AirbnbGuest ExperienceProperty Management 13 mins read

Got a Bad Airbnb Review? Here’s What to Do

By November 24, 2022 No Comments
receiving superhost badge on airbnb

Imagine this: you have a beautiful rental. It’s clean and well maintained with outstanding amenities. You also have exceptional reviews… except for a few. Like every other host, you have had a couple of Airbnb guests that nitpick at every part of your property. They are not looking to leave a good review or a 5-star rating; instead, they prefer to call out the things that made them unhappy because they are generally very unhappy people. You feel defeated.

Don’t worry. Unfortunately, these types of guests exist. They’re not routine, but they do happen, and there’s no way to avoid some of the bad reviews you’ll be getting as an Airbnb host. But you can easily turn around a negative review into a positive aspect of your business. They may even help you attract new guests, as most end up checking reviews before they make a booking. So an  integral part of becoming an outstanding host is to be able to turn a negative review into your secret marketing weapon. Let’s learn how.

 

But first, what are the different types of Airbnb reviews?

First, it may be helpful to understand the Airbnb review process. As a host on Airbnb, you can receive feedback from four different channels:

Private reviews

Guests may contact you by email or text to suggest how you might improve your short-term rental. These are not open to the public.

Public reviews

Guests have up to 1,000 words to tell you what they think, and it is visible to the entire Airbnb community. Your response to such reviews will also be visible to the public.

Star rating

Guests allocate 1-5 stars for overall satisfaction and by categories (cleanliness, accuracy, location, etc.).

Cancellation reviews

Hosts are “penalized” by being automatically reviewed if they cancel a reservation. Hosts cannot remove these reviews, but you can reply to them and explain why you canceled the booking.

How do Airbnb reviews work?

Within 14 days after guests complete their stay, they can leave a review. It will include ratings in six categories and an overall written review. After the host completes their own review of the guest, the guest’s review will be posted. If a host does not complete a review on the guest in 14 days, the review will go public at that time.

Most common reasons for bad reviews

Guests leave bad Airbnb reviews for many reasons. Let’s take a look at five common reasons.

Unsafe neighborhood

Everyone comes from different backgrounds. If your guest sees the neighborhood and it makes them uncomfortable, they may decide that the neighborhood is not safe.

Cleanliness issues

Cleanliness is the most sought after quality of a vacation rental when it comes to booking. If your unit is not clean, with dirty floors, hairs on the bed, clogged drains, etc., you are bound to get a negative review. So remember to pay a lot of attention when it comes to prepping your rental for each check-in. 

Loud noises

It is tough to control noise outside of your home. If your guest deems neighborhood or road noise excessive, they may indicate that in their review.

Check-in issues

If your guest has any trouble with check in, that may impact their feelings about the rest of their trip. First impressions are critical.  

Host interaction issues

If your guest believes you took too long to respond to a question or request, or even that they felt the interaction was unprofessional, this may impact your review.

The biggest reason for negative reviews is when the guest expectations are not met. This happens when your unit does not live up to the Airbnb listing description and images, for example with amenities, cleanliness, neighborhood, etc. Remember to be as accurate as possible when you describe your vacation rental and house rules on the various distribution platforms so there is no discrepancy between expectations and reality. 

Avoiding bad vacation rental reviews: Prevention is key

To help earn positive reviews and thus, avoid poor ones, you should begin building a relationship with your guests before they even arrive. Digital guidebooks and personalized communication can help you do this. 

To help build a long-lasting first impression, you can also leave a welcome basket of local goodies for your guests. Not only will this help support local, small businesses, but your guests will feel immediately welcomed, and that positive feeling will last a while.

During your guests’ stay, make it a priority to be available all of the time. Your guests can feel secure knowing that they can always reach out to you if they need help. 

