Guests end up leaving less-than-stellar reviews on top listing sites like Airbnb for many reasons. Maybe they complained during their stay and, despite your best efforts to resolve the issue, gave you poor feedback anyway. Or perhaps you’ve been blindsided by a bad review, but would have jumped into action had you known there was a problem!
Regardless, getting one-star (or even two- or three-star) reviews can seriously damage the reputation of any vacation rental — whether you’re a first-timer trying to make a good impression, or a longtime owner with a reputation to uphold. And, ultimately, bad Airbnb reviews can hurt how much income you earn each year.
Below you’ll find in-depth details around the damage bad Airbnb reviews can cause and — more importantly — how to respond and get your home back in five-star territory.
For starters, you may see an immediate dip in your home’s listing reputation. If a bad review puts your rating below a certain average on Airbnb, your listing may be paused for a few days — meaning it won’t appear for travelers in Airbnb search results or show up if someone goes directly to the link.
Whether your property is just starting out or has been accepting vacationers for years, too many bad Airbnb reviews can also result in complete removal from the listing site. (Vrbo and Booking.com have similar consequences when negative reviews are tied to cleanliness.)
When a negative review rolls in on any listing site, it’s time to spring into action. Your home isn’t doomed, but it requires an immediate, hospitality-driven reaction that addresses the issue head-on.
When your home gets a bad review after a guest’s stay, here are three steps you should take to respond:
Replying to negative feedback in the heat of the moment can do more harm than good, as your words may come across sharper than intended. It’s important to remember that once an owner’s response goes live on Airbnb, it cannot be edited. (Note that other sites do allow edits.)
When a guest review lands on Airbnb (or Vrbo), owners have 14 days to respond (other listing sites have a bit more leniency). So there’s plenty of time to let emotions settle and think through the best way to respond. In an effort to maximize this window of opportunity, Evolve owners are always notified the minute a new review is public.
On Airbnb specifically, star ratings aren’t revealed next to the reviews themselves, so if the content of a lackluster review is neutral, our Guest Reviews team recommends leaving it alone.
In that situation, you haven’t been given any context for the poor rating (and neither have browsing travelers), so your public response could ultimately be what draws negative attention and turns people off from booking your home.
If a bad Airbnb review is accompanied by negative commentary, however, use the critique to understand where your property may fall short for travelers. Look for any themes or patterns from previous reviews. If you scroll through, you might see that even the happiest guests mentioned these grievances in passing — but were less bothered by them.
In this scenario, it is important to respond. (Again, after you’ve had a moment to reflect.) Absorb the feedback and prepare to write back, because your response may say more about your commitment to hospitality than the negative review did.
Now that you’re ready to respond, it’s important to reassure the slighted guest that you’ve heard their complaints while keeping future bookings top of mind. Make it known that you’re righting the wrong by clearly outlining the steps you’ve taken to guarantee five-star experiences.
That said, responding gracefully is often easier said than done. It’s likely you take a lot of pride in your property (as you should!), so it’s easy to let emotions take over. Just remember that one person’s opinion does not define your home, and that your response is what truly sets the tone for your performance moving forward.
To overcome negative reviews as quickly as possible, here are a few strategies you can use.
Take that plan of action you laid out when assessing the poor feedback and complete as many to-do’s as you can before the next guest’s check-in. If the complaint was about bare cabinets, for example, or that bathrooms were poorly-stocked, use an inventory checklist to invest in essentials for those spaces. Add spices, coffee, and other supplies in the kitchen, or replace hand soap, towels, and toiletries in every bathroom. Make sure you address the details and do what’s needed to make guests feel relaxed and comfortable as soon as they come in.
Be proactive about organizing welcome treats that take your vacation rental hospitality to the next level. Consider putting out a nice basket of local goods or a personalized note, and provide a welcome book to make their time in your area memorable. These small acts of kindness show guests you’ll go above and beyond to make them feel right at home.
If you only have a few reviews in total, or don’t have new guests coming anytime soon, you may want to consider dropping your rates temporarily to encourage bookings.
If travelers are deciding between your property and another with equal amenities and pricing — only that one has recent five-star reviews — they’re going to choose your competition. Temporarily adjusting your pricing can help get guests through the door, bringing redemptive five-star reviews in faster and bumping bad Airbnb reviews down to the bottom of the pack.
With your response sent and immediate actions taken to remedy any issues, your focus should turn to keeping bad reviews from ever appearing on your listing again. Here are a few ways you can prevent bad airbnb reviews and guarantee good feedback in the future.
The big-ticket item: make sure your home is the gold standard of cleanliness. Download cleaning checklists and distribute them to your cleaning service partners to operationalize the process, so you have peace of mind knowing your home is spotless for every guest arrival.
Address any outstanding items from your action plan that you weren’t able to tackle right away. If your bad Airbnb review mentioned lacking a certain comfort, invest in the parts of your home that left them underwhelmed. Add fresh bedding or a new mattress to promote super-comfy nights of deep sleep. Incorporate upgraded appliances, indoor decor, and inviting outdoor spaces. Swiftly fix or replace anything that’s broken, like a faulty dishwasher, thermostat, or entertainment system.
Sometimes, guests feel upset when the home doesn’t live up to expectations. If your property listing boasts stunning mountain views but guests have to lean over the side of your deck to catch a glimpse, they’ll think they were duped. It’s crucial that your listing paints a detailed, realistic picture of what guests will experience during their stay. That way, there are no surprises that might rub them the wrong way.
A bad review on Airbnb or other listing sites might mean you take a hit, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your vacation rental business. If you focus on helping your guests rest easy, we’ll handle the data-backed strategies to help skyrocket your property’s performance.
Evolve has plenty of tips to help owners be successful with vacation rental, from filing your taxes to grabbing guest attention on social media. We’re here to help whether you’re just starting out on an investment journey or a seasoned vacation rental pro.