How to respond to a negative Airbnb review is critical for the long-term success of a host. Let’s see why:
I believe that negative reviews are mostly due to guest’s expectations not met. And Airbnb hosts can limit these negative reviews if they foresee issues, create indebtedness and adequately address issues when they arise.
Today, we will consider a real negative review, host ignorance, how to respond to guest reviews and how not to.
Let’s have a quick look at the ideal approach we did not follow…
Airbnb Guests can and will retaliate if you allow them. But if you expose them to the bad you remove their power.
Unfortunately, we assumed we were one step ahead of demanding guests. But, no. Guests continue in exceeding our worst experiences.
BTW: I have mentioned, numerous times, why Airbnb hosts should address all possible guest expectations;
- explain the negatives and the not so good, the bad.
- And I elaborated on conducting fool proof audits to identify and address (negative) issues guests may experience.
But we still got it wrong. Let me give you a South African example:
As you know, they blessed us with a useless government. (It’s no excuse for a negative review).
Unfortunately, we have come to accept their foolishness as part of everyday life. And as Airbnb hosts we accept the useless as the norm. The tale of the boiling frog is relevant.
Here in South Africa we are in the water on the hot plate, slowly being cooked by our acceptance of the mediocre.
We moan and complain but take the mess as part of daily life (the slow boil).
Unfortunately, for Airbnb hosts, our guests are not prepared in these slow boiler excuses. They still expect utopia while staying. And our slow boil excuses interfered with our vigilance to adjusted for their expectations.
And they retaliated.
The guest had an issue with the Wi-Fi. The quality was less than she expected.
And then the second domino fell; load shedding and it got worse, because level 6 kicked in.
The guest left a long 2 star review sharing her frustration. Here’s the load shedding part:
We know the Airbnb has no control over load shedding, but we felt frustrated that we were not informed about the possibility of such extensive load shedding before.
- Is it fair to give us a 2 star 🌟 review because of load shedding?
- Was she just an entitled and demanding millennial, dishing out her anger?
- Was the guest right or wrong?
We can ask these questions, but it’s disguised in judgement justifying our innocence.
It does not matter what the guest said and how she said it. Fair or not fair.
It is important for Airbnb management agencies to anticipate and deal with bad situations.
The guest in question made it clear from day one she needed an excellent internet connection.
In hindsight, the internet was okay (at 10 Mbps) but not ideal for her needs.
The internet strength was not consistent throughout the apartment.
The stage 4 to 6 load shedding made things a lot worse. By now, she lost it.
It never recovered and all the dominoes were flat – we had no credit left in the guest’s goodwill account.
Your business depends on long-term investments; you cannot let one critical review or one unhappy guest cloud your judgement.
You cannot blame the guest for her so-called demands. She may not have had any demands if the host managed her expectations correctly (Specified the Wi-Fi correctly). (More later on how to correct or prevent such critical reviews).
- A bad review, when seen as a learning tool, is an opportunity to become better.
- Many hosts justify by saying the guest is difficult; unfortunately blinded by the opportunity hidden in the negative review.
May we never become so arrogant to think we know who is wrong.
Negativel reviews are never nice. But when you are in it for the long term, you embrace them.
You may not prevent bad Airbnb reviews, but you can work to limit them. Airbnb hosts have no excuse. Try!
When hosts make a mistake (the first dimono) then pull out all the stops to limit further damage to your guest’s perception. Critical guests are now out to find more mistakes.
For example: If our rules (T&Cs) at Airbnb included, “this accommodation is subjected to loadshedding“, we would have removed the guest’s power to retaliate with a negative review. But we never foresaw this.
What we must do:
- Foresee problems and lower expectations. (We should have included the wifi speed and inconsistent wifi quality throughout the accommodation, on the Airbnb listing).
- We must increase the Wi-Fi speed and quality.
- We have now warned guests about load shedding as part of our Airbnb T&Cs.
- Hosts have a responsibility to jump into action when things go wrong. Unexpected High load shedding is such a problem. And hosts need to contact and apologise for the unfortunate problem. This buys goodwill. (Creating indebtedness is crucial)
- Hosts should always take responsibility for a negative review. If not, they the long term opportunity to smooth out the edges evaporates.
When you tell guests in no uncertain terms what awaits them, we meet their expectations.
- When guests get what they expect or better, you (the host) always win.
- When guests get less they give you negative reviews. (Yes. Even if they are unfair 😳).
The first objective is to remember who will read the response. Remember, the host review is public and the host response is public.
