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How to Respond to a Negative Guest Review

Updated: Jan 20, 2023

Airbnb Hosts are under constant pressure to create memorable experiences for their guests. But every once in awhile, we will all receive a negative guest review whether we were right or wrong.

Full Disclosure

Early on as an Airbnb host, I learned to be more descriptive in my listing and photos. For example, the house that I reside in, is located about 30 feet away from one of my Airbnb cabins. I explained that distance within my description, but guests usually don't read the full description. So one of my first guests - although they rated my Airbnb highly - was disappointed that they did not realize how close the two homes were until they got there. So I added a photo that showed exactly how close the two homes are, and have never had it mentioned since. Be clear in your listing and photos, and don't try to hide flaws, imperfections, or other obvious distractions to a normal guest experience. Full disclosure ensures that your guest's experience will be much greater in the long run.

Sleep on it

A negative review will stir immediate anxiety for a host. Your first reaction may be defensive and harsh. Go ahead and write down that response, but don't send it. Then sleep on it. There are two sides to every story/review, but Is there some truth to the review? For example, I had a guest arrive at 4 AM, which had been arranged in advance with my approval. I told her I would leave on all the outside lights - both on their rental cabin and on my driveway so they could find it in the dark. In her review, she gave me a 4 out of 5 because my driveway lights kept her awake on their first night. Well, that first night consisted of about 3 hours of darkness, so at first I was mad that she took off a point for this. But after "sleeping on it" I realized that she was likely a light sleeper, had been driving for 12 hours to get there, and had no way to turn off my driveway lights or communicate the issue with me assuming I was asleep. So in my response, I apologized for not realizing the driveway lights shined on the rental cabin and thanked her for bringing this to my attention for future guests.

Look for Common Themes

Evaluate the message. Is this a familiar issue or one you have been considering changing or upgrading? For example, are you getting frequent complaints about the condition of the sheets or towels, or that the couch is worn? It might be time to make replacements or repairs to items that are mentioned more than once. My general rule of thumb is that each guest should feel as though no one has stayed before them. If a washcloth or towel has even a hint of a stain, I donate it to the local animal shelter. When a pan shows wear, I either donate it or toss it and replace with a new one. Maintenance items get handled immediately. I never wait and "hope" my guest doesn't notice. They notice.

Example Verbiage for Responding to a Negative Review

  1. My apologies that your stay was not satisfactory. We do strive to provide our guests with a wonderful stay, and we ask that guests communicate their needs to us so that we can resolve them promptly. Our listing clearly indicates our (indicate issue such as onsite cameras, distance to another cabin, etc), and we've found that (our guests appreciate the added security, or that our guests are aware of this in advance).

  2. Our house rules clearly state the number of guests for both child and adult that we can accommodate.

  3. We have an open line of communication with our guests and we hope that our guests will ask questions to ensure our property is a good fit for them.

  4. Our property is located in (selling point), we have (xyz selling point) and are happy to prove (another selling point).

  5. We noticed you enjoyed the kitchen, and found all the dishes necessary to provide a nice meal, and that you found the (xyz) yard to be sufficient size for entertaining.

Always End with a Gracious Note

Always give the impression that you graciously acknowledge their experience. A final word to responding to the negative review should be positive and not accusatory, such as "We are proud to offer our beautiful property to future guests, and hope that you will give us a second chance." Countered by truthfully selling your rebuttal as an ad for your next guest. Remember, future guests are reading your responses!

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