Do’s and Dont’s of Responding to Vacation Rental Reviews - Cottage blogger

Do’s and Dont’s of Responding to Vacation Rental Reviews

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FlipKey  The use of live reviews is a controversial topic and this guest post from Dan Weisman at Flipkey is timely since a recent article on the Forbes blog highlighted the drawbacks of review systems on some of the major vacation rental by owner sites. 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Responding to Reviews

Everyone appreciates a good review, but what to do about those comments that are less than positive? At FlipKey, while 86% of reviews get 4- and 5-stars, we sometimes have to advise owners and managers on how to “handle” a negative review. When in doubt, it’s best not to respond to reviews. For those times when you do want to make your case, here are some helpful hints…

Do…

  • Encourage more reviews. The best thing you can do to counter a sub-par review is always to encourage more guests to leave reviews. You’ll bump the negative review down the list and provide more content for travelers to read, which could increase your property’s ranking.
  • Respond when you are at fault. Did you forget to arrange an airport pickup? Was the heater broken during a January rental? If you made a mistake, admit it, apologize, and offer an incentive to come back: “You’ll not only mend the fence with that particular customer, but you’ll get the added benefit of allowing future customers to see how you address situations and how confident you are in your product (1).”
  • Correct misstated facts. It is completely appropriate to respond to a guest who has confused the facts. If an angry guest reports that he had to walk two miles to the subway when in fact he just missed the stop that’s right outside your front door, then you can respond by pointing out the location of the nearest stop. You might also remind guests that you are happy to give advice and answer questions during their stay.
  • Keep it positive. Be friendly and courteous when you respond to reviews. Thank the guest for raising their concerns, and let them know that you’re working to make them happy. If they remember you as good-natured and accommodating, then they will be more likely to book your property again. Our senior owner services specialist, Vanessa, adds, “Make a good impression in your response and the original reviewer may remember to refer your property to a friend!”
  • Keep it simple. If you do choose to respond to a review, keep it simple. Say “thank you,” present your case, and leave it at that. Travelers have already read the property description that you wrote – they are reading reviews to hear what others have to say.

Don’t…

  • Panic. One or two disappointing reviews will not spoil your reputation. In fact, Yelp.com has shown that on average, a listing with a 4-star rating receives three times more traffic than a similar listing with the same number of reviews and a 5-star rating. Travelers are savvy, and they will know a good rental when they see one.
  • Respond when you’re angry. Smallbiztrends.com advises business owners not to respond “while your hands are still shaking” because potential travelers will see that the negative review struck a nerve . Yelp.com points out, “If you’re upset, you might write something that will reflect poorly on your business (4).” Wait until you’re calm enough to respond reasonably (or choose not to respond at all).
  • Respond to a guest who isn’t upset with you. If a guest leaves a 3-star review because it rained the entire week they were on vacation, then you don’t have to respond. Smart travelers know that you don’t control the weather. Just keep some board games in the house to keep guests happy when it rains!
  • Respond to positive reviews. The guest review space is meant to show real guest reviews. Responding to positive reviews can come off as overbearing. Thank your guests privately and let good reviews speak for themselves.

At the end of the day, travelers will choose a rental based on their own personal needs – not the needs of a stranger on the Internet. Guest reviews simply provide travelers with an unbiased second opinion.

When you look at your reviews, take your guests thoughts as advice for making improvements. Give people a great rental experience, and they’ll tell the whole world about it.

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  • This is a good article, but I’m not sure I agree with point 4 on the don’t. Yes, you don’t want to sound like you are tooting your own horn, but having some presence in the review process, good and bad, is helpful. I don’t think it should be overdone, but commenting on a positive review gives an owner an opportunity to “share the glory” and not sound defensive. For example, if someone said the rental staff at my condo complex on Sanibel Island were helpful and I had not made comments in awhile, I might say “I agree with you and do believe having an onsite rental office is beneficial in many ways”. Staff likes to be acknowledged and it gives me another (subtle) chance to underline my value proposition.

  • CottageGuru

    Hi Sylvia – Yes I agree with you on this one. We have 22 5* reviews for Osprey Cottage and I like to respond occasionally to offer a connection with guests and thank them for taking the time to offer feedback. Sometimes its to give feedback to guests and thank them for leaving the place in such a lovely condition or as some do, leaving a gift for us.

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  • I agree with both of you that it’s nice to see an owner respond to positive reviews *occasionally* (especially when most of the reviews are positive). The point I was getting at more is that it’s important not to respond to every review and dominate the review space.

  • We had some guests recently demanding a discount or they would post bad reviews of our company on tripadvisor, and get all their friends to do the same, saying they would “destroy our business”. We held our ground, as they were clearly blackmailing us (we do respond to genuine complaints). It seems there are people doing this more frequently after speaking to other people in the industry, consumers know companies are worried about their online reputation, and certain unscrupulous individuals are leveraging this to get refunds. I personally don´t believe one or two bad reviews make the blindest bit of difference, trip advisor readers are not idiots and know you cannot please all the people all the time. As long as the majority of customers are happy, you will be fine. I do think it is important to stand firm against these sort of people, companies are not doing themselves any favours by giving refunds at the slightest hint of a negative review on tripadvisor.

  • CottageGuru

    Thank for your input. I believe that a posting by people who have never stayed at your property can be removed but I am sure Dan can comment on this too. I’m in full agreement that most consumers are pretty savvy about reviews and can read between the lines of very negative ones, particularly when there are many other positive reviews.

  • A business owner admitting he/she is at fault shows that the owner knows how to take responsibility. So I usually, I respect owners who admit that it was their fault. Great tips.

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