If you’re not already responding to the majority of your Airbnb guest reviews, you have a reading prerequisite before continuing with this article.
Not only do most Airbnb hosts not respond to guest reviews, but most don’t even know it’s an option.
That’s until they receive a negative review. They freak out and call Airbnb.
“The guest is lying! I must defend myself! I want to respond to this nonsense! How can I do that?”
I see it all the time. The non-optimized Airbnb host responds to the negative review at length, oftentimes is accusatory, and doesn’t address the complaint head-on.
What’s worse is that added attention is brought to the negative review because it’s the only one with a response. Don’t you think an FPG (future potential guest) will notice this difference and give more attention as a result?
Unknowingly the Airbnb host has forced their FPGs to pay more attention to their only negative review.
Here’s what that looks like from one silly Airbnb host (*pointing at self*).
That’s right. It’s me in the situation above: discovering that I can respond to reviews. How ugly!
To be clear, that’s what NOT to do.
But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Why not address the root of the problem? Mismanaged expectations are the cause of negative reviews.
Mismanaged expectations are the cause of all negative reviews on Airbnb. Click To Tweet
Improve your hosting and never get a negative review. At least not a public one (private negative feedback is great!) Basically, this is the subject of my entire website, but…
- Do you have an optimized messaging strategy?
- Are you increasing guest satisfaction with a digital guidebook?
- Are you providing all the right (plus more) amenities?
- Have you hired the best possible cleaning team?
The above is covered in my Elevate Host product plus more like pricing management.
You should be responding to roughly two of every three reviews.
If you don’t know how to respond to a positive Airbnb review (there is a right and strategic way) then I recommend you read my article that addresses this strategy.
Recommended Blog Post: Why You Should Respond To Airbnb Guest Reviews + How
Eventually, you will get a negative review. Just as there is an optimal way to respond to a positive review, there is also an optimal way to respond to a negative review.
Do: Remove The Fluff
A general rule for all review responses is to be brief. This is a general rule for everything from the text in your listing to the length of messages you send to your guest.
The response should be no longer than your average response.
Do you see all the yuck in that response? Marlene was great, she was communicative, she was respectful, she was pleasant. Yuck! It can easily be communicated in two lines.
Not to mention the response can be improved upon. While the host doesn’t have control over a nearby shop, they do have control over strategies in dealing with the issue.
Maybe it was a hot day and the guest left the window open to cool the place down? Here’s the response: I purchased two fans so future guests no longer need to sleep with the windows open!
Don’t: Respond Publicly To Private Feedback
NEVER respond publicly to private feedback.
Be sure it’s actually a negative review. I’ve seen hosts respond to positively worded reviews as if the review was negative. What happened is the host got a less than 5-star review or private negative feedback and responded to the review this way when the FPG would not have been able to tell. Remember, an FPG can only see the text of a particular review, not the number of stars given or any private feedback.
Do: Address Issues Head-On
Whenever possible, address issues head-on. How was it resolved?
Smells bad? Extra cleaning added? Candles? New A/C? Bad pipes?
Dirty? Updated cleaning procedures? New cleaning team?
Missing amenities? Did you purchase them?
Slow wifi? See below..
The below response is from the Airbnb I’m staying at currently in Rio de Janeiro. Aside from being the worst ever Airbnb I’ve stayed at, the hosting strategies could use some improvement, too. You see how the guest has pointed out some pretty specific issues: wifi, street noise, privacy, shower. The host responded factually, I suppose, but no issues were resolved. I can tell you that although the windows may be soundproof, it’s as if there is not even a wall between you and the street noise. Additionally, the host ignored the only fixable issue: shower temperature.
Don’t: Be Accusatory
We’re all humans. When we’re attacked, we feel an urge to attack. Resist this urge. The customer is always right. Respond briefly, neutrally, and professionally. It’s never the guests’ fault. Add in statistics if possible. For example, if it’s a cleaning comment, point to your 4.9 cleaning rating over 100 reservations.
Do: Ignore Negative Feedback
When the review contains both negative and positive feedback, sometimes you can completely ignore the negative feedback in your response. If the negative feedback is inconsequential or insignificant, ignore it. If the negative feedback is very specific, ignore it. For example, if the guest said that it wasn’t a good fit for them.
If both negative and positive feedback is provided, the guest will almost always start with the positives. In this case, if the negative feedback is something that you have no control over, ignore it.
Additionally, sometimes the negative feedback is ‘below the fold’ or the FPG has to click ‘Read more’ to even see the negative feedback. Following the strategy, you can usually ignore it and respond to the positive.
Don’t: Respond At Length
As always, be as brief as possible for everything you do on Airbnb. Length of messages to the guest, amount of text in Airbnb listing, number of photos, responses to reviews. All should be snappy, catchy, and thorough.
The next response is good, just too long. Shortening it will have a greater impact on FPGs.
Do: Respond To The Text, Not The Number Of Stars
There are times when the review sounds positive, but the guest gave you less than 5-stars. In these cases, you respond to the review as if it was a 5-star review because the FPG cannot see the number of stars given, only the text.
Sometimes, the guest could have made an error. Take the following example where the guest gave a rating of 5-stars in all categories plus positively worded text review and without any private feedback but gave a 3-star rating overall. This warrants a call to Airbnb customer service to find out if they can inquire with the guest or remove the review.
Examples Of Good Responses To Negative Airbnb Guest Reviews
Game: How Would You Respond?
You have leveled up! You have the knowledge, the strategy, and the execution to win! Let’s test those skills. I’ll give you a negative review that was not responded to and you’re going to come up with a good response. In the comments tell me how you would respond before you continue reading! Then, I will tell you how I would respond in the particular situation.
We’ll start with an easy one. This negative is directly addressable:
Here’s how I would respond: “agreed, 90-degree weather is so uncommon here, it was really hot! I purchased a fan for the room :D”
Good job! Questions number two:
Ok. Here we have the positive/negative text in the same review and it’s started off positive. However, the negatives are addressable and easily fixable. Additionally, the negatives make up the majrotity of the review and they’re issues that FPGs would want to be addressed.
Here’s how I would respond: “Glad your overall stay was positive! The hot tub is fixed and I turned on notifications for Airbnb to be more timely with responses 🙂 Please come back again!”
Final question number three for all the marbles:
Wow! Talk about a lot of feedback. This is a rare case of a positive/negative review where the guests start off negatively. What do we have here:
- Sketchy neighborhood
- No A/C, only one fan
- No screens on windows
- Street noise
- Difficult street parking
- Lots of kithen amenities
- Nice back patio
Here’s how I would respond: “Thanks for detailed feedback! I’ve addressed what I can: added extra fan and window screens. Sadly, street noise and difficult parking is synonymous with NYC 🙁 While the neighborhood is not upper-class, it is safe: zero safety incidents in 3 years of hosting!”
Swallow your pride. The things that separate the good from the great hosts are these fringe situations. When things are going well, most everyone is a good host. But what do you do in the 5% of the time when you have some adversity that needs addressing?
Often times a negative review can be predicted. In other words, the guest will let you know if they’re unhappy. How do you handle the guest complaint?
The Airbnb I’m in now is terrible, both the space and how the host is addressing (or ignoring) the issues are horrendous. I’m sure the host thinks I’m a terrible guest, too. The host should swallow her pride in favor of a 5-star review. What I mean by this is the guest is always right. I’ll talk more about this on my checkout video.
As a Superhost (and business owner), I’ve done it numerous times.