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Shortterm Rentals

What to Do if You Have Negative Past Reviews?

The internet is full of critics, so it’s no surprise if you’ve got a couple of negative reviews for your short-term rental. This can feel like a low blow, especially if you’re doing everything you can to please your guests.

You might also experience more negative feedback if you’re catering to a higher-end clientele. They often have higher standards (the towels aren’t white enough! The oysters aren’t fresh!) and are, unfortunately, more vocal about it, as well.

However, a bad review is not the end of the world! What’s crucial is your response. Look at these as an opportunity to prove critics wrong, by showing them how good your customer service actually is. 

Here are some tips on how to handle negative reviews.

Calm Down Before Reacting

If a bad review gets you emotional, calm down first. Any rash reactions might “prove” the negative review right and scare potential guests away—whether your reply is posted publicly, or directly to the guest. Calming down will also allow you to strategically decide what course of action will give you the most positive result.

For STRs listed on Airbnb, here’s a technique: If you already suspect that your current guest will give you a negative review, remember that the review won’t be published until after two weeks, or after both of you submit reviews of each other. 

You won’t be able to read their review until it’s published, but you can delay it. Either skip your review entirely or wait until the two weeks is up before submitting your review. This will help because the reviews are posted in order of rental dates. By delaying a potentially negative review for two weeks, you give yourself time to get positive reviews from more recent guests—effectively pushing the negative review down the timeline.

Communicate and Apologize

Once you’ve calmed down, contact the guest directly. Though you can’t change the review they posted, at least you can show that you’re concerned about giving your guests the best experience. 

Offer your apologies and ask if there’s anything you can do to address the issues. In many cases, their reactions are due to a simple misunderstanding, which should be easy to resolve. 

Remember that most complaints are not a personal attack—it’s all just business, at the end of the day. But if the reviews are getting personal (and are justified), then take them as critiques for your own improvement. 

If the reviews are unjustifiable and/or unreasonable, then maybe the guest was just having a bad day. It still won’t hurt to offer a sincere apology, as hospitality is your job as an STR host. 

Keep Future Guests in Mind

Remember that all posts are public. Reviews that are posted on your listing can be seen by anybody on the internet. Even private reviews or responses can spread like wildfire to the guests’ circle of influence. 

So, when you’re replying to negative reviews, keep your future guests in mind. Your response should “reverse” or lessen the severity of the negative review, undoing the damage done to your reputation.

Keep your replies short and professional. Avoid being defensive or putting the blame on the guests, as these will only make you look hot-headed and immature. You want to show future guests that you’re an owner who’s mature, objective, and won’t lash out like a teenager if there’s a complaint. State facts, instead of feelings—explaining your side in the most objective way possible, without attacking the guest in any way.

These tips should help you handle any negative reviews you might encounter. However, it’s much better to avoid getting bad reviews in the first place. 

Take note of past complaints, and address those before accepting new guests. Are they upset because of a misleading description? Uncomfortable beds or faulty appliances? Lack of cleanliness or WiFi? You can significantly improve your services just by listening to your guests!

Steps to Remember:

  1. Breathe, calm down, and don’t take it personally.
  2. Think of the best strategy to handle the situation. Sometimes, this means ignoring a review—but only when the review is obviously biased or inaccurate. 
  3. Communicate directly and professionally with the guest.

Most people just want to know that they’re being heard. So, when you receive a negative review, assess the situation properly. Take all reasonable feedback as a chance to improve, and take all unreasonable complaints as a chance to show great hospitality and customer service—the real product you’re selling!

What’s your experience with getting bad reviews for your STR? Any tips for how to manage negative reviews? 

Image courtesy of Michael Burrows