Responding to a Bad Airbnb Review? First, Check Your Ego.

by | BiggerPockets.com

Airbnb is part of the sharing economy, and in the sharing economy, reviews are the lifeblood. Without a national name brand behind your rental, how can people trust what you’re offering? It’s all in what other guests say about your place.

So let’s talk a little about why reviews are so important for hosts, how reviews work and why you need to keep your ego in check during this process.

Why Reviews Matter

Reviews matter for hosts for two big reasons.

The first is obvious: Reviews are what future guests rely on when deciding whether to stay at your place. It’s pretty simple: If you’ve got good reviews, you’re more likely to get booked.

Second—and just as important—Airbnb gives preferential treatment in its search rankings to listings with good reviews. The more good reviews you get, the higher up in the search results Airbnb will place your listing.

Related: 6 Tips to Drive Better Guest Reviews During the Holiday Season

How Reviews Work

Hosts and guests have 14 days from the end of a reservation to review each other. In an effort to ensure people are truthful, Airbnb does not allow either side to see the other’s review until either:

  1. Both have left a review OR
  2. The 14-day window expires—whichever comes first.

After reviews go live, each side can also leave a response to the review. If your guest left a glowing review, then great! Respond and thank them for coming. But what if they left a bad review?

airbnb-tips

Watch That Ego

If you do Airbnb long enough, you will get a less-than-stellar review. When that happens, remember this business truism: The customer is always right—even if they’re actually a jerk.

Related: 6 Tips for Gracefully Responding to Bad Reviews as a Property Manager

In this scenario, think about your audience. It’s not the guy who got all snarky in his review. It’s the future guest who is reading your response. Consider if you were looking for a place on Airbnb and you saw a terrible review of the host, and then you saw the host leave a scathing response to that negative review. Would you automatically think the host was right? Or would you think that they both seem a little hot-headed and out of caution just decide to steer clear?

Stay cool and remember your goal, which is to get more bookings. Our standard response to a bad review goes something like this:

We hate to hear about this situation. We do everything we can to ensure our guests have a positive experience, and what we read above doesn’t meet that standard. We have addressed [NAME THE ISSUE THE GUEST RAISED] and will do our best to see that any future guests have a positive experience.

Reviews—and responses to reviews—are no different than every other action you take with Airbnb: They should be written with your end customer in mind.

Have you ever dealt with bad reviews from your Airbnb customers? How did you respond?

Leave a comment!

About Author

James Carlson

James Carlson loves the city of Denver, a good IPA, real estate, and Airbnb.

He is co-owner of James Carlson Real Estate and works with buyers, sellers and investors. He is also Denver’s Airbnb expert. He has hosted more than 150 guests and teaches classes on short-term rentals and hosts seminars on the current state of Airbnb laws in Colorado.

8 Comments

  1. Nathan G.

    This is great advice for any business. Reviews – or responses to reviews – should be written for the person reading them. When I respond to a negative review, I try to do so in a manner that attracts new business, renters or Landlords. Keep it short, professional, and factual. And remember: sometimes a negative review can work in your favor!

    • James Carlson

      Totally, Nathan! Thanks for writing in.

      A negative review is truly an opportunity to showcase your responsiveness and professionalism, which will only reflect positively on you when future guests are reading through. I think it’s tough not to take things personally. To me, it’s a challenge to turn both that experience into a positive.

  2. mary meir

    We got into AirBnB ABOUT 3 Year’s ago, at one point we had 4 listings. As the popularity has grown, so have the headaches. We have a team for each home (HVAC, Plumber, landscaping etc..) and we were updating on a timeline for each home. Over time, one Home was sold bc the tiny town wrote an ordinance against our rental and Airbnb did NOTHING to help! One neighbor complained and despite having other neighbors on our side (and with no assistance from Airbnb) we lost. Sold that home. In the process of returning all but our latest back into long term rentals. Do not want to deal w the hassles! Our homes have all old but been updated: new mechanicals and fresh finishes but I always decorate for families not high end. Our goal has always been safe clean comfortable and good value. We’ve stayed in Airbnb’s that are none of those – and knew we could do better! Lately the customers in our remaining homes a.)Don’t follow the rules such as disconnect smoke detectors and smoke, b.)don’t leave when they are supposed to, or c.)don’t let us know of issues until 13 days after their stay. We get crappy reviews, but the Co. does nothing to mediate. Last couple left a snarky review 13 days after staying and the two issues (plumbing kink in a line, and new furnace filter from the upgrades to the home) could have been fixed that day if they had let us know when we texted to check on things! The guests have changed and the Company does not support their “down line” (us). We are looking for different options.

  3. Andrew Ziebro

    I leave that type of response under their review so that the PUBLIC can see it.

    Separately I message the guest and shame them for attacking us. Most of the time they fault us for things that they would have known about had they just looked around or read the house manual, e.g. “you should have bottled water for your guests” Response: “did you read the house manual and see that we have whole home filtration installed??”, “nice that you provided a coffee maker but would be great if there were spoons to stir it” reponse: “did you not see the kitchenette in the photos, in the house manual, and the sign posted on the door???” I also make it clear to them that their snarky review really hurts us and is just mean and nasty. It’s interesting, I usually have a sixth sense when a guest is likely to post a snarky review. It’s almost ALWAYS when the price of the listing has been lowered to our absolute base. So cheap guests are more likely to leave a bad review in our experience.

    • James Carlson

      Haha! I totally get your motivation, and I know my wife, Erin Spradlin who blogs on here about Airbnb as well, has sent private messages. I’m not sure they were as sharp as yours, but they were intended to educate the guests on how Airbnb works. I think some people have improper expectations, that they think it will be a hotel. Some Airbnbs are like that. Others are not. I know some people now make a point of asking potential guests to READ MY ENTIRE LISTING before booking so there’s no misunderstanding about what is and is not in the unit.

      I agree that you can get a sense if people are going to leave a bad review. In my experience, it’s not necessarily the cheapest guests; it’s the guests that seem to have demands above and beyond others. And those people cut across the financial spectrum, in my opinion.

  4. Sandra McGinty

    OMG. You are right. I’ve had nothing but 4- and 5-star reviews… until recently due to a hole left in my ceiling by a plumber. Big hole. Emergency plumbing situation. My only choices were to cancel the guests’ stay that same day or temporarily fix the hole. Either choice… not good. I spoke to the guests and they said they completely understood and that they used to own a plumbing business. Plumbers can be flaky, they said. I temporarily fixed the gaping hole, but I walked away knowing this wasn’t going to be good. The people requested half their money back after their stay and left an ugly review. They waited to see if I would refund them. It felt like they were exploiting the situation. Let’s be honest… they were. I still had to respond professionally. What I wanted to say and what I did say in my response to their review were two entirely different things. In the end I thanked them for staying and for the overly honest feedback (some things were beyond my control as I did not build the building). My listing clearly states that it is a beachy place, which means if you’re looking for a 5-star resort experience, this is not the place for you. If you are looking for a comfortable, cottage-like experience at a good price, this is the place. I had to check my ego at the door. Again, you are right. And it’s tough sometimes.

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