Here’s Exactly What to Do with Bad Reviews From Your Vacation Rental Guests

The Evolve Team
The Evolve Team
February 2, 2021

A guest recently checked out of your vacation home, and when it came time to leave a review, it wasn’t all that stellar. Perhaps they complained during their stay and, despite your best efforts to resolve the situation, they gave you a bad review anyway. Or maybe you’ve been blindsided by the negative feedback, and would have jumped into action the moment you had known!

Regardless, getting one-star (or even two- or three-star) reviews can seriously damage the reputation of any vacation rental — and ultimately hurt how much income you earn each year.

For first-time renters with brand new listings, poor guest feedback paints a negative picture of your home for browsing travelers because there isn’t anything positive to counterbalance what they’re reading. Even longtime vacation rental owners can take a hit if those bad Airbnb reviews start to pile up.

It all begs the question: What do I do now?

First, take a deep breath. Next, stick with us. We’ll walk you through what the damage could look like and — more importantly — how to respond to the situation to get your home back in high-performing five-star territory.

What Happens If You Get Bad Airbnb Reviews

For starters, you may see an immediate dip in your property’s listing reputation. If a bad review puts your rating below a certain average on Airbnb, your listing will be paused for a few days — meaning it won’t appear for travelers in Airbnb search results, nor will it show up if someone navigates to the direct link.

Whether your property is just starting to make a name for itself or has been accepting vacationers for years, too many bad Airbnb reviews can also result in complete removal from the marketplace. (Vrbo and Booking.com have similar consequences when negative reviews are tied to cleanliness.)

The bottom line here: when that negative review rolls in, 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.

How to Respond to Bad Airbnb Reviews

When a guest review lands on Airbnb (or Vrbo), homeowners have 14 days to respond (other marketplaces have a bit more leniency). In an effort to maximize this window of opportunity, Evolve homeowners are always notified the minute a new review is public. Use this time to get three vital things done:

1. Take a Step Back

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 a homeowner response goes live on Airbnb, it cannot be edited. (Other sites do allow edits, however.) 

2. Assess the Feedback Objectively

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 that bad review is accompanied by negative commentary, however, use the critique to understand where your property may fall short for travelers so you can craft a thoughtful response. Perhaps the review alludes to a musty smell in the kitchen, or maybe your guests found the beds uncomfortable. If you scroll through all of your reviews, you might even see that 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 emotionally detach from the bad review.) A lack of communication puts potential bookers under the impression that you don’t care about solving issues — and that their experience won’t be any different. So absorb the feedback and prepare to write back, because your response may say more about your commitment to hospitality than the negative review did.

3. Be Forward-Focused with Your Response

Now that you’re ready to respond, it’s important you assure the slighted guest you’ve heard their complaints while keeping future bookings top of mind. Make it known that you’re taking action to right the wrong by clearly outlining the steps you’re actively taking, so that every traveler coming to your property (even them, if they’re open to it!) will receive the five-star guest experience they deserve.

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 your emotions take over. That’s why, when you work with Evolve, you’ll have a team of gifted writers to help post on your behalf. You simply give us any insight you have into the situation, and we craft an effective response that addresses the previous guest’s concerns and optimizes future booking performance.

How to Get Rid of Bad Airbnb Reviews

If you have new guests checking in next weekend — and a fresh opportunity to secure an amazing, review-worthy experience — this is your chance to put glowing feedback at the top of your review section, ultimately bumping that bad Airbnb review to the bottom of the pack.

First, take that plan of action you laid out when assessing the negative feedback, and get as much of it completed as you can before the next guest arrives. If the complaint was that the cabinets were bare, for example, or that the bathrooms were poorly-stocked, invest in essentials for those spaces. Put spices, coffee, extra dishware, and cleaning supplies in the kitchen. Keep hand soap, towels, shampoo, and conditioner in every bathroom. Guests should feel like they can come into your home and instantly decompress, rather than having to go on a hunt for supplies or make a run to the grocery store.

From there, be proactive about organizing special treats that take your vacation rental to the next level in hospitality. Consider putting out a nice assortment of gifts, like a basket of local goods and a personalized note. Or provide a welcome book to make their time in your area memorable. These small acts of kindness show guests you’ll go the extra mile to make them feel right at home.

If you don’t have new guests coming anytime soon — or only have a few reviews in total — you may want to consider dropping your rates temporarily to encourage bookings. Think about it: if travelers are deciding between your property and one with the same amenities, the same pricing, but consistent five-star reviews, they’re going to choose your competition. Adjusting your pricing creates a differentiator that’ll help get guests through the door to bring in redemptive five-star reviews faster.

This is tricky, though. How much of a drop in price is too much? And when should you return to your normal pricing? Luckily, a partnership with Evolve takes these questions off your plate. With our SmartRates pricing strategy, we consistently adjust nightly rates to meet traveler demand and keep your home competitive year-round. Our Revenue Analysts also conduct in-depth analyses of every home and market, so you never have to worry about the nuances of optimizing your listing.

Overall, it’s not just about responding to the moment or bumping one-star reviews to the bottom of your property page. Even in your most profitable booking seasons, it’s about creating a sustainable, dynamic, data-backed solution.

How to Prevent Bad Airbnb Reviews

With your five-star response completed, now it’s time to prevent bad reviews from ever appearing on your listing again. Guaranteeing great reviews from future guests requires a hotel-like five-star experience for every stay.

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, and ensure your home is spotless for every guest arrival.

Next, address any outstanding issues from your action plan that you weren’t able to tackle just yet. If a guest mentioned larger disappointments, for example, consider upgrading the parts of your home that left them underwhelmed. Buy fresh bedding or brand new mattresses to promote super-comfy nights of deep sleep. Invest in upgraded appliances, furniture, and decor. And be sure to swiftly fix or replace anything that’s broken, like a faulty dishwasher, thermostat, or entertainment system.

Sometimes, guests also 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 far side of your deck to catch a glimpse, they’ll think they were duped — and so your listing may need some revisions. At Evolve, our Product Marketing Team uses their expertise to proactively ensure every listing is enticing yet accurate, so you can focus on crafting the five-star experience that exceeds properly-set expectations.

Bounce Back From Bad Reviews with Evolve

A bad review on Airbnb and other marketplace sites means you might take a hit, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the road for your vacation rental. With years of experience in the industry, Evolve’s customer service-focused teams are dedicated to helping you recover — and to boosting your home’s performance for the long-haul.

We’ll help you respond to bad reviews with grace and precision, and guide you while making the home adjustments needed to prevent future negative feedback. We’ll also streamline your vacation rental management from start to finish, so nothing falls through the cracks again.

A partnership with Evolve means total marketing, booking, and customer support across popular websites like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com. We also connect you with trusted cleaning and support partners, so you can decide who to work with to create the Home Team of your dreams.

See if you qualify or call one of our Vacation Rental Advisors today to learn more at 877.881.7584.

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