How much will you pay for a 5* review?

15 Replies

I was in a situation today where $100 bought me a nice 5* review on AirBnB.  Basically, a guest was pissed about something stupid.  Not my fault at all but that doesn't really matter when it comes time to leave their review.  I called the guest and offered $100 refund in exchange for the review and they were thrilled... Went from prob a 3* to a 5*.  Worth every penny to me.  (Nightly rate here $350).  I've had these situations pop up here and there and have gone up to $200 if the issue is my fault (A/C died as an example).   I've also waived early check in fees, and late departure fees and clearly state something like,  "I'm happy to allow an early check in.  It' normally a $50 fee but i'll waive it in exchange for a nice 5* review".  I'm batting close to 100% with the nice reviews and on the off chance something weird pops up this usually buys me some good will so they don't review at all.  (as opposed to a bad review).  

I'm less likely to do these things on the properties that have 50+ reviews but for those under 20 a bad one can hurt a lot.  

I was curious what some of you all do, and what the most you've paid for a review is. 

I have 99% 5 star reviews on VRBO and 100% 5 star reviews on airbnb and just offer excellent customer service and a great vacation experience. I am in the 300 to 500 per night range. So far I have not had to bribe anyone for 5 star reviews. If there is a problem I take care of it immediately. I have even replaced both of my HVAC units that worked perfectly because they were older so as to not chance one of them going out at a bad time while someone was staying there.

Most people understand issues, it's how you respond and correct the issues that makes a difference with your customers.

@John Underwood I provide the same level of service.. I go above and beyond but sometimes guests expectations are just unreasonable or something very unusual happens. I’m impressed you haven’t had to offer any partial refunds yet. But I’ve had an AC valve fail 2 years in, a refridge that the guest didn’t shut all the way and food spoiled, people unhappy with neighbor noise, etc. sometimes things are beyond your control and those still get reflected in reviews. I just consider It a cost of doing business Very impressed youve never had anything like this pop up.

Airbnb and VRBO get maybe 2 rentals per year from me at the most.  My advertising is on CL and offline methods.  If a tenant refers another renter to me, I give them a commission.  $50 for a 2 bedroom apartment, $75 or $100 for a 3 or 4 bedroom house.  I charge  $200/week for each bedroom in the property.

What @John Underwood said.

Also we should stop being scared of not getting 5*. 

From my posts earlier this year you may remember I was concerned about 4 stars. I lost my superhost because of a couple incidents including one idiot who had expectations to the roof, repeatedly one after another, and I ended up telling him to go xxxx. I am en entrepreneur because I enjoy the freedom it gives me. It has to be fun. Won't beg guests for anything. Provide excellent property, elegant design, quality service, cleaner than their own home. He destroyed my record for one year on airbnb, I made sure in my answer readers get the message. Despite that, I had a great summer and I am heading to another record year of revenue. When you get dozens of reviews, people can understand that you don't always get 5 stars and I have the impression that vrbo and airbnb's ranking don't make much difference between a 4.2 average and a 4.9.... IMHO.

Check VRVOs analytics... the number of reviews/guests counts more than the average rating to some extent.

My only second guest in one of my MOST expensive properties (most expensive to furnish and higher mortgage) found cockroaches.   

I gave the guest a HUGE discount ($270).    I got a RAVE reviews.

In retrospect, if you are only 5 reviews in your listings, and you get a bad rating, you can delist and start a brand new listing.

Lastly, I'm working on getting FREE of reviews as well.   I have 96% perfect 5 star rating but the work to keep that up is very tiring.   

The best way to get free of reviews -  increase demand and reduce supply.

If you get more bookings than you can handle, then who cares about an occasional 4 star review (if it's not your fault, not a fixable problem - like a 4 out of 5 star on location!!  I hate those)

the big question is how to get more demand?     

One word:   Marketing.   

Airbnb does a great of job marketing but you are still under their rules.

I'm working on marketing outside of Airbnb - google ads, FB ads, personal networking with corporations, etc.    

By 2019, I plan to get about 20% of bookings outside of Airbnb.

Joe

@Mike V. In my day job I own a business that helps business' get their online reputation up. From my experience, be careful with bribing for good reviews, it will train customers to complain or threaten for what they want. Possibly may not be repeat customers with air b and b. 

That being said, a 3 star or 2 star or even a 1 star review isn't bad, it actually adds authenticity to your business. I'm always sceptical of business' that have 500 5 star reviews and zero 1 stars. It screams "we paid for reviews"which drives customers away.  Instead of paying for reviews, build value with the review reader in publicly responding to it very professionally and neutrally, apologize (whether you're in the wrong or not), address them by name, and encourage them to reach out to you or say I have / had reached out to you, I'd like to make this right.  

Real Life Example: I'm an out of state investor, I needed a new PM. I went online and looked at thier reviews and ratings as well as how they responded. I narrowed it down to a few and talked to them. What sealed the deal for the one I picked is because how they addressed 1-star reviews. And I stayed away from the PM that kept threatening legal action for anyone who left a bad review.. YIKES! 

I 1000% agree with @John Underwood   strategy: Go above and Beyond and deliver 5 star customer service, and nip any problems in the bud before the review stage. Fix your processes that have the most complaints and get down to the root cause of the issue. It'll save you hundreds, maybe thousands each year! 

Curious: What's your budget for paying 5-star reviews? 

well now that i know that people pay for reviews.. now all reviews are suspect.. I dont personally use Airbnb unless its an area where there are not hotels.. 

so only been in one or two and both were not very good.. but i dont really know how to leave a reveiw anyway so i did not hurt them.

but i am thinking about jumping into the owning side of this.. with some cool infil properties  around the country we own.. thinking of keep ing them for  few years before we flip them.. so I like to see how folks handle this.

question:  can you hire people to handle this stuff i cant see me personally doing this. as I would not know how to even get on bnb and post anything.  there has to be PM's that work this stuff right ?

