If you list short-term rental properties on Airbnb, you know how critical good reviews are to your success. Not only do guests consistently rate reviews as a make-or-break factor in their booking decision, but Airbnb also weighs reviews heavily when bestowing their “Holy Grail”—Airbnb Superhost status.
The goal is actually two-fold, here: getting more positive reviews and handling negative reviews.
Negative reviews happen, regardless of the industry you’re in. When it comes to Airbnb and other vacation rentals, though, a negative review can be a particularly significant hit to your reputation. It’s one thing for a customer to take a gamble on a restaurant with a negative review or two. But Airbnb stays are more expensive than dinner, usually last for multiple days/nights, and involve intimate activities like sleeping and showering, which require a pretty intense level of trust.
So good reviews matter for Airbnb. A lot. Plus, SuperHosts are required to maintain a minimum overall rating of 4.8 stars. With these benchmarks, even a 4-star rating can result in the need for damage control.
The good news? Setting a nearly perfect standard isn’t impossible, and guests are known to be forgiving if you nail the elements we discuss below. With a little know-how, creativity, and solid communication with your Airbnb guests, you’ll have more stars on your profile than a clear night sky.
Honesty Really Is The Best Policy
Before you even know your potential guest’s name, you’re under their microscope. Honesty is absolutely essential at this stage, as guests make their split-second decision about whether your Airbnb is right for them. If you misrepresent your location or features, or fail to mention any potential drawbacks, you’re in for disappointed guests—and this is how many negative reviews are born.
If you’re new to Airbnb, enlist friends or family to stay for a night or two at your rental first. Not only can they then furnish you with your first positive reviews, they can also be brutally honest about your drawbacks so you can either remedy them (if applicable) or address them in your property description.
Your accurate presentation of the property helps to ensure that the guests who do book will be 5-star-level satisfied. Plus, you can buffer your drawbacks by explaining their flip side. Maybe you’re farther from Main Street than other Airbnbs. Rather than fudging distances, instead focus on how your location means more quiet and better views. Many guests will happily trade one feature for another, especially if the price is right.
Speaking of pricing – never “sneak attack” a guest with surprise fees. If you have pool heating fees, cleaning fees, etc., Airbnb makes it easy to communicate these charges. Do it! Most Airbnb guests know to anticipate some additional costs over the base nightly rate, but you have to be very clear and honest about your specific fees right from the start.
Mastering The Art Of Guest Communication
Next comes your shot to “wow” your guests with great communication. The key components to successful communication? Proactivity and accessibility. Be proactive in contacting your guests at multiple points in the process, and be readily accessible when your guests need you.
This powerful combo not only displays a sincerity in your service, it also helps you to get in front of potential issues. Plus, establishing a rapport affords you an opportunity to gently encourage guests to leave an Airbnb review, if you choose; many will need a little nudge (more on that in a minute).
You can achieve proactive + accessible communication in three simple steps:
Even though Airbnb confirms every booking automatically, you should always follow-up with your own personal confirmation, too. You can easily set up a plug-and-play template to make this initial communication hassle-free and ensure they get a prompt response from you.
If you do use a template, we recommend adding a quick line tailored to your guest. At minimum, their Airbnb profile or booking communication should let you know where they’re coming from and who is in their travel party. Maybe they’re from your favorite travel destination, or in the same part of the country where you grew up. If a family with children has booked your home, a simple line advising them of a nearby attraction that the “kids will just love” will go a long way.
Building a friendly rapport from first-contact will make common mishaps during their stay—like spotty WiFi connectivity or a burned out lightbulb—more easily forgiven (and less likely to result in a bad review).
Be sure to reach out again just before their stay to touch on important points like the home’s location, check-in procedures and access info and house rules. This communication can also be templated!
Your Touch Stay Guest Welcome Book makes it easy to be an informative Airbnb host. With your digital guide, guests will have easy access to your welcome message and arrival instructions. You can even include photographs of your driveway or front door, which is great if you have a tricky setup. After all, when guests are road-weary or jet-lagged and looking forward to dropping their bags, the last thing they want is to spend 10 minutes trying to find their way in!