The first reaction would be to take revenge on the guest for leaving a negative Airbnb review. This is a sad mistake, made by many ill-informed Airbnb hosts.
Never ever bad-mouth, be sarcastic or vindictive in your response to a guest review.
Again, your response is an investment in the future. You respond to convince guests to stay here, in the face of the negative comments by the guest.
Remember; potential guests who read the negative Airbnb review will decide to stay here or move on based on the host response.
And never not respond. By not responding, you accepted the guilty verdict.
As part of the response to the guest review, the following was a draft concluding paragraph.
I am sorry we were not able to meet all your demands. We wish you well and hope your travels are better suited to your needs.
What are the mistakes the host makes in the paragraph above?
- It’s directed at the guest who wrote the review.
- It seems to contain judgement, anger and even sarcasm.
Let’s look at alternatives.
I have said that future guests will read the response. They will either sympathise with the guest or the host.
And they will decode the words used by both. (You’ll agree that the above response may turn them against the host).
Years ago I studied a copywriter, and he had a formula called, feel, felt, found.
Let’s use it to respond to the guest’s review:
I can understand how you feel, and other guests may have felt the same given your experience.
Looking at our previous 5 star guest reviews and Superhost status most of our guests found our services to be excellent.
You did not experience that. We apologise for the inconvenience during your stay and will strive to improve our services even more.
If a future guest reads the above it’s obvious that we acknowledge the issue the guest raised, we sympathise with the guest, then we turn the negative into a positive with the found part.
All of what we said is the truth. When guests read it they will see we answered the upset guests in a positive way, they may feel we took responsibility, and they should be encouraged by the proof we offered:
… consider all our many 5 star reviews and Superhost status..
Guests expect an idyllic experience. As hosts we should foresee risk and tell guests what to expect (lower the expectations). And never get complacent.
When you do it well you remove the power they have to retaliate when (fair or unfair) issues disrupt their stay.
Lastly, when you respond to a guest’s negative review, focus on future guests; focus your attention on getting more guests to stay. And not on your personal vendetta with the critical guests.
P.S. Capeholidays Airbnb Agency are Superhosts managing Cape Town holiday accommodation for owners who cannot do it themselves.
FAQ About How To Respond To A Negative Review On Airbnb
When can I review my Airbnb guest?
You can review your guest after the stay. Airbnb notify you and the guest 24 hours after the checkout time, as per your listing, and lasts for 14 days.
Do you have to review guests on Airbnb?
It’s the right thing to do. It’s a way to educate the guest; you reward great guests and you are critical of terrible guests. This will help other hosts to select guests better. And you benefit by knowing the type of guest wanting to stay with you. Airbnb does a great job with instant bookings and guests with poor review (plus other issues) cannot instant book. It’s very helpful to review all your guests. Airbnb notify them you reviewed them and they can use this opportunity to review you. The more great reviews you get, the more successful you become.
When Should You Not Review A Guest?
You should never NOT review a guest but their may be occasions when you have to delay the review until the last possible 30 minutes of the 14 days window. Why would you do that? You may have had a terrible guest. You had to be strict with them, org they were just difficult. These guests write critical or revengeful reviews just because they feel guilty. Or they write no review and hope you don’t write a review. When there is such a stalemate, wait till the end and write your review in the last minutes. This will give them limited or no time to counter your review.
We had a case where a guest smoked, removed the smoke alarm and burnt many things. He was adamant that it was not him. To keep this story short, I’ll not elaborate. We just knew he was the ideal guy to use the delayed review on.
Should you respond to Airbnb reviews?
You should respond to every guest review. Remember, your next guest reads your reviews. They not only do it to get a better idea of the accommodation they also learn more about the host.
How do you leave a public response to a review on Airbnb?
With dignity. Caring hosts say thankyou for every review. Terrible hosts go on a rampage, criticizing guests if they left a critical review. No. Ignorant hosts see no opportunity to market their place through responses and leave it blank.
How do I get rid of a bad Airbnb review as a guest?
Is There Any Benefit In A Negative Airbnb Review?
Yes. But let’s consider what a negative review is:
Guest reviews that are negative reflect their first-hand experiences with your Airbnb. There are good and bad negative reviews. From both we can learn a lot. But from constructive critisim you’ll learn the most. How and what you you learn from any negative review will depend on your willingness to accept critism. We have seen above how we can turn a negative into a positive so that future guests can read how we handle critique. In general, guests understand things can go wrong. What they don’t accept is when hosts get nasty in their response to negative guest reviews.