hotel front desk

Give Customers a Voice, Heed Their Criticism

In an apparent attempt to reduce the number of negative reviews it receives online, a hotel in Hudson, New York, decided to start charging wedding guests $500 for each negative review posted online by anyone in their party.

In an era where customers have a stronger voice than ever through social media sites like Yelp, we need to give customers a voice. Rather than attempting to quash bad reviews, we need to welcome them as constructive criticism that can help us improve our business.

Turn Lemons Into Lemonade

Critiques are an opportunity for improvement. We have to seek out and listen carefully to feedback to understand what kind of customer experience we’re offering. Rather than viewing negative reviews as…well, negative…we should look at them as opportunities to show what we’re made of.

“We all hate to get a negative review, but there’s always an opportunity to respond,” customer service guru Shep Hyken told CRMBuyer. “I encourage companies that get a negative one to respond and address the issue, and hopefully get the customer to follow up with a positive one.”

Often, a bad customer experience followed by an excellent response from the company can mitigate the initial bad experience. Not only that, it can even convert unhappy customers into advocates for our company.


Until very recently, the New York hotel’s contract for wedding parties included this clause, according to CRMBuyer:

If you have booked the inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at…there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of…placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding event. If you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any internet site, you agree to a $500 fine for each negative review.

Of 35 reviews on Yelp so far—with an average overall review of 1.5 stars out of a possible 5—many critique the hotel’s policy regarding reviews.

It’s About Our Customers, Not Us

To provide good customer service, we have to think of the customer first. If our policies and practices clearly benefit us at the expense of the customer, our customers will feel like pawns in our profit-margin chess game.

In a follow-up post, Hyken wrote that trying to disenfranchise customers shows a lack of confidence in our customer service. He contrasted this hotel’s policies with another hotel he recently stayed at that had “a sign at the front desk that asks you to leave a review on Yelp.”

We need to think of our customers as people and not numbers. We need to appreciate them if we want to make the kind of connection we should be trying to make—the human one.