Today I’m discussing how we get reviewed by guests, how to capitalize on your own 5-star reviews, and how to deal with negative reviews. Because you know we do get them… Yes, even me. We’re talking “How to Master Your Guests reviews: the Positive and Negative.”
I was going to do this episode about reviewing your guest as well, but I’m going to do that as a separate episode. This episode is also an update of a class I did at the Airbnb Open in Paris and Los Angeles, a class viewed by thousands and you can view below.
On this episode I will talk about:
- How Reviews Work
- Review Criteria and what we actually get reviewed on… (You’ll be surprised).
- Negative reviews… because let’s face it,… they’re bound to happen
- And of course, GREAT reviews… and how to use them
HOW REVIEWS WORK:
Reviews are written by both hosts and guests. The guest who made the reservation is the person who’ll be prompted to write the review in the Airbnb system.
Per the review guidelines, they also have to have physically stayed at your home. So, if they have booked for someone else, like parents, friends or a business associate, they are not supposed to review you. In other words, if you don’t like the review, it is grounds for having it removed. I know – it gets a little complicated, right?
Now, here’s something new. If a guest cancels their reservation upon arrival or mid-stay, they will be able to review you. This is a new policy that is just taking effect and it’s due to an intervention from the United Kingdom Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
You also get to review them as guests, which I love. Once the reservation ends and the guests have vacated… You’ll receive a message from Airbnb within a few hours to “Review a Guest.”… You and your guest each have 14 days to write a review. You can edit your review for up to 48 hours unless your guest has completed their review already. If you and your guest write a review, they each become “LIVE.”
If only one side writes a review, it will go “live” on day 15.
Remember, if a guest review you and you decide NOT to review them because you think it won’t be posted… Think again. It’s ALWAYS best to review, especially if there were issues.
And don’t think Airbnb will remove a negative review just because you don’t like what a guest wrote. Because they WILL NOT. Even if a guest lies… (Yes, fibs!), Airbnb’s party line is… “That was the guest’s experience.”… But it was a lie… A lie, I say… I’ll tell my “Guest Lie story” later. Moving on…..
Airbnb has guidelines about reviews and the right to remove a review. What doesn't Airbnb allow?
- Content that is fraudulent, false, misleading, or deceptive
- A review that includes any identifying information about you or your home
- Content that might refer to an ongoing investigation
- And much more (I’ll post a link to their guidelines on the show notes)
Airbnb even has an “extortion policy.” Oh yes, they do. What is it? And I quote…
Any attempt to use reviews or review responses to force a user to do something they aren’t obligated to do is a misuse of reviews, and we (Airbnb) don’t allow it.
If you have a guest who is asking for a refund or is threatening you with a negative review, communicate with them via the platform and contact Airbnb. My dear hosts, Don’t be hostage to a review.
Now On VRBO:
An owner gets reviewed by any member of the rental party who is 18 years old and over, but they must provide evidence that they stayed at the property. The review must be written within one year of the date of the stay. One year! That’s a bit long, but that’s their policy… An owner can also post a review on behalf of a traveler. Interesting, I think.
On VRBO, owners and property managers can rate their guests who book through Home Away, VRBO, or Vacation Rentals.com. The ratings are shown as an aggregate to owners when a traveler submits a reservation request. Travelers’ reviews aren’t public; only owners and property managers with online booking can view the star rating for travelers.
VRBO also has an “extortion policy,” and I’m quoting, again:
These guidelines expressly prohibit extorting owners/managers or travelers for money or any other consideration:
- Travelers cannot threaten to use a review against an owner to obtain refunds or additional compensation.
- Owners cannot mandate a review in exchange for refunds or ask the traveler to revise a review for compensation.
HomeAway has the right to suspend or terminate your account if these guidelines are not appropriately met.
On Trip Advisor, which is also Flip-Key:
Anyone who has stayed in your home in the last two years can leave a review. And you can review them, too, for up to 14 days. I repeat, but you as a host can only review them up to 14 days.
Something that I find mind blowing as a host is that you can collect “reviews from guests” from previous guests who didn’t book from a Trip Advisor site.Yeah, all you have to do is send an email, requesting a review from a previous guest. There is no verification that this person stayed in your property.
Hmm…I don’t know if I trust these reviews.
Review Criteria for Airbnb:
If you’ve never been a guest on Airbnb, you might wonder,… “What kind of prompts do guests get from Airbnb to review us?” Don’t worry, I’m about to tell you. First, let’s talk about what we get reviewed on. As of summer 2017, this is what Airbnb sends a guest once a guest starts the review process. There are 4 steps in the guest review process.
