Homeowner Tips

How to Handle a Poor Guest Review

July 7, 2021

Ah, guest reviews.

Yeah, they’re pretty cool most of the time. The positive feedback makes you feel like an A+ host, and the four- and five-star ratings greatly improve your standing with major travel sites like Vrbo, Booking.com, and Airbnb. 

Every now and again, though, it happens: the dreaded Poor Review.

[Cue the dramatic music.]

Even the best hosts wrestle with a poor guest review from time to time. Some poor reviews you can see coming due to an issue during a guest’s stay; others, however, can totally sneak up on you and catch you by surprise.

A poor review might catch you by surprise!

Whatever the case may be, the most important question is: How do you respond? 

What happens when you get a poor review?

Before we explore how to handle a poor guest review, let’s quickly shed some light on what happens after that review is posted. Your listing will obviously take a little ding, and on most OTAs, if the poor review dips your rating below a certain threshold, your listing might also be paused. Too many poor reviews can get your listing bounced from a marketplace altogether. 

But those are the extremes, right? Occasional poor reviews aren’t going to sink you, and again, how you respond can carry far more weight than the actual review. It is imperative that you take immediate action and address the issues in question.

How do you respond to a poor review?

Depending on the travel site, you have some time to craft a response. Homeowners on Airbnb, for instance, have 14 days to respond, and other OTAs allow even more time than that. There’s no need to rush—in fact, rushing out a response is usually a very bad idea!

1. Collect your thoughts: Before you go hammering away on your keyboard, step back for a few hours or even a few days to assess the situation more objectively. That way, you can craft a thoughtful reply while keeping in mind that some OTAs—like Airbnb—do not allow you to edit your response. So once you post something, it’s there for the whole world to see.

Leave your !'s and ALL CAPS here, please.

2. Understand the review: While digesting a poor review, try to put yourself in the shoes of a traveler. Maybe the kitchen does have a funky odor, or maybe the upstairs toilet is actually very slow. Whether you agree with the feedback or not, looking at it from your guests’ point-of-view might help you understand the issue—at the very least, it will give you more time to cook up a thoughtful response. 

3. Respond, but don't shout: Look, the response isn’t just for the guest who felt slighted enough to post a poor review. It’s for your future guests, too, and with them in mind, a reply is actually your chance to show just how responsive, understanding, and dedicated you are. Leave the exclamation points in your quiver, and don’t even think about going all-caps in your response. Instead, try to set your pride aside (easier said than done, of course!) and acknowledge the poor review’s gripes. Make it clear that you plan on taking immediate action, if necessary, and craft your response knowing for certain that potential future guests will be reading it. Because they will be!‍

What comes after the response?

Now that you’ve submitted your response, be sure to follow through—especially if you expect more guests in the near future. If the poor review focused on a leaky sink, fix that sink; if it was about a broken WiFi router, install a new one. 

You might also consider temporarily dropping your rates to encourage immediate bookings. This strategy isn’t for everyone, but it could actually make sense for, say, new homeowners who only have a few reviews and can’t afford to let one clunker drive away business. Tactics like this can be tricky, though, which is why MyVacayHome offers free revenue consultations to homeowners who reach out here

How do you limit poor guest reviews in the future?

You already know the answer to this one: doing your best to provide a top-flight experience for every guest is the most surefire way to keep those positive reviews flowing. Be proactive about issues with your property, and make sure your home’s cleanliness is on point—hygiene is more important than ever these days. 

Beyond that, just be honest. Your listing(s) on travel sites should let guests know what to expect; as the host, then, you have to walk a fine line between pumping up your property but also being genuinely truthful. If you don’t surprise guests with any unpleasant curveballs while they occupy your property, chances are, they won’t surprise you with any unpleasant reviews. And if they do, well, at least you know how to handle it!

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