Even the best hosts tangle with a poor guest review from time to time.
Some poor reviews are easy to see coming due to issues during a guest’s stay; others, though, can totally catch you by surprise. Either way, the most important question is: How do you respond?
Your listing will obviously take a slight ding. On most OTAs, if a 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 the marketplace altogether.
Of course, those are the extremes. An occasional poor review isn’t going to crush your listing, and again, how you respond can actually carry more weight than the poor review itself. That’s why it’s so imperative for you to take swift action and address the issue at hand.
The amount of time you have to respond to a review depends on the travel site. Airbnb, for example, gives you up to 14 days to respond; other OTAs allow even more time than that. There’s really no need to rush, which means you can:
1. Collect your thoughts: Before you craft a response, step back for a few hours or even a few days to assess the situation more objectively. That way, you can build 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 could be set in stone.
2. Understand the review: While digesting a poor review, try to put yourself in the shoes of a traveler. Maybe the refrigerator does have an odd odor, or maybe the 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 put together an astute response.
3. Respond strategically: The most important thing to remember is that your response isn’t just for the guest who posted the poor review—it’s for your future guests, too. With them in mind, your reply is a chance to demonstrate how responsive, dedicated, and understanding you are as a host. What does that mean? Well, you definitely don’t want your response to seem inflammatory, so be sure to avoid exclamation points and all-caps typing. 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.
Be sure to follow through on your promises—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 listings that can’t afford to let one clunker drive away business.
Limit poor guest reviews in the future by doing what you already do: keep providing top-flight experiences for every guest, because that’s the best way to keep those positive reviews flowing. Be proactive about issues with your properties, and make sure your hygiene protocols are up to par because cleanliness is more important than ever these days.
Beyond that, just be honest. Your listings 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.