As almost-post-pandemic demand increases for vacation rentals, Airbnb hosts redouble their efforts to merit positive feedback. Doing your best to provide comfort and quality service can be quite the labor of love, so a bad review from a guest not only sends your rating average into decline—it could have the same effect on your morale. Learn how to boost your stars (and your mood) and flip a bummer into a potential boom in business.
Types of Airbnb reviews
It may be helpful to understand that, as an Airbnb host, you can receive feedback from four different channels:
· Private reviews: guests contact you by email or text to make suggestions as to how you might improve your vacation rental service.
· 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, as well as by categories (cleanliness, accuracy, location, etc.)
· Cancellation reviews: hosts are “penalized” by being automatically reviewed if they cancel a reservation. These reviews cannot be removed, but you can reply to them and offer an explanation as to why you cancelled the booking.
Avoiding bad vacation rental reviews: Prevention is key
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 affected the guest experience. It has to be crystal-clear in the guest’s mind that you own up to the issues.
How to handle bad Airbnb reviews
There are a few options when it comes to taking action on a bad Airbnb review.
Ask Airbnb to remove it
Airbnb’s Content Policy allows 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 aimed at extorting or pressuring you also violate this policy. If the guest’s negative feedback includes any breaches of this nature, you can report it to Airbnb so they remove the bad review from the website. End of story.
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.
However, if the content doesn’t fall within that category, you’re likely 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).
Ask the guest to remove it
Another option is to reach out to the guest (always in writing) to request that they remove the content. It’s worth a shot, although it’s probably not a good idea to make this request immediately after the review is published online.
Let them cool down first and give them time. Chances are, unhappy guests will be more amenable to removing a bad review as the vividness of the vacation rental disappointment (even if it’s unwarranted) fades away over time.
Adopt an amicable, polite tone when you write to guests to make the request. In your request, you can specify that you worked really hard to correct the problem for future guests. At the same time, offer the guest the chance to book again in the future now that it’s not an issue anymore. Be sure to file the request away with all the other correspondence you’ve (hopefully) exchanged with this particular individual.
Respond rather quickly
Although you have 30 days to do so, as an Airbnb host or property manager, it’s a good idea to reply to ALL of the reviews you receive (both the good ones 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 guest on the website. Conversely, swift replies to comments show a future guest that you are committed and you 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 the same as post-checkout cleaning or 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 off 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 follow-up. It doesn’t have to be days. Our recommendation is to write your response in a separate document and walk away for a few hours. What you want to avoid is an impulse response.
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 magically morph into a suite at The Plaza.
…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 shades of murky? 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 guest experience overall.
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
Responding to a bad review should following time-proven template (those of you who worked retail likely used this technique):
VAST: Validate, Apologize, Sympathize, Thank
- 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 even begin to do either.
- Apologize, but don’t contextualize – Don’t try to justify why or how a negative incident happened. Own it, even if you do not agree with the guest’s particular version of it.
- Sympathizewith 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, understandably, heartbreaking. The prospect of an “ideal” vacation is what gets the majority of us through the year. With expectations running this high, some people are still able to find fault with even the most impeccable vacation rental. As mind-boggling or outright cynical as their perspective may seem to you, 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, and 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 them. Wait!… What? – Thanking 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 guest experience.
- +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 is designed to 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.