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Strategies for Responding to Bad Reviews for Your Vacation Rental

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While most vacation rental owners would love to have zero bad reviews, sometimes one can crop up. What happens next isn’t just important for that customer, but for so many others that will be watching how you respond. Here are a few strategies you can use when responding to bad reviews for your short term rental.

First Reactions

The first instinct of many vacation rental hosts may be to take the feedback personally. And that’s understandable. But don’t take a bad review personally. It’s a review of the listing and there are many reasons why a person may choose to leave a personal review, but it’s not because he/she has anything against you personally.

In that same vein, if you find yourself getting emotional in response to the bad review, it’s not a good time to respond. Give yourself some time to compose your thoughts.

Fact Finding

Before you compose your final response, send some messages to clarify things. You want to stay neutral and objective in your tone and strike the “just the facts, ma’am” investigatory tone. Once you’ve heard the guest’s side of the story and compared it to the facts you found on the ground, i.e. they claimed they didn’t smoke, but you found cigarette butts, or they said there were roaches or mice but you couldn’t find any, you’re able to put together a response.

Craft Your Message

Firstly, don’t be generic in your response. It’s fine to use a template to respond, but try to stay away from corporate-speak as much as possible. Use the guest’s name and go for a tone of friendliness.

Here’s a template you could use, if you wanted one:

  • Apologize. Assume the guest isn’t lying and choosing to spend his/her time writing bad reviews for the fun of it. Something along the lines of, “I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy your time with us as much as we would have liked you to,” conveys empathy and validates their perspective.

  • Recap the facts. What you can do here is recap some of what they said in their review and compare it to your communications after the fact as well as your own side of the story.

  • Summarize. Even if there’s only a slim chance a guest would ever return, striking a welcoming tone here is one more way to be conciliatory.

Special Cases

Sometimes there are dumpster fire guests who cause damage, act maliciously, and do leave bad reviews just because they are having a bad day. For those guests you should still follow the steps above, because potential guests are watching how you respond as part of their decision to book.

But the additional steps you can take beyond that could include filing a police report (if and when appropriate) and/or contacting the platform to present your thoughts as to why a review was left unfairly. While platforms like Airbnb often insist that guest reviews must stay up, when the evidence of malice/bad faith is obvious, these platforms do indeed take reviews down.

This content originally appeared in our twice-monthly Guest Book Newsletter.

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