Are Bad Reviews Always A Bad Thing?

It’s not easy knowing how to respond to a bad Airbnb guest review.

Many vacation home owners are horrified by bad guest reviews and the potential damage they can do.

Some negative reviews are warranted, such as a host not disclosing construction crews working during a visit, or leaving the home an uncleaned wreck when new guests arrive.

On the other hand, some bad guest reviews may seem unfair.

Sometimes you’ll host a particularly picky guest. And you may receive excessive complaining or negativity about things that we’re clearly described in the listing, or should have been well understood prior to booking.

But is a bad review always bad news?

It depends on how you deal with it.

If the negative review is somewhat genuine (and the guest is not completely fabricating issues at your home), then the key elements of a response to a negative review should include:

Vacation rental owners always invest something in their property. Whether that’s time, money, or both. And it might seem like a negative guest review can start to devalue those efforts.

Fortunately, if handled properly, you can turn these negative remarks into positive opportunities, and continue to protect your brand and bookings.

Here’s how to respond to a bad Airbnb guest review.

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Remain Calm & Collected

89% of people researching a business will read reviews.

It’s important to maintain a cool mindset when responding to negative guest reviews.

Oftentimes while reading these disparaging remarks, it’s tempting to become aggressive or angry in return. But the best mindset you can have to a negative review is to approach it with a positive mentality.

If you respond with anger, people will see this, and it’ll probably dissuade some hopeful guests from booking a stay. But if you respond with a helpful and accommodating response, you’ll likely be able to win the hearts and minds of readers and potential guests.

In other words, an angry mindset might help you get back at your previous guest. But a positive mindset will help you win over future guests.

With that in mind, you should approach each negative guest review not only as a chance to problem solve, but also as an opportunity to position and strengthen your brand.

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Acknowledge The Issue

Accountability is key.

Even if you think the guest is wrong, or not entirely truthful in their review, it’s still important to acknowledge the issue. Without acknowledgement, your previous guest (and future ones, too) might get the feeling that their feedback is falling on deaf ears.

Good news, though: providing acknowledgement is easy.

The easiest way to do this is to simply thank them for bringing the issue to your attention. A quick acknowledgement will inspire confidence among guests that their voices will be heard.

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Show Sympathy And Understanding

After acknowledging the issue, you can go the extra step by showing an amount of sympathy and understanding.

Sympathy and understanding is a form of signaling, showing both the previous guest and any future guests that you recognize the pain caused by these problems.

It shows that you’re not only acknowledging that there was an issue, but that this issue has made a material impact on their experience.

Sometimes, guests just want to be heard. This is a great way to show that you understand the issue, as well as the inconvenience it caused.

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Provide An Explanation

Now, it’s time for you to make your case.

Sometimes a negative review might only be due to a misunderstanding or a one-off circumstance. For example, if you’re having troubles with your cleaner, and the guest mentions the home was not clean on arrival, then it’s probably helpful to provide a little more color on the situation.

Here, you could mention that your usual cleaning crew has been overloaded with other requests, and that this is not a common occurrence.

Sure enough, if this is the first time the issue has been brought up — or if it only appears very sparingly — then potential guests can read through the lines. They’ll know this is not a common theme and likely trust your response.

However, if this issue keeps popping up, and your excuses keep continuing, then you’ll lose confidence.

That leads us into our next point.

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Offer A Resolution Moving Forward

Words are nice, but action is better.

To truly resolve a negative guest review, it’s important to actually provide a resolution. In other words, you should put into place a system that ensures this issue does not reoccur.

To fall back on our cleaning example, after providing an explanation for the issue, a professional response could indicate how policy has changed moving forward.

For instance, if a cleaning crew was unable to turnaround the home before your guests’ arrival, you could mention how in the future, you’ll now have a second cleaning crew ready to assist. Or how you have switched cleaning providers entirely.

Don’t just offer sweet nothings.

Instead, show concrete action you’ve taken to ensure these problems do not keep happening.

Examples Of How To Respond To A Bad Airbnb Guest Review

Now that we have a formula in place, let’s run through some examples to see it in action.

Here’s how to respond to a bad Airbnb guest review.

