Managing Guest Reviews: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Reading reviews before buying something is becoming second nature in the modern world. We want to know if someone else has had a good or bad experience with a product or service  before we take the plunge. It’s no different when guests are deciding whether to book your vacation rental or another. Managing guest reviews to protect your business reputation and solidify guest loyalty is vital to the success of your investment...and it’s a full-time job. 

Good reviews are marketing at its best, showing you provide a 5-star experience that cultivates new and repeat guests. Bad reviews are quite the opposite, tarnishing your reputation and turning away potential reservations. Ultimately, good or bad feedback is a gift. You get to learn what works well and what needs improvement to push your property forward!

While receiving raving reviews can light up your day, handling criticism can be super tough. It’s important to be proactive and know how to attract consistent 5-star reviews as well as deal with poor reviews constructively. That’s why Cabins for YOU — a vacation rental management company with 20+ years of experience — has crafted a simple step-by-step guide to help YOU manage guest reviews effectively. 

Are Guest Reviews Really That Important?
Reviews are often a deciding factor when it comes to booking a vacation rental. Guests want to know if your property can deliver the 5-star experience they’re looking for in a vacation. If your property falls under 4 stars, it’s likely they will move on to a similar property with stellar reviews. 

People tend to trust what other people say, so it’s vital to be aware of what guests are saying about your property online. Reviews are an opportunity to build trust, so guests feel comfortable doing business with you. Fostering positive reviews can place your property in high demand, which means increased bookings and repeat stays that can skyrocket your revenue. 

On the flip side, responding appropriately to negative reviews and addressing issues promptly is equally important. Seeing your thoughtful and sincere responses addressing a subpar experience shows potential guests you really care and can also inspire confidence to book. Ultimately, reviews have a direct impact on revenue and need to be managed properly.

5 Steps to Score Great Reviews!
Encouraging 5-star reviews is simpler than you think. At the end of the day, it’s the guest experience that makes or breaks reviews. Nail down a solid 5-star experience from browsing and booking to arrival and departure, and you can expect great reviews! 

You can start reeling in positive vacation rental reviews by following 5 basic steps. When you have no reviews or if negative reviews start piling up, potential bookers will pass you by in a heartbeat, so it’s important to act now.

  1. Keep your property sparkling clean. 

It’s no surprise that cleanliness comes top of our to-do list to make your guest experience top-notch. Arriving to a clean and welcoming environment is a great way to start a vacation, and your guests will notice and appreciate it. 

Vacation rentals should be cleaned between each stay and deep cleaned seasonally. To make cleaning easier, use minimal decor and keep surfaces clear. Nice furnishings can also go a long way to impress guests and exceed expectations.

  1. Offer MORE to your guests.

You don’t have to think too far outside the box to provide a unique experience your guests will remember...and rave about in their 5-star review! Simply offer more. Think about what would make their vacation easier, more relaxing, and fun.

Need a few ideas?

  • Supply a vacation kit with basic toiletries and supplies.
  • Fully equip the kitchen so guests can pack light.
  • Provide a coupon booklet for local activities.
  • Upgrade appliances and expected amenities.
  • Add extras, like a hot tub, a game table, or a firepit.

  1. Provide all the info needed to enjoy your property. 

Whether it’s a home binder, an app, or an online guest information book, giving your guests direct access to everything they need to know about your property is a game changer. It’s a convenient way to inform guests about all the ins and outs of your property. 

Plus, providing a resource of information about your property helps answer guest questions that may come up during their stay, like how to turn up the hot tub or switch to streaming on the TV. In turn, it also helps keep calls down. 

  1. Be available 24/7.

When a potential guest has a question before booking or issues arise at your property during a stay, quick and easy communication is key to providing a 5-star experience. People are often busy and trying to make the most of their time, so if you can respond quickly, clearly, and with a helpful attitude, then you’re on the right track.

It’s equally important to be mindful of cleaning and maintenance requests that may occur during a stay. Having a plan, a team, and contacts in place to handle any surprises will work in your favor. If you can resolve issues swiftly and efficiently, it can be the turning point from 4 to 5 stars. 

  1. Ask for honest feedback.

Never ask for a 5-star review.Your confidence to ask for honest feedback lies in your hard work to provide 5-star experiences. Guests appreciate that you want to know and share the truth about your property, that it’s an inviting, relaxing, and fun place to stay. 

When asking for feedback, make it personal with a phone call or email directly to the guest. Be sure to reach out 1-2 days after their stay when their experience is still fresh in their mind. Check in and thank them for staying at your vacation home. And remember to send a review link!

Asking guests to share their experience with others is vital to keep reviews fresh, especially on Google. Positive reviews from 2 weeks ago are certainly more reliable and trustworthy than ones from 2 years or even 2 months ago.

