Hospitality Marketing

Should You Use AI to Respond to Customer Reviews?

If you run a hospitality business, you have probably been bombarded with cold emails from AI companies claiming they are revolutionizing the way you’ll respond to reviews.

They make big promises, like:

  • “Respond to reviews instantly!”
  • “Get personalized responses to complex reviews!” 
  • “We’ll send a chocolate cake directly to anyone who leaves a 1-star review!”

Ok, I made up that last one. 

So is there any truth to the claims? Do AI review responses mimic the real thing enough that they can do the job for you?

Let’s talk about it. 

Are AI-generated review responses any good?

The short answer is: they’re a mixed bag. 

AI-generated review responses have a nasty case of “business speak” disease. Most of them sound like you threw a review response, a thesaurus, and a list of business buzzwords into a blender. While the resulting word mush is grammatically correct, it just sounds off.  

Here’s an example. 

One of these companies emailed me to ask if I would add their AI tool to my blog about responding to reviews quickly. I said I would need to try out the tool before I would recommend it. 

Here is the review I used: 

Looks cute from the outside but on the inside was somewhat disappointing for the price point. The biggest issue was that the Wi-Fi was not even remotely functional. As a remote worker, this was very frustrating and caused me to have to relocate to a different hotel’s lobby and work from their coffee shop instead of the comfort of my own room. We reached out to management about the issue and received no response.

The bathrooms also do not have walls that go up to the ceiling, which appears to be a design choice but results in little privacy.

The location was great but with no shortage of places to stay in Austin, I’m not sure I would return.

And here is the response that this AI tool created.

This is “personalized” in that it replies to the actual points she mentioned in the review. But it has about as much warmth as a walk-in freezer. 

This tool also has the option to offer something complimentary to underscore your apology. I tried this on a hotel review…and it offered a free stay. Holy cow, I was expecting it to offer a free continental breakfast. Someone stop that thing, it’s drunk with power! 

ChatGPT fares a little better. You can give ChatGPT additional instructions, which you could not do in the review response tool above. I asked ChatGPT to keep the response to under 100 words, and keep the tone business casual. Here’s what it “wrote.” 

It’s better but not by much. “We appreciate your highlighting our convenient location?” Blech. 

And why do these bots always use “we?” The response is coming from one person, not a hive-mind. Just use “I.” It’s so much more personal. 

How do guests feel about AI-generated review responses?

If a guest can tell that your response came from AI instead of a real person, they’re not going to be thrilled. Here’s a Reddit post from a hotel guest who could tell that his response was AI generated. 

“I’d rather receive no reply to my review,” they say. “It’s insulting.” And I think a lot of people would agree. If a guest takes the time to write genuine feedback, then the brand should take the time to genuinely respond. It’s the hospitality business, after all. 

If you use AI, are you missing the point of the review?

Responding to reviews can feel like another task to check off the list. 

But reviews are a valuable feedback tool that can show you where your hospitality business is missing the mark in a whole range of areas. 

If you feed low reviews into ChatGPT and copy and paste the resulting response, are you listening to what they’re telling you? Are you empathizing with their disappointment? Or are you ignoring your guests for the sake of efficiency?

The hospitality business is, by definition, a human-focused one. What do we lose when we replace the humans with tech?

Start with AI, finish with a human voice

Perhaps a happy medium is to use AI to start your review, and then tweak it to suit your brand voice and tone. 

Here’s how I would change the ChatGPT review response from above: 

Dear [name],

I’m so sorry about your experience. In today’s remote working environment, I understand how important it is to have reliable Wi-Fi when traveling. I’m also very concerned to hear that management was unresponsive when you tried to raise the issue. I will be following up with our management team about prompt communication. I’m also looking into Wi-Fi boosters to make sure that every room has the connectivity it needs for our guests. 

While I would understand your decision not to return, I hope we will get another chance to welcome you to [hotel] so we can re-earn your trust. 

Best,

[manager name]

This follows the same basic blueprint of the AI version, but it was rewritten by a human…so it sounds like a human. 

What do you think?

I’ve shared my opinion. Now it’s your turn. What do you think about using AI to respond to customer reviews? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below and let’s talk about it.

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