Negative Review #1: Critter Issues

The biggest letdown during this trip was the ant infestation on our second day there. Bugs are of course to be expected in the desert, but there was no ant spray as she had promised. Another huge issue here was the garbage – she provides no garbage bags, and after trying to take out a bag full of dead ants, we found the dumpster outside to be completely full and overflowing with garbage. 

Airbnb Guest

If a guest mentions an ant-infestation, this could probably be due to them leaving some food out overnight.

But instead of diving right into an accusatory stance, a better idea might be to instead address their concerns, and show how the experience will be different for the next guest.

Something like this:

Thank you for bringing this ant-issue to our attention. I can understand how critters in the home can cause discomfort and impact your stay. We provide a bottle of ant-spray at the home, but the last guests might have used it up, without us realizing. Moving forward, we’ll be sure to keep an extra one handy and regularly check on the fill levels. Glad everything else was enjoyable.

Airbnb Host

With the above, the host successfully acknowledges the issue and shows an understanding of the hassle it caused.

Next, management offers a quick explanation as to what went wrong, then shows how new protocol ensures this won’t happen again.

Let’s dive into another one.

Negative Review #2: Didn’t Read The Listing Rules

Host changed rules once we walked in the door. Horrible experience. Didn’t provide breakfast or serve coffee and we had to pay to use the pool and locked me out because door code stopped working at 10am, so don’t expect it to leave past checkout time and then come back in…”.

Airbnb Guest

Here, the guest failed to clearly read the listing description and rules at the rental.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s best to reiterate this, remain levelheaded, and remind potential guests of the rules at your home.

Thank you for your feedback and I’m sorry to hear about these troubles during your stay. I can see how different expectations can put a damper on an otherwise enjoyable trip. This review serves as a great reminder for folks to please thoroughly read our listing and rules prior to booking. We outline the pay-per-use of the pool in our listing, while also noting that the free coffee and breakfast are not available after 11:00 am (the guest slept in, so they missed it). Moving forward, we’ll try to make these items clearer, and will message a copy of these rules to each guest quickly after requesting to book our home.

Airbnb Host

Again, the host acknowledges the issue and the unfortunate situation it caused.

Then, they offered an explanation, while demonstrating that the rules were clearly displayed, and the blame is not squarely on them.

And even though they weren’t to blame, they still used this mishap to enforce new policy moving forward.

For the cherry on top, the host used this opportunity to remind potential guests to review listing rules in detail, hoping to prevent this situation in the future.

Well done.

How To Respond To An Overly Harsh Review

You should believe firmly in the power of user feedback.

Feedback is an important marketing resource for hosts who need to improve experiences and attract new bookings.

But now and then, this feedback can be slanderous, and a guest might try to ruin you in the reviews, or bash you for issues beyond your control.

In these situations, you have two options:

  1. No response.
  2. Go to war.

No Response vs Going To War

Sometimes the best response is no response at all.

If you have tons of glowing reviews, and a negative one sandwiched somewhere towards the end of your reviews, you might find it unnecessary to draw more attention to that review.

If that’s the case, it could be wise to simply not respond — especially if the review seems out of place or is long-lost behind a stream of positive reviews.

On the other hand, if a guest egregiously violated policy, then tries to turn you into the bad guy — a more heavy-handed approach could be worthwhile.

Unfair Review #1: Guest Had A Party

Pictures were misleading. Chickens in the back of the home , No service as soon as you get close to the home due to it’s location & did not feel secure in the location was not what I expected at all, did not even feel comfortable staying in this BNB. Found another BNB for a cheaper price that was much more appealing.

Airbnb Guest

If this review goes unchecked, folks may side with the guest.

In this case, it’s worth your time to add some more context and level the playing field.

This guest tried to throw a huge party beyond any safe or listed capacity. He did not respect the integrity of the home. Sadly sometimes, especially during summer, these attempts happen. Despite our numerous kind reminders, both on & offline, he did not read or follow instructions of Airbnb or listing tried to throw a party. We would have loved to have known in advance then we could have accommodated better. We do, as you can see have mostly amazing reviews for communication & guest satisfaction, but will continue to try to be even more helpful to our guests.

