Should Great Spa Search publish negative comments or not?

by Glenn Reynolds

Spas have a hard time without negative comments on spa websites undermining their work.

Recently, I’ve had an email from a spa owner worried about the potential impact that negative commenters may have on their business. This is quite a legitimate concern. Spa owners and their staff work hard to develop their business, find clients, provide great service to retain them and have them coming back for more. This is a difficult industry to succeed for long periods of time, especially when the economy gets tight, and people have less disposable income for what seems like an indulgence.

Being open to the comments of readers is potentially damaging for spas. As I only really delete comments that are spam, or break the law, this leaves quite a lot of room for comments that are not flattering, and can be unreasonably critical.

So why publish negative comments at all?

1. Negative comments encourage positive ones
They can generate many more positive comments, especially if the spa is good. This is great publicity for the spa, as the positive comments outweigh the negative ones and many more readers have paid attention to the spa concerned. This also has the effect of increasing loyalty to the spa concerned, commenters having rallied to their defence.

2. Constructive comments are very useful to spas.
Well-balanced comments, with positive, constructive criticism as well as some negative points are very useful feedback for spas to hear. Although I encourage spa goers to talk directly to their therapists and owners about their experiences, some people feel awkward about this, and may only reflect about it later. This feedback might not otherwise be available to the spa concerned, and can help them provide better services to clients.

3. Raving criticism doesn’t work.
Commenters who are supremely critical, railing against a spa for all negative points, lose credibility quickly. I have enough faith in readers to judge when a person is being constructive and offering a balanced account of their experiences, and when someone is just ranting for their own gratification or vested interest. Other commenters usually write and respond positively, coming to the defence of their spa.

4. Spas can respond directly or indirectly to comments
Comments can be from spa owners, managers, staff or friends. There are no limits to professionals making comments, too, although for credibility, it is useful to let readers know who you are in your comment.

Anonymity is no longer allowed. 
In the interests of genuine comments, we’ve now turned off the facility to comment anonymously. This may mean we get less comments, but maybe if you aren’t prepared to identify yourself, your comments are less likely to be genuine. 

When in doubt, ask for a second opinion
Spas can also request a review of their services, and Great Spa Search can offer an independent, objective and comprehensive review for readers to make up their own mind.

In the interests of informative debate and discussion, comments have their place on a site like Great Spa Search. We feel that it is important to allow negative (hopefully constructive) comments, and let readers make up their own mind about the veracity of such comments.

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