Factors Affecting Customer Satisfaction in Responses to Negative Online Hotel Reviews: The Impact of Empathy, Paraphrasing, and Speed

Abstract

An analysis of three types of responses to negative hotel reviews finds that the response generally should follow the same principles as answering a customer complaint in person. Based on a series of hypothetical responses to a negative review, this study finds that inserting an empathy statement in response to the negative review improved the ratings of the response among a sample of university students. Likewise, this group of 176 potential customers rated the response more favorably when the response included a paraphrase of the complaint, thus making the response more personal and less generic. Interestingly, contrary to popular belief, our results indicate that the speed with which the hotel responds to an online complaint did not influence the survey participants’ rating of the response. The theoretical implications of these findings are that the online response should include same theoretical anchorings based on interactional justice and active listening that apply to face-to-face customer complaints. The major difference between an in-person complaint and an online review is that, in the review, the guest is not on premises waiting for a response, which changes the importance of the timing of a response and alters the perception of procedural justice, which supports the idea of a prompt response. This study further implies that hotel managers should include empathy or paraphrasing statements in their responses to online reviews.

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