I think some people are taking this post out of context. It was meant to share a few funny stories and get a laugh out of dumb situations we’ve all experienced. I dont really thInk anyone here ‘buys their reviews’ BUT I’m also highly skeptical of anyone who claims to have never refunded a portion of the rent back due to unforeseen and unpreventable situations. Life happens and sometimes the right thing to do is to issue a partial refund (aka ‘buying the review’). I Suspect if I posted the opposite; something like ‘Guest demands one night refund for broken AC or crazy party thrown next door all night’ and I responded by saying I told him to pound sand and ate a 1* review I’d get more hate for doing the ‘wrong thing’ than support.
Originally posted by @Mike V. :
I think some people are taking this post out of context.

It was meant to share a few funny stories and get a laugh out of dumb situations we’ve all experienced. I dont really thInk anyone here ‘buys their reviews’ BUT I’m also highly skeptical of anyone who claims to have never refunded a portion of the rent back due to unforeseen and unpreventable situations. Life happens and sometimes the right thing to do is to issue a partial refund (aka ‘buying the review’).

I Suspect if I posted the opposite; something like ‘Guest demands one night refund for broken AC or crazy party thrown next door all night’ and I responded by saying I told him to pound sand and ate a 1* review I’d get more hate for doing the ‘wrong thing’ than support.

I am a loyal Hilton customer and stay about 45 nights a year on the road in all the markets around the country i work.. Like today I am in Charleston SC...  the point is .. if my stay is not up to standards I simply tell the front desk i am not happy and i dont pay for the room.. happens a few times a year... IE  noise or things not working right etc.. so to me if your being a hotelier I would expect a free night if something was wrong..  50 to 75 bucks i was just poo pooh that.. free night or nothing LOL..

@Mike V. Hmmm in my book it isn’t ethical to ask for a 5* review in exchange for something. The purpose of reviews is to get honest feedback, not influenced. If you offered $100 without the 5* review contingency but asking for it is shady. As a consumer, it makes me very uncomfortable when I am directly asked for a 5* review and often rate lower and call out that I was specifically asked for a 5 star. I understand the value of great reviews, but honest reviews go father with me. If someone has all 5* reviews (and a lot Of them revIews) I get more sceptical. Crap happens and it is ok, it is the recovery that matters at that point.
Originally posted by @Jay Hinrichs :

well now that i know that people pay for reviews.. now all reviews are suspect.. I dont personally use Airbnb unless its an area where there are not hotels.. 

so only been in one or two and both were not very good.. but i dont really know how to leave a reveiw anyway so i did not hurt them.

but i am thinking about jumping into the owning side of this.. with some cool infil properties  around the country we own.. thinking of keep ing them for  few years before we flip them.. so I like to see how folks handle this.

question:  can you hire people to handle this stuff i cant see me personally doing this. as I would not know how to even get on bnb and post anything.  there has to be PM's that work this stuff right ?

Hey Jay, yes this is a pretty new industry and has created a need for short term rental property managers. There's more than a handful of us "Airbnb Management" companies here in Chicago. 

Mike, totally agree with you, its very hard to maintain a 5 star rating. While I haven't ever heard of anyone exchanging a refund for a review, I did laugh!

I won't be beholden to any guest and take a firm stance on "paying for reviews" at all.  If there are problems, I certainly offer discounts/refunds, but they are never tied to reviews.  I have had a few "either pay me or else..." threats and I don't take kindly to those, to the point where I had a guest hammer me with a 1*, but it's one of a couple hundred and it didn't affect much.  I too agree with @John Underwood , provide a 5* experience and get a 5* review.  Occasionally I receive a guest who loved their stay and gives a 4*.  I'm not 100% sure why that is, but there are people that don't give perfect reviews no matter what.  @Carly M. and @Jay Hinrichs you make excellent points - all reviews become suspect (though in general I think the process is flawed but what else should the OTA's be doing?).  @Joe Kim I'm slowly working my way into a similar plan as you - freedom from the OTA's - it's a large undertaking (time and financially) but I do think it's necessary as I grow my business.

Mike

@Mike V. I’m with you buddy don’t listen to these folks. Except Big John totally respect his opinion. I’m not above “paying” for a review. My going number is $50 but my nightly rate is more like $125 so we’re right on par man. I’d say this happens in the Carl household maybe 2-3 times a year and it always works. Go get em!
@Lucas Carl I know right? They’re making me feel crazy for something I’m pretty sure everyone is doing but I guess no one wants to admit... or maybe spinning it in their heads so it’s justified differently. Reviews are everything in this business and if throwing a few bucks at a pain in the butt gets them happy so be it. I agree in principle but not in practice.

@Mike V. and @Lucas Carl Nope, not doing it, but don't feel crazy Mike - it certainly has been a thought of mine in the past. I learned a long time ago in a prior professional life to not allow others to "bribe me" (for lack of a better term). For those of us treating our STR's as a business, we are making business decisions with upstanding moral and ethical practices. The OTA's want you to believe this is easy, far from it if you want to be really good at it, but being good doesn't mean you have to compromise. One of the challenges for a B-to-C business is that at times you will find individuals that do not have the same standards and beliefs that you do, it's just part of the business. My overall 4.8 Airbnb and VRBO ratings are fine by me and the few unethical guests that try to negotiate "post stay" are not affecting my overall rating or stance that I am not beholden to them as they are not beholden to me.