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How to respond to negative Airbnb reviews

  • Sep 14, 2018 | Jennifer Sokolowsky

frustrated woman

No matter how great a short-term rental host you are, you’ll probably receive a bad review from a guest at some point. When you’re working hard to keep your guests happy, this can be a real blow, especially if you feel the criticism is unwarranted.

But it’s important for you to keep the bigger picture in mind. You may not be able to change the review, but you can control how you respond to it. A negative review actually offers an opportunity for you to demonstrate how great a host you really are — if you respond in the right way. Here are some things to keep in mind when you have to respond to a bad review.

Work to prevent a bad review in the first place

While negative reviews sometimes come out of the blue, they often start with a problem guests brings to your attention during their stay. How you handle the problem can make the difference between one star and five.

That means you need to respond to problems promptly and proactively. Communication is key here. Listen carefully and understand exactly what the problem is, keeping your guests in the loop about what you’re doing to fix it.

A sincere apology and demonstrating that you’re doing everything you can to find a solution go a long way. Often, if you considerately and capably handle a problem, guests will be impressed enough to mention it in their review, turning a potential negative review into a positive one.

Don’t take it personally

It may be frustrating to receive a bad review, but try not to take it personally. There are many reasons someone may leave a bad review, but very rarely are they out to attack you. Remember, this is business.

However, if the review is personal, see what lessons you can learn from the critique about your interactions with guests. And if personal criticism is unjustified, recognize that and realize that the negativity is the guest’s problem, not yours.

Think before you react

If you get a bad review, take a little time to think about your response before you either approach the guest directly or write a review. If a bad review makes you emotional, wait until you can calm down to decide what your response strategy will be in order to get the most positive result.

If you suspect in advance that a guest may offer a bad review, keep in mind that reviews are not published for 14 days, or until both parties submit reviews of each other. While you won’t be able to see the guest review until it’s published, you can delay it by either not writing a review of the guest or waiting until the end of the 14-day window to submit your review of the guest.

This can be an advantage because reviews appear in order of the dates that guests stayed. This means that if you can delay a potentially negative review for a couple of weeks and get some positive reviews in the meantime, the negative review will be published farther down in the reviews, rather than right at the top where it will get the most notice.

Communicate directly with the guest

If you get a bad review, it’s a good idea to reach out to the guest directly to offer your apologies and see if there’s anything you can do to make things right. In some cases, the negative review could simply be the result of a misunderstanding. While you may not be able to resolve the situation or get a different review, you can at least say that you’ve tried in good faith.

Pick and choose which reviews to respond to

You can be judicious about which negative reviews you respond to — sometimes responding can only bring unwanted attention to the guest’s complaint. However, if the negative review mentions something that has been fixed or resolved, it’s usually best to respond so future guests can see that the complaint is no longer valid. Likewise, if the guest’s complaint involves something that was clearly communicated to the guest in advance, it’s a good idea to point this out.

Write a response with future guests in mind

Remember, a negative review on your listing is public to any potential guests who are looking. While your response is directed at the person who wrote the review, you should also write it with future potential guests in mind. With the right response, you can potentially undo a lot of the damage a negative review can cause.

Apologize

Whether you’re responding to a bad review directly with the guest or writing a written response, always offer a sincere apology, even if the guest is being unreasonable or the complaint is not your fault. You don’t have to agree with the guest’s assessment of the situation, but your job is to offer hospitality, and if guests aren’t happy, to apologize and do your best to make it up to them.

Stay professional

When writing a response to a bad review, keep it short, to the point, and professional. Avoid defensiveness or blaming — these will only make you look bad. You want to show future guests that you’re mature and objective, not someone who will lash out at them if there’s a problem. Stick to the facts of the situation and explain your side of the story in a neutral and clear way without personal attacks.

Let it go

When you’ve done everything you can do to deal with a negative review, let it go and move on. It’s not the end of the world. If you consistently make the effort to be a great short-term rental host, your negative reviews will be far outnumbered by glowing reviews. Potential guests will easily be able to tell if a negative review is a fluke that doesn’t represent the kind of experience they should expect with you.


Lodging tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Avalara Author
Jennifer Sokolowsky
Avalara Author Jennifer Sokolowsky
Jennifer Sokolowsky writes about tax, legal, and tech topics. She has an extensive international background in journalism and marketing, including work with The Seattle Times, The Prague Post, Avvo, and Marriott.

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