Drive 5-Star Reviews with Cabins for YOU
Generating great vacation rental reviews may sound simple but involves plenty of tiring and time-consuming work.  Partnering with Cabins for YOU gets the results you crave without lifting a finger. We scored 1,250+ positive reviews in the midst of a pandemic!

  • You’ll have a full-service cleaning team, maintenance crews, and trustworthy vendors to keep your property at peak performance (step 1). 
  • We supply extras, including a starter kit with toiletries, coffee bits, and coupons for partner attractions (step 2). 
  • Your guests will have access to property info, activity suggestions, and more through the Happy Stays app (step 3). 
  • Our call center, Guest Relations department, and emergency response team help guests 24/7 (step 4). 
  • AND we follow up after each stay to ensure your guests are happy with their experience and encourage honest feedback to boost your vacation rental reviews (step 5). 

If you need help providing 5-star experiences for every guest and cultivating positive reviews for your properties, fill out an inquiry today. Our Director of Business Development and Owner Relations team will act as your personal vacation rental advisors.

How to Rebound from Bad Reviews
Despite your best efforts, you can’t avoid negative, 1-3-star reviews. Knowing what to do when you get a bad review is key to overcoming it. If you learn how to react and respond appropriately to poor guest reviews, the consequences can be reversed. Addressing a bad review can be accomplished with 3 simple, yet powerful, steps. 

  1. Take a Step Back

First, don’t take a poor guest experience too personally. Sometimes, these things just happen, and beating yourself up or defending unnecessarily to the detriment of your vacation rental business won’t help. Yes, handling criticism can be tough, but you can handle it! 

Above all, don’t reply in the heat of the moment. Take a step back and breathe. You — and your vacation rental — will get through this. Remain objective, drop defense mode, and do your best to understand where your property or guest experience may fall short so you can work to prevent future mishaps. 

Remember feedback is essential to improving your guest experience, so take each bad review in stride. This is not the end of your vacation rental business, just an opportunity to learn, grow, and improve with 5-star reviews on the horizon.

  1. Form a Thoughtful Response

A guest has taken time to reach out and let you know where you can improve. It’s only fair that you take time to understand and respond thoughtfully. While you want to respond quickly (best within an hour), don’t rush your response. It needs to be genuine and helpful to the dissatisfied party while also keeping in mind public readers (aka potential future guests). 

What makes a good response for a bad review? First, let them know they have been heard. Second, thank them for their honest feedback. Third, apologize and explain how you will make things right and/or prevent the issues for future guests. Above all, stay committed to hospitality.

With a heartfelt response, there’s always hope. Sometimes, guests will even give your property another chance and amend their review to reflect a new level of satisfaction. We’ve even seen bad reviews turn into 5-star reviews! 

Negative VS Abusive Reviews
Before responding, it’s important to understand the difference between a negative and an abusive review. Negative reviews may contain upset and anger but generally list items you can tackle to prevent this poor experience from repeating. Abusive reviews tend to be vague, filled with profanities, and often don’t make much sense…

When an abusive review pops up, follow up privately and let them know you are more than happy to listen to any specific concerns regarding their experience at your vacation rental. If they respond calmly and appropriately, proceed from there. If their response is less than civil, it’s okay to stop communicating. 

  1. Keep Your Eyes on the Horizon

Now that you’ve cleared your mind and responded appropriately, it’s time to look ahead. Don’t wallow in the negative — keep your eyes on the horizon. Focus your energy on addressing and preventing any issues presented by your guests. 

Be sure to implement the 5 steps to score positive reviews as well! With a negative rating hovering over your property, you’ll need more positive feedback to encourage new reservations. 

If there are no immediate bookings, you may need to drop your rates for a bit so you can get heads in beds and prove your property is 5-star material. This can pull in positive reviews faster, which means you can list at your preferred price sooner than you think.

Negative Review Management with Cabins for YOU 
Pass off the nitty gritty work of managing reviews to Cabins for YOU. While we are dedicated to providing 5-star experiences for guests at every property, inevitably, negative reviews still wiggle their way through and need to be dealt with properly. 

We’re in a competitive market and take guest feedback very seriously around here. Our trained professionals act fast with a cool head and know how to write appropriate and sincere responses. All departments work together to address any and all issues presented to ensure future guests have a better experience. And Marketing has the insight and tools needed to optimize rates and maximize profits, no matter your review status.

At Cabins for YOU, we stay on top of every little detail — including managing reviews across Google, Yelp, Facebook, the Better Business Bureau, Airbnb, VRBO, and our own website — so you can relax and know that your property and guests are being well looked after. If you want to streamline your vacation rental business and knock the guesswork out of guest review management, we’re here to help! 

Speak with our Director of Business Development at 1.865.505.0210 or submit an online inquiry today for a free consultation — no upfront fees, no long-term commitments!