How to Manage Vacation Rental Reviews: 5 Best Practices from Hosts

Reviews management

By The Hospitable Team

As guests browse through vacation rental listings, one thing that’s guaranteed to make your property stand out is a ton of amazing reviews. But what to do when you get a negative review? And just how much could one bad comment affect your bookings?

Well, there’s no question reviews affect booking rates. 90% of consumers* now read reviews before they make any purchase, and 79% say they trust online reviews** just as much as a personal recommendation. 

 So, if you’re worried about reviews, you need to see our expert tips and tricks to help you maximize the positives and avoid the negatives. Also, read on to see how best to respond to bad reviews to minimize their effect.

Why you should care about vacation rental reviews

For many travelers, reviews are just as important as your listing description. A Tripadvisor survey revealed that the majority of travelers rely heavily on reviews when planning all aspects of a trip, and four out of five people read reviews before booking a place to stay.

Guests are also more likely to discover your rental if you have good reviews. On booking sites like Airbnb and Vrbo, properties with plenty of good reviews rank higher in search results.

If you’re an Airbnb Superhost, which requires an average rating of at least 4.8-stars, a one-star review could bring that average down and undo all your hard work. 

Reviews also provide you with honest feedback so you know exactly what’s going well and how you can improve the experience for your future guests. 

Avoiding bad reviews

To minimize the chance of getting negative reviews, make sure you first deal with the most common guest issues. For example:

  • Maintain exceptionally high standards in cleanliness.
  • Keep appliances in good working order so guests are less likely to encounter a broken oven, dishwasher, or television.
  • Be available to guests throughout their stay and resolve any issues quickly. You can set up automated responses with Hospitable.com so your guests get a fast, personalized response any time they send you a message.
  • Write an accurate, realistic listing description so guests know just what to expect.
  • Provide extras like shampoo and soap in the bathroom, condiments in the kitchen, and plenty of clothes hangers in the bedroom. The last thing your guests want is to have to run to the shops the moment they arrive.
  • Help guests settle in as fast as possible with a house manual and a welcome book with easy access to local area information.

Vacation rental review management: 5 best practices hosts swear by

Sometimes things go wrong even for the most attentive hosts. Whether you’re dealing with a broken boiler or an impossible-to-please customer, you might get the feeling a bad review is on the way.

But don’t worry—we’re about to share some expert strategies for successfully managing your vacation rental reviews. Follow these 5 tips to avoid bad reviews, receive more positive ones, and limit any damage to your reputation. 

Automate your reviews

On Airbnb and Vrbo, reviews are two-way, and both guests and hosts have a 14-day window to leave a review. And when you write a review for your guests, they receive a prompt to do the same—making it all the more important to review your guests soon after their stay. 

Automating the process of leaving guest reviews saves you time and effort, and makes sure you never forget to review your guests when you know they’ve had a great experience.

Reviews influence your earnings as a host.

It's best to automate your reviews management. Follow up with the happy guests, and don't waste time publishing your reviews.

Hospitable.com lets you create reviews from a variety of templates and customize them for each guest. You can create review rules for different categories and set up your Airbnb reviews to post automatically. Learn more about how to automate guest reviews with Hospitable.com here.

Though it’s generally recommended to automate reviews, not every host feels the need to encourage them. Natasha Assa, a host who manages two beach-side homes in NYC, explains why sometimes no review is better than a bad review.

Should you encourage reviews or not? Perhaps for new hosts it’s very important, but for us less so because we already have hundreds. We can afford to lose a review if the guest decides not to write. If the review is glowing we are always more than willing to thank the guest and ask them to come back any time.”

Delay publishing your review until the last minute

Now, we’ve just explained that by automatically publishing guest reviews you can save yourself time and increase your chances of getting a review in return. 

Though normally you want to get as many guest reviews as possible, it’s sometimes better not to solicit reviews when you know guests are unsatisfied. 

Let’s say your guests have been complaining throughout their stay, and you don’t think they’ve had a positive experience. If you delay writing a review until the last minute,  by the time your guests see it, the 14-day window might have closed. Then it will be too late for them to leave their negative comments.

Hospitable.com can help you automatically delay reviews when you want to. To set up delayed reviews, you can go to “Pending reviews” in your dashboard, and click on the one you expect to be bad. Then you can select the “Bad review” toggle, and save. That’s all there is to it—your guest review will now be posted at the last minute.

“​​I was using another system for messaging, but decided to try Hospitable.com because I heard that you can do automated reviews and last-minute bad reviews. Not having to do much with reviews saves me time.” – Testimonial from anonymous Hospitable.com user. 

Always respond to reviews

Make it your standard practice to respond to every review. In the case of a good review your response could be a simple “thank you” to show your appreciation for your guests and gratitude for the feedback.