Encourage your guests to peruse the digital welcome book before arrival, and use it to acclimate to the home and community. But don’t use it as an excuse to disappear (remember the “accessible” part)! Make sure that guests know they can reach out at any point of their stay with questions or concerns. Private feedback during a guest’s stay allows you the chance to salvage a potentially public disaster.
⭐ Pro tip: instead of simply reminding them about your welcome book, give them a direct link to something inside the book. This has the effect of helping them AND showcasing how useful the book will be! Here’s an example of what you could write:
“You mentioned that you’ll be arriving at 11pm. No doubt you’ll be tired and exhausted so I definitely recommend checking the section on how to operate the keypad on the front door. Here’s a link to that section.”
When you express a genuine desire to provide a guest experience worthy of a 5-star rating, your guests will absolutely be more inclined to acknowledge that.
Your guests had other options when they chose to book your Airbnb rental, but they chose yours. That is worth sincere acknowledgement. Which brings us to the “thank you” stage of the Airbnb booking journey.
First, let the guest know that if they had any issues during their stay, you genuinely want to know about them for the sake of future guests. This gives them a venting opportunity before they write their review—and truthfully, sometimes a venting opportunity is all a dissatisfied guest really wants. It just happens that often the review box is, unfortunately, their first chance to do so. So get it front of it!
Now for this contested topic: should you outright ask your guests for a 5-star review?
Well, yes and no. Yes, you can quickly mention Airbnb’s review system in your “thank you” email. As we mentioned above, sometimes guests just plain forget to review once they’re back in the “real world.” So a little nudge is fine. But no, don’t ask them for a 5-star rating outright. You don’t want guests to feel like you’re encouraging them to lie!
Airbnb will also send automatic review reminders, and their review system requires that both guests and hosts rate each other before the reviews are shared. This adds some incentive for curious guests who want to see how they stacked up.
But if you feel inclined to say something (say, if you’re new to Airbnb and really need those reviews), a simple line is all you need. Something like: “We’d love to get your honest feedback, and good reviews help us a lot. Thanks!”
From Essentials To “Exceptionals”
Now we’ll go back to basics for a minute.
Your space should present itself as a clean , functional, welcoming environment from the moment your guests arrive. If ever there was a “golden rule” for vacation rentals, this is it!
But you’re looking to grab that brass ring, aren’t you? So let’s discuss “wow factor”—the “above and beyond” stuff that really makes a difference between a fine stay and an unforgettable one. Here are a few quick tips to step up your game:
Amenities You Should Have
- WiFi (this goes without saying, really—necessary these days!)
- Netflix of other subscription streaming services
- Modern televisions with USB connections
- Small appliances: coffee maker, water purifier/cooler, toaster, blender
- Washer/dryer in unit
- Mobile device chargers
- Computer or other digital devices with your digital welcome book
- Board games, books
- Extra linens and towels
- Basic needs like alarm clocks, hair dryers
- Local tips and recommendations in your digital welcome book
Extras You Should Consider
- Welcome baskets with fruits, water, teas, local treats
- Coupons or gift certificates for local meals or experiences
- Special treats for children or pets (if your property accommodates)
When All Else Fails
Your Airbnb reviews are really all about the future guests. So when the worst happens and you get a negative review, don’t think about the past guests, but the future ones who will see how you handle this difficult scenario in your review response.
Here’s a great article on how to respond to negative reviews.
Don’t lash out at the past guests in your review response in order to “prove” something. It’s safe to say that most potential guests know that some reviews are not honest or fair. Sometimes it’s even obvious from the tone of the review that the guest is just outrageously picky. Plus, things happen; things go wrong. Reasonable people understand this.
Though, of course, sometimes guests call out flaws that really should be remedied or addressed. Use the review response to outline how you’ve fixed the problem, if applicable.
Potential guests are analyzing the words and their tone. Nail it. You’d be surprised how quickly people will overlook the flaw if the remedy is swift and effective.