Airbnb will autofill in the host's name. In this example, I’ll use Sheryl. The first step for a guest is:
Now let’s talk about those dreaded negative reviews because they will be written. My dear hosts, you know I love a good quote, and today’s quote is by Erica Jong…
And you know we’ve ALL memorized those negative reviews, even the so-so ones. The first question you need to ask yourself is, “Will you answer them?”
If your answer is Yes,
I always recommend giving yourself 24 hours or more before you write it… Give yourself a moment to breathe. And think about it. Write a draft of your planned response. State the facts. Only the facts. Show it to a friend or someone else who isn’t close to the situation. They might give you a different perspective. Listen to it.
Don’t get double R’d… Reviewer Remorse.
This is one of my last negative reviews and how I dealt with it. This is what the guest wrote:
It started off sweet enough… but once you get to the invasion of privacy… Well, sweet turns bitter pretty fast. Of course, I had to respond. They said I had entered their space when they weren’t there and snooped around. This was an outright lie and a horrible accusation. I contacted Airbnb immediately and explained the situation.…
Needless to say, Airbnb did NOT remove the review. Airbnb’s statement was their company line… “This is the guest’s experience.” No, I say. NO! My response to the guest’s negative review:
I had allowed the guests to leave their luggage in my foyer before their late flight so they could enjoy one more day of sightseeing… A courtesy, mind you. So, once they checked out, I went into the apartment to prep for the next set of guests. I arrived with my exterminator, who comes every month. As we walked in, we BOTH smelled pot. I wasn’t sure, but my exterminator was positive. He winked…. My House Rules specifically state…NO SMOKING…of any kind.
Of course, when they returned to pick up their bags, I was NOT a happy camper…or happy host or happy, period…and I told them. So, they knew a negative review was coming, and they retaliated with theirs.
I decided NOT to respond. Why? Well, for the most part, the review is very positive. The not great part was the bathroom section, and due to Airbnb viewing constraints, I knew it would be cut off, so people need to click to read the rest of the review. Now, if I was to respond, the guest’s review would have been highlighted, bringing more attention to it… Not what I wanted. Plus, what am I going to say about the bathroom being “a little worn?” That I’m going to remodel it?
My point is, don’t respond to every little, negative issue… Pick the ones that you feel are unjust or NOT true.
What you have to remember is that when you respond to a review, a future guest will read it. They will make a decision about staying with you or not, depending on your responses. Do you sound defensive? Petty? How you come across on your responses is very important. If you have 30 amazing reviews and one is negative or not amazing, your future guest will probably think, “Well, that guest is picky or nothing will make them happy.” Now, if you, the host, gets personal…? Well, then it says something about you as a host.
I’m not saying you should remain silent and not respond. Like I said, pick the reviews that are unfair. When I commented, I did it because my guests were out and out lying. You need to think about when it’s a good time to respond and when to let it go. Remember, If you normally don’t respond to reviews, a response from you will only highlight the negative review.
Let’s get to the fun part.
I know we read them and forget them, but you can use them as a marketing tool. And you need to go back to them when you’re having challenging guests. You can even use your reviews for your “about this listing” or “description” for your listing name. Remember, your guests will use language that you would probably never use or think about when it comes to describing your place.
For example, in one review a guest said It was spacious enough for two, and we really appreciated all the extras she provided. They went on to say that there were also ample supplies…and much more. In another review, the guests stated that the house was exactly as advertised, carefully maintained, nicely designed, and comfortable. Evelyn provides a lot of extras with on-site attention.
I use these words to create my “about this” listing, which reads…
Skilful with Reviews:
I know that reviews are valuable to us. They can make or break our business. If you get a lot of 3-star reviews or less, Airbnb will send you warning emails and even deactivate your listing. You’re done. But now you know how you’re reviewed by guests and how Airbnb wants them to review you.
And because I know you want to find about those guests who called Airbnb and wanted to close my account, this was way back in 2011. They were difficult guests. And I didn’t handle it very well. Today, I would handle it in a completely different manner. Their review still lives on and clearly, Airbnb didn’t close my account, and I survived. Survive, I did.
Sometimes, we actually learn more from our negative reviews. But I don’t want you to forget about your amazing reviews. Use them, maximize them, and make them part of your marketing strategy.
You work really hard to get those 5 stars, so let your guests’ language do the talking!