The Positives of Negatives

When potential customers look for hotels online, what impresses them more: glowing re­views or upbeat and sincere replies to negative comments?
WHEN POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS look for hotels online, what impresses them more: glowing re­views or upbeat and sincere replies to negative comments? The latter, say researchers from the University of South Florida Sarasota-Man­atee, who include Jonilda Bahja from the infor­mation technology faculty; Cihan Cobanoglu, a McKibbon Endowed Chair Professor of the College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership (CHTL); Katerina Berezina, an assistant profes­sor in the CHTL; and Bhuvan Unhelkar, associ­ate professor of information technology.

The researchers spent six months surveying 800 hotel guests from across the U.S. They asked the customers to offer their opinions about good and bad reviews on sites like Expe­dia and TripAdvisor.

Not surprisingly, they found that when man­agers gave warm replies to positive guest re­views, survey respondents viewed those hotels favorably. However, their opinions grew more favorable when managers offered thoughtful, sincere replies to negative guest comments, because respondents saw those hotels as communicative, eager to please, and apprecia­tive of their guests. The researchers concluded that hotel managers should focus more on negative reviews than positive ones.

The study is currently under peer review for publication.