Q: I have just taken over a hotel with a restaurant and am currently giving it a new lease of life. Sadly, the previous owners didn’t do a great job, and the TripAdvisor reviews are really poor. Can I get TripAdvisor to delete the account?
A: Congratulations on the new venture! I hope it works out for you!
With regards to TripAdvisor, you have two choices. First, you can get the existing page deleted and start from fresh, or you can take over and manage the existing page. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods; however this is my recommended strategy.
Using the existing page has a number of short-term advantages; the profile is already ranking, it already has a grading and you can let existing reviewers know that there has been a change of management, inviting them in to visit again. On the flip side however, the ranking advantages only last as long as it would take you to build a new page, and it is likely that your overall ranking will be affected by the law of averages. This means even if you get 100% five star reviews, your overall ranking may be closer to four or even three star as it is dragged down by previous reviewers. Setting up a new page on the other hand means you may lose the ranking, status and SEO benefits, however if as you say the previous rating is poor, then it is most likely a good idea for you to start with a new page and build your own reputation – it shouldn’t take you too long.
- Before you do anything at all officially, claim the page as your own if you haven’t already. By doing this and having an owner-member account, you will be able to see who has reviewed the establishment and get their contact details. Take the time to collate these into a list because a) these people are clearly reviewers and are as likely to deliver a positive review as they will a negative one and b) they know the establishment and are likely to be curious about the changes that you are making.
- When you have the list, and while the refurbishment is underway, take some time to prepare personalised invitations to previous reviewers, offering them a discounted visit to show them what has changed. Wherever possible, advise them of how the changes will directly affect their opinion; for example if they complain about the food, give examples of the new menu and what makes it special/different; if it is about price, explain how you are focusing on good value and changing the pricing for the better. Hold onto these reviews until it is actually realistic to start inviting people to come and try you out – you don’t want to invite them four months before the property is finished, in case they forget again, although I doubt you have that long to go!
- When you are ready with the responses and can start accepting guest bookings for the near future, then you need to respond to the reviews on the existing page, alerting them to the change in management and inviting them to visit. I suggest inviting them to visit about two weeks after you message them, as this will give you a chance to train your staff and iron out any teething problems, before the reviewers descend. Remember, they’ve left a poor review before, so don’t make any exaggerated claims and make sure you live up to their expectations – you don’t want to give them anything negative to latch on to again, so pull out all the stops.
- Leave the responses to the reviews (going back about a year), on the page, so that anyone checking you out can clearly see that it is under new management.
- Once you have responded to all the reviews and are confident with the way the property looks and how your employees are delivering, you can advise TripAdvisor of the change of ownership and they will delete the existing page, giving you a clean slate. By this point, you have already done the work to line up a flurry of new reviews and have made a public statement of the change of ownership. At the same time however, your average won’t be dragged down by previous reviews and it will be clear what you have done and achieved. To wipe the slate clean, login to TripAdvisor, and click on your management centre. Go to ‘manage your TripAdvisor Page’ and then ‘Property Administration Tasks’. Here you will find an option to ‘report ownership change’ where you can complete a form and provide relevant supporting documentation. TripAdvisor will then verify and clear the previous content. TripAdvisor doesn’t specify how long this will take and it will most likely be subject to how busy they are, so prepare for this to take a week or possibly longer.
- Don’t forget – your page doesn’t have any content now, so interact with visitors and encourage them to leave positive reviews to start building your rating.