How to Orchestrate Excellent Short-Term Rental Reviews

Few aspects of short-term rental (STR) hosting cause more stress than the quest for great reviews. Many hosts find the review systems on platforms like Airbnb and VRBO unfair and less-than-intelligent, while others refuse to succumb to the tyranny of reviews. For those hosts who care deeply about good reviews, this article offers tips on orchestrating them. Some hosts will say I go to far to please guests and pursue positive reviews, but these techniques have kept me a SuperHost on Airbnb for 16 quarters and earned me Premium Partner status on VRBO.

  1. Provide superlative hosting and value your guests. This suggestion goes without saying, but you can’t expect excellent reviews if you are not offering top-notch customer service and your short-term rental property is sub-par.
  2. Manage expectations. Give your guests a heads-up if you know everything is not 100 percent the way you’d like it to be for the guest’s arrival. For example, I used to have a toilet that was difficult to flush on the first flush of the stay (but was fine after that), so I told my guests about it. Tell them about weather conditions or other local issues that might affect their stay. Most importantly, be sure they know about any amenity limitations. These are, of course, apparent in your listing(s), but we all know guests don’t always thoroughly read listings. Last summer I had a guest who, on arrival, was frantic to figure out how to turn on the air-conditioning. Alas, I have no air conditioning. After that, I made sure to go beyond the listing and communicate my amenity limitations (I also have no dishwasher) in my house rules and in the pre-visit messages I send about a week before each stay.
  3. If a guest raises a small issue during the stay, consider offering a token refund. My policy is to offer $25 when a guest raises a minor issue. Examples: Water was not hot enough on first night. Wifi outage occurred for half a day. Bug spray was not provided at a time of year when bees and wasps were abundant, and guest got stung. Consider doing so even if it’s not your fault, something you have no control over, or a complaint you find petty. If there’s any chance of inconvenience for the guest, consider a small refund.
  4. Create a strategic checkout message. I deploy these 4 strategies in mine:
  • a. Thank the guest warmly for the stay.
  • b. Hint that you want to give them a good review. Since I send this message before I’ve seen how they’ve left the place, my wording is: “I look forward to giving you a great review.” The “looking forward” phrase is my “out” in the event I’m not able to give them a good review. I was looking forward to it, but I couldn’t do it.
  • c. Ask for feedback and suggestions for improvement. This is HUGE. When guests have the opportunity to vent about deficiencies (perceived or real) in their stay BEFORE the review, they are often satisfied and have no further need to complain in their review.
  • d. Ask for a 5-star review. Many hosts find this approach tacky, but it just plain works. Ask and ye shall receive. If their stay has been satisfactory, and you ask nicely, guests have little reason not to meet this request.

5. When the worst happens, simply ask the guest not to leave a review. No matter how wonderful a host is, he or she is bound to have the occasional unhappy guest. It’s probably not the host’s fault, and it’s often in the realm of fiction on the guest’s part, but the fact is, the guest is unsatisfied. While I’ve had only a small handful of this kind of guest, I’ve found the technique of asking for no review has worked 100 percent of the time. I did have one guest who whined that it was “unfair” for me to ask her not to review, but after I pointed out that I had offered to re-clean the parts of the house she claimed were dirty, given a generous refund, and noted that I had 121 5-star reviews and no cleanliness complaints, she ultimately did not leave a review.

Again, these techniques aren’t every host’s cup of tea. But if good reviews are high on your priority list, you will likely find they work.

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