Sometimes you can see the writing on the wall before a guest even checks out. In these cases, you can still avoid negative feedback. But you need to act quickly and add value to the rest of the guest’s stay. This could take the form of a gift basket, a bottle of wine, or tickets to a local concert or event. If you offer something, make sure you address the unforeseen challenges that affect the guest experience. It has to be crystal clear that you own up to the issues in the guest’s mind.

After their stay, delay leaving a guest review, if you know you’re about to receive one. They have 14 days to leave their own review, so don’t leave one right away. This will give the guest a chance to cool down and leave a less brutal review. 

How to handle bad Airbnb reviews

If you do receive a negative review, you have a few options. These three choices have varying degrees of confrontation, so you can choose what works best for you.

Download it now for free:

How to respond to an angry guest

We all make mistakes. Once in a while, that means a guest can get angry. Follow this step-by-step guide to defuse a tense situation and still get a 5-star review.

Ask Airbnb to remove it

Airbnb review policy does allow Airbnb to remove any content that endorses or promotes illegal or harmful activity or is explicit, violent, graphic, threatening, harassing, or discriminatory. “Content” includes both guest and host reviews.

Some forms of advertising, violation of your personal privacy, revealing your vacation rental’s location, or actions to extort or press you also violate this policy. If the guest’s negative feedback includes any breaches of this nature, you can report it to Airbnb, and they remove the bad review from the website. 

To do so, go to your “Account” page, click on “View Profile,” and then click the flag icon next to the bad review you want Airbnb to remove.

After you claim that the review violates Airbnb’s content policy, you’ll need to show that the review includes spam, extortion, is incentivized, or does not reflect the guest’s experience.

However, if the content doesn’t fall within these categories, you’re better off trying other options. Airbnb generally sides with the guest when it comes to eligible reviews. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get them to take down a review just because you feel it’s unfair (even if you’re right).

Pro tip: Make sure that you abide by Airbnb’s Terms of Service yourself. And ONLY communicate with guests via the Airbnb platform. This way there will be no guesswork and you’ll be able to prove everything. 

Ask the guest to remove/change it

Although you have 30 days to do so, as an Airbnb host or property manager, it’s good to reply to ALL of the reviews you receive (both the good and the bad ones) within one day. 

Overall, late responses denote a lack of interest and appreciation for the guest experience and publicly corroborate a negative opinion of the host on the website. Conversely, swift replies to comments show a potential guest that you are committed and care. 

To get into the habit, think of responding to guest reviews (even if it’s just to say “thank you kindly and hope to see you soon!”) as an integral part of the job—just like post-checkout cleaning or cleaning, replacing towels and linens. It might also motivate you to know that, to achieve Airbnb Superhost status, you must have responded to 90% of guest messages and reviews within 24 hours.

An easy way to remember to check reviews is to create an automatic reminder. You can do this with various automation tools for vacation rental managers. We recommend using features built into your property management platform (PMP). However, if your PMP doesn’t have a review response feature, you can use Zapier to build a Google Calendar reminder based on your PMP’s check-in and check-out information.

Respond rather quickly

Although you have 30 days to do so, as an Airbnb host or property manager, it’s good to reply to ALL of the reviews you receive (both the good and the bad ones) within one day. 

Overall, late responses denote a lack of interest and appreciation for the guest experience and publicly corroborate a negative opinion of the host on the website. Conversely, swift replies to comments show a potential guest that you are committed and care. 

To get into the habit, think of responding to guest reviews (even if it’s just to say “thank you kindly and hope to see you soon!”) as an integral part of the job—just like post-checkout cleaning or cleaning, replacing towels and linens. It might also motivate you to know that, to achieve Airbnb Superhost status, you must have responded to 90% of guest messages and reviews within 24 hours.

An easy way to remember to check reviews is to create an automatic reminder. You can do this with various automation tools for vacation rental managers. We recommend using features built into your property management platform (PMP). However, if your PMP doesn’t have a review response feature, you can use Zapier to build a Google Calendar reminder based on your PMP’s check-in and check-out information.

