In a completely digital world our online reputation is everything, especially in the vacation rental industry. Aside from your photos, the reviews are the first thing prospective guests look at in order to get a feel for your property. The way you manage guest reviews will have a lasting impact on the long-term performance and profitability of your vacation rental.
In this article we’re going to uncover the best strategies for managing guest reviews, from how to respond to positive and negative reviews, to when to review guests, and when to not! Reviews are a crucail peice of your listing; hosts that don't moniter and optimzie for reviews are committing a crucial hosting mistake..
Guest reviews are simple, they’re any review, testimonial, or feedback that your guest (customer) provides you during their stay. Most commonly these reviews are posted publicly to online travel agencies (OTAs) like Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway. For the purpose of this article, we’re primarily referring to guest reviews that are publicly displayed for the purpose of informing prospective guests viewing your short term rental listing.
Before we get into the different ways to manage guest reviews, let's break down why you should care about reviews in the first place.
Honest Feedback - Guests are honest and will inform you via a public review whether they liked your property or not. And yes, for some the criticism can be heartbreaking, especially for hosts that pour their heart and soul into their properties. But it is important to move past your emotional response and find a way to resolve the issue for the next guest. Thus, making your property even better next time!
Improved Search Engine Rankings - Airbnb and VRBO’s ranking algorithm heavily favor listings that have hundreds of fabulous 5-star reviews. So by ensuring you have a high number of reviews and those reviews carry a high star rating, then you will notice your property improve in the search results.
Higher View-to-Booking Rates - When prospective guests view your property listing and they see hundreds of stellar reviews, they will be much more likely to book your property. By having a high view-to-booking ratio you will notice higher occupancy rates as more and more people are eager to book your property.
A Feel-Good Business - At the end of the day, we all want a business that energizes us and encourages us to keep working hard. By properly managing your guest reviews you will be flooded with wonderful stories of how guests loved your property and had a wonderful time staying with you. Those types of positive reviews will keep you motivated each and every day!
It is very important that you respond to every review your listing receives; the good, bad, and ugly! Prospective guests will gauge how you respond to reviews to get a sense for who you’re as a host.
Not surprisingly, responding to positive reviews is much easier than negative reviews. That being said, it is still important to address a few things in each response to ensure you’re able to leverage positive feedback as much as possible.
Here are 4-steps to responding to positive reviews:
Let's use this as an example:
Jennifer left a wonderful review and we want to leverage this review as best as possible. Here is how to respond to a positive review like this.
Wow, Jennifer, thank you so much for the 5-star review! We take great pride in our properties and greatly appreciate your positive review. You’re absolutely right, the downtown location is close to everything and it's a very safe neighborhood. Our cleaners do a fantastic job of cleaning between each guest with eco-friendly disinfectant. Hosting you was an absolute pleasure and we look forward to having you stay with us again! :)
If you have limited time, or a bunch of properties, it can be difficult to respond to each review with a personalized response. In that case, we have provided a templated response you can use.
As business owners, the last thing we want to do is how to deal with negative reviews and/or negative experiences. And it is even worse when most of the time the complaints guests have are completely out of our control.
If a negative review has been made public, it is important to respond carefully and represent yourself in a professional manner.
Here are 4-steps to responding to negative reviews:
Let’s walk through an example of how to manage negative reviews:
As you can see, this review is not all bad, but we definitely need to address the negative aspect of it. Here is how to respond to a review like this:
Steve, thank you so much for staying with us! I couldn’t agree more, the location of this property is unbelievable. I’m glad to hear the property was clean, but you raise some good points about the upgrades. I have a repair guy heading to the property right now and we will ensure this is taken care of immediately. Again, thank you so much for the review and we hope to hear from you again!
In an ideal world, you would take the time to personally write a customized response to any and every negative review that you receive. It is very important to show-off to prospective guests that you’re eager to identify and resolve the issue.
Oftentimes the best strategy may be to not review a guest. If you have fears that a guest may not give a favourable review it’s best not to have an alert sent to them that you reviewed them. Guests are more likely to review you if they get that alert because they want to see what you said.
If the guest was majorly inconvenienced by an issue with the unit or excessively complained it is very likely they will review you poorly. Do what you can to not have these guests review you!
If you are especially concerned about a negative review it might be worth it to provide a generous refund. This will hopefully have the guest reconsider providing a negative review or choose not to review at all (which can be the best outcome sometimes.)
Negative reviews can have a much larger impact on your bottom line than providing guests compensation for issues that arose even if you feel the complaints are unfair.
Reviews on volume can take a surprisingly large amount of time; this is compounded for hosts with multiple listings. Hostaway has set out to alleviate some of the burden and help you automate the process.
Review alerts are centralized in the Hostaway dashboard and can be responded within the app! This removes the need to log into your Airbnb or Booking.com accounts to write or respond to guest reviews. The new review features even allow you to send either automated or manual reviews.