Airbnb Host

With this response, the host excellently combats the guest review.

First, they call attention to the unruliness of the visitor. They then emphasize steps taken to try to accommodate this guest.

And finally, they acknowledge that steps could have been taken to solve this mishap had the guest communicated properly, with a plan to be even more helpful to party-going guests moving forward.

Again, the key is to never insult the guest or respond with anger. Be calm, logical, and helpful with your responses.

Let’s review one more.

Unfair Review #2: Guest Checked Out Late

If a guest checks out late, then tries to turn the tables on you with an invasion of their privacy, it’s helpful to combat this.

This place is gorgeous. And despite it being a great place it’s not worth it for your security and privacy. The host’s husband showed up on check out day with no warning and expected to come in to drop items off at the house. We did not know him and did not know if he was telling the truth about being the owner. It was creepy, especially with the host telling us to make sure the door is always locked because people have been known to walk in. Additionally he told us they had been watching us via a home surveillance system. Watching a group of women for the weekend?! Creepy creepy. No thank you!

Airbnb Guest

Again, if this goes without response, potential bookers might side with the guest. Let’s see how the host responds.

This review is false and misleading on several points. We do not monitor the interior of our home and did not watch “a group of women for the weekend”. Secondly – I arrived at the house after check-out time. Therefore it is incorrect to state that there was “no warning” of my arrival. Thirdly, I did not “expect” to enter the house. Instead, I asked permission to enter (which was given). Finally, our home is completely secure. In addition to locks, we have surveillance of our house for safety of guests, ourselves, and our home. I strongly disagree with the suggestion that anything untoward happened. We take hosting seriously, as can be seen in all the positive previous reviews. I am disappointed about this review, and I assure that had you reached out to either of us at the time about your concerns, the matter could have been easily cleared up.

Airbnb Host

If a guest heavily violates policy, you’re the victim.

Don’t let yourself look like the bad guy.

In Summary: Invite Your Guests To Criticize

Don’t wait for disaster.

Invite your guests to leave feedback and act accordingly. That way, over time, you can fix any issues about your vacation rental, including those you’re aware of, as well as some issues you might not have noticed.

Leaving a guest book behind is a great way to do this.

A guest book is a journal left at a vacation rental (typically somewhere in a kitchen or living room), that allows visitors to record entries about their stay. Some folks will use these guest books to offer praise, others will leave helpful criticisms on how to improve the property.

You should act on this information and gradually upgrade your property to an almost perfect vacation rental.

With this strategy, you’ll be able to take some great feedback off-line, helping to potentially avoid any negative reviews on Airbnb before they happen.

When Feedback Is Ignored

Whether visiting the crystal clear waters of the Greek islands, or getting lost in the tropical sands of Mexico, one thing remains consistent — hosts love to leave a guest book.

On one of these trips, the home was devastatingly hot.

The AC wouldn’t turn on and ceiling fans were not enough to provide comfort. At the end of the trip, we figured it would be worthwhile to leave a note in the guest book.

To our surprise, multiple notes about this same issue were brought up. AC issues seemed to be the common theme of this guest book.

The oldest comment was dated to 16 months ago.

Not a major failure, but a failure that will keep me from ever returning or recommending this place to friends.

If you want feedback, be sure to respond to it.

Wrapping It All Up

How to respond to a bad Airbnb guest review depends on a few things.

You should first diagnose whether or not the review is warranted. If the feedback is genuine, then you should respond calmly. Just acknowledge the issue, show some sympathy, provide an explanation, and offer a resolution moving forward.

On the other side of the coin, if a negative review is completely fabricated, then how to respond to a bad Airbnb guest review is a bit different.

Airbnb won’t take any steps to remove that review. You should actively seek to combat that review in your comments.

As we mentioned earlier, if you’re actually the victim from a bad guest, then don’t let yourself look like the bad guy.

Airbnb only removes a review contingent on these terms:

  1. Guest reviews should not violate Airbnb’s content policy.
  2. All reviews should be unbiased.
  3. Reviews should be relevant.

But if you feel a review is untrue, you’re out of luck — Airbnb does not mediate disputes concerning truth or fairness.

If they’re actually the bad guy, let that be known.

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