Never ignore a bad review

If you can’t reply earlier or think you need to cool down before you start pounding at the keyboard, mark your calendar. Just make sure you actually do a follow-up. It doesn’t have to be days. We recommend writing your response in a separate document and walking away for a few hours. What you want to avoid is an impulse response.

Download it now for free:

How to respond to an angry guest

We all make mistakes. Once in a while, that means a guest can get angry. Follow this step-by-step guide to defuse a tense situation and still get a 5-star review.

Remember: the bad review isn’t directed at you

When faced with a bad Airbnb review for your vacation rental, it’s important that you remain calm and not take it personally. Remind yourself that Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com, and any other vacation rental platforms are businesses that deal with people—lots of people. This includes both the easygoing “it’s all good” types who appreciate even the roughest sheets, and the most demanding travelers who expect everywhere they set down their suitcase to morph into a suite at The Plaza magically. 

…or is it actually about you?

Be honest with yourself. Did you buy a cheaper brand of chlorine this season only to see the pool turn twenty murky shades? Did you forget to do that last walk-through before the guest’s arrival, and something slipped through the cracks? Could all those perfect five-star comments from July and August have you resting on your laurels? 

Only if you correctly identify the origin of the complaint will you be able to manage it appropriately, avoid more complaints of this nature in the future, and improve the guest experience overall. And if you think you fell short with the experience you were offering, you can offer a partial refund and make note of this in your public response.

If you need some support in your endeavors as an Airbnb host or vacation rental property manager, consider investing in property-management software or subscribing to a property-management platform. Both are designed to increase your degree of organization and efficiency by centralizing all your booking and guest information, with task-management, analytics and invoicing among their many helpful features. That time saved will help you stay on top of operations and will inevitably contribute to a decrease in bad Airbnb reviews.

5 tips for responding to a bad Airbnb review & using them to your advantage. 

Responding to a bad review should follow this time-proven template called VAST (those of you who worked retail likely used this technique):

Validate

Validate the guest’s negative experience. Use terms such as “I understand your point of view” or “I can see why that would be disappointing,” even if you can’t begin to do either. 

Apologize

Apologize, but don’t contextualize. Don’t try to justify why or how a negative incident happened. Instead, own it, even if you do not agree with the guest’s particular version of it.

Sympathize

Sympathize with the guest, person to person. When your annual vacation days are numbered, and you end up sunbathing beside a swampy green swimming pool, or tossing and turning in a rock-hard bed, it can be heartbreaking. The prospect of an “ideal” vacation is what gets the majority of us through the year. With expectations running this high, some people can still find fault with even the most impeccable vacation rental. As mind-boggling or outright cynical as their perspective may seem, try to put yourself in their position, and you will see where they’re coming from more clearly. This tactic could inadvertently forge a more personal bond. It may even motivate the unhappy guest to give you a shot at redemption by booking your property again or recommending it to friends and family.

Thank

Thank them. Wait!… What? Thanking your guest for a bad public review signals to future guests that you’ve ingested the feedback and taken it seriously. Humility shows that you are working to improve the guest experience

Beyond this, also focus on the positive aspects of their stay in your response: “We hope that you at least enjoyed this and that. With the improvements we hope to make, we truly hope this isn’t a goodbye.” That works wonders!

Remember, the longer your reply is the more it looks to future guests that you made an effort and did your best to make the guest feel better.

+1 Tip (Tip No. 5) To build back your business after a few bad reviews, try multi-channel distribution to increase the number of reservations quickly. This tactic will help you advertise your vacation rental at scale. The hope here is to bury the bad review with fresh new positive ones. Most guests don’t scroll through the entire reviews, so covering up that blemish as fast as possible should be your priority.

Wrapping things up

A bad Airbnb review isn’t the end of the world. If you take the appropriate action, you can even use it as a learning experience to improve and scale your vacation rental business and, ultimately, burn that bad review in the heat of a thousand stars.