Not only is it good manners, it might even get you more bookings. In a recent survey, 89% of consumers said they would be more likely to use a business that responds to all of its online reviews

It’s even more important to respond to any negative feedback. Make sure your response is extra polite and professional, own up and apologize if you’re at fault, and make it clear how you’ll improve in the future.

If you feel that the guest’s review is unfair, don’t be rude or argumentative in your response. Instead, provide background information and calmly explain your side of the story. Potential guests who may be reading the exchange can judge for themselves, and hopefully, they’ll realize that the reviewer is untrustworthy.

Host Natasha Assa believes that reviews provide an opportunity for hosts to shine in difficult circumstances, and she shares her three golden rules for responding to reviews:

Rule number one: always leave feedback to a negative review. Rule number two: never get angry or critical of the guest. Three: apologize unreservedly for any inconvenience suffered and assure them that you are working to improve service.”

She adds, though, that when reviews are unfair, you should put the guests’ complaints into context and showcase your rapid responses. For example, if guests complain about maintenance taking place during their stay, you could explain that “while we understand that this is an inconvenience, maintenance is something we must provide to keep the property in good order.”

If your guests experienced a breakdown of air conditioning or heating, she says to clarify that you did everything you could, as fast as possible, to fix the problem.

She also advises hosts to “emphasize that prospective guests can be certain that all systems are now in perfect working order and they can book with confidence.”

Now, let’s look at some examples of Airbnb host reviews.

When Airbnb guest Aldo left a glowing review, host Brian made the effort to respond and thank him. In his response, Brian has demonstrated that he is an attentive host who cares about his guests’ experiences.

STR reviews 1

In another example, host Lincoln remains grateful and polite to a less positive review. But, he doesn’t address all the problems, which leaves some unresolved issues for any readers doing their pre-booking research.

STR reviews 2

Don’t take bad reviews personally

Bad reviews can happen to the best of hosts, so don’t overreact. A critical review might knock your confidence, but instead of getting down about it, you can take the bad review as constructive feedback. 

It’s true that a bad review can bring down your average rating, but the more good reviews you earn, the less impact an occasional bad review will have. One poor review won’t ruin your reputation—especially if your guest was clearly being unreasonable.  

Sarah, a host who manages 6 beachside rentals near Tarragona, Spain, explains how she dealt with an unfair review from a guest.

I only ever got one bad review. The property was a luxury villa—spotless, a beautiful villa, it got all 5-star reviews, everybody loved it. And one gentleman wanted to check out later (he asked once he’d arrived at the property) and it wasn’t possible because it was a straight changeover day. Because of that, he gave the property 2 stars. In my response, I just pointed out the terms and conditions of the rental—which he’d agreed to—in a very professional way. It’s important not to take it personally. If you’ve got fifteen 5-star reviews and one 2-star review, it’s pretty clear that that person wasn’t being fair.” 

Every review, whether positive or negative, is an opportunity for you to learn and provide an even better experience for future guests.

However, in the following example, while it’s not easy to tell who’s at fault, Hugo’s response is aggressive and defensive—who’s going to want to hang out with Hugo now?

STR reviews 3

Showcase the best reviews on your website

It’s great to have glowing testimonials showing up on Airbnb, Vrbo, and other listing sites. But why not get more mileage out of your best reviews?

Direct bookings can be more profitable, but they’re also harder to come by. When people visit your website, they don’t see all the social proof that comes with your booking site listing. 

If you want to earn more income by getting more direct bookings, make sure you display all your favorite Airbnb and Vrbo guest reviews on your marketing channels. Revyoos is a handy tool that can help you collect reviews from all your channels and display them on your website. 

Showing off your reviews gives you an opportunity to build trust with customers as early as possible.

Take control over your short-term rental reviews

Reviews are a big deciding factor for guests looking to book your property. So, it’s vital to do everything in your power to make the experience amazing for your guests, and earn those much-needed 5-star reviews.

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But even the most diligent hosts will occasionally slip up, or have to deal with difficult customers or unforeseen circumstances. So, when you think a bad review is imminent, you can delay posting your guest reviews so guests may run out of time to post theirs. 

However, when a bad review does go live, make sure you respond politely and professionally, so other guests can see you’re handling the situation and fixing any problems.

Remember, that one bad review isn’t the end of the world, and it won’t ruin your business. Just take any negative feedback as an opportunity to learn and improve.

That said, most of your reviews will likely be fantastic, and if you automate the reviewing process with Hospitable.com, you’ll minimize the chance of getting any negative comments, and never forget to review your best guests.

Want to take a copy of this article home with you? Download here!

*90% of consumers read reviews before making a purchase

**70% of consumers say they trust online reviews more than personal recommendations

Airbnb host reviews

Airbnb Host Reviews & How To Automate Them!

Writing host reviews is not a rocket science. It’s a time-stealer, though. In this article, you will get plenty of useful templates for your reviews. Even better: we’ll teach you to automate the whole process.

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