within a review, including Òoffering incentives such as discounts, upgrades, or any special treatment in exchange for reviewsÓ. It appears the woman caught out may fall into this category, and that she quite rightly did not reap the rewards owing to her actions amounting to fraud and negligence. Are there similar examples of fraud out there? Let us know.

Who should be permitted to provide a review?

A hospitality industry review can be made through Trip Advisor, Google, Facebook, Twitter, a company website or another mode of publicly conveying information. It is the simplest of tasks to register a review in the public domain, and for a business to be unfairly criticised on occasion. This does then beg the question: can we trust the legitimacy of a public review when we read it?

Expedia, a massive global company that owns and operates several international online travel brands, has taken review matters into its own hands through the development of different systems. EPC Conversations is part of Expedia Partner Central, encouraging dialogue between hoteliers and booked guests. This tool allows hoteliers to create a strong first impression and build their relationship with the customer, even before they arrive Ð hoteliers can use the app to reach out to customers at any stage after booking. This is crucial, as Expedia’s research has shown that guests who have interacted with the hotel before their stay are spend significantly more at the hotel than customers who aren’t engaged in the same way. And the crucial element is that the conversation and review system is centred on booked guests, rather than those looking in from the outside.

Expedia has also developed a communication system which sends a notification to guests who have booked through Expedia just after they’ve checked into the hotel. RTF asks the guest how they’re feeling about their hotel room/hotel experience so far, and then feeds the result back to the hotelier immediately. It helps hoteliers avoid a bad review by checking in with the guest immediately. RTF has been used more than 8.3 million times to date, and has resulted in a 10 per cent uptick in positive reviews for the hoteliers using it. It appears having a conversation with guests, rather than sitting and waiting for a positive or negative review, is crucial. What do you think is the best review system out there?

What constitutes defamation?

If a review is blatantly unfair, or in the case of the lady at the Casa Nostre restaurant, blatantly inaccurate, what should be the consequences? Does the law uphold the reputation of hospitality professionals? eHotelier would like to find out your responses.

The tort of defamation is designed to protect individuals, businesses and others against untrue statements that may injure reputation. It is obvious that a false and defamatory statement concerning another may incur the wrath of the law, but proving statements are factually false is difficult when reviews are generally based upon personal opinion. The Casa Nostre restaurant owners were able to use CCTV footage to prove the falsity of the Trip Advisor review, but in matters where proof is not as apparent, it could be incurred that the law favours freedom of speech, even in the contemporary global age surrounding the internet and social media.Ê

In the United States, the First Amendment to the Constitution ensures there is a constitutionally-protected right to freedom of speech. This is in conflict with the liability for defamation, and ensures hospitality professionals have challenges in avoiding a negative review on occasion.

Trip Advisor seeks to encourage accuracy of reviews by ensuring there are consequences for fraudulent reviews. A property may drop several pages in the Trip Advisor popularity index, and property rankings are handled on a case-by-case basis. A property may no longer be eligible for awards, and an explanation that the property’s reviews are suspicious may appear on the listing page. It is advisable to be on the side of the law with Trip Advisor!

What is a review that is fair and decent?

An accurate, honest and decent one!

 

By eHotelier Editor Marcus Braid

Please send your responses, thoughts and examples of questionable hospitality reviewing to Marcus.Braid@ehotelier.com.

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