Reviews matter. Here's why:
Travelers look for them. The popularity of sites like Amazon.com, Angie's List, and Yelp.com demonstrates that customers appreciate and seek out reviews. And according to a 2006 study, 77% of online shoppers use reviews when making purchases decision (Jupiter Research). Reviews from past guests give travelers more confidence when booking your vacation rental.
Reviews foster trust and credibility. Choosing a vacation rental is a big purchase. Prospective renters want to read reviews of your home from past guests to reassure them that the home is truly as described. Build instant trust with potential renters by getting past guests to write reviews of their stay at your home.
Vacation rentals don't have across-the-board standards. Reviews are even more important for vacation rentals because the traveler isn't considering two or three brand name hotels; they're comparing vacation homes rented by individual owners. Unlike with hotels, vacation rentals have no across-the-board standards for quality and expectations.
How to Handle Negative Reviews
Most reviews are positive. The biggest fear that we hear from owners is about getting negative reviews. Most renters have a good experience and submit a positive review. According to a recent study on HomeAway.com, 93% of guest reviews are positive, meaning a rating of 4 or better. However, don't fret if you get a negative review. Travelers may be skeptical of a home that has all positive reviews raving about the property. If all of the reviews are positive, a traveler might suspect that the owner (or friends of the owner) wrote the reviews. A negative review thrown into the mix actually increases the credibility of all of your reviews.
Multiple positive reviews will offset a negative review. Don't let a negative review be your only review. If you do get a guest who has an unpleasant experience in your home, they may likely leave a review. However, one negative review won't scare potential renters away — unless it's the only one. The key is to offset a negative review before it occurs by building a strong database of positive reviews.
Respond to less-than-stellar reviews. Future renters will likely use the reviews of your home to help decide whether or not to inquire. Although you can't remove negative reviews from your listing (reviews will only be removed if they are fraudulent, and the reviewer can not prove that he/she was actually a guest of the property) you can use the Owner's Response feature to attach a reply, rebuttal, or comment to any review of your home. Remember: the audience for the Owner's Response is not the disgruntled guest, but the potential renters who are reading the reviews for insight.
Don't shoot yourself in the foot. We've had a few owners who got upset when they received a negative review and fired back with an emotional response. Use the Owner's Response as an opportunity to show your responsiveness and professionalism—not your temper. If you're upset by a negative review, consider waiting a day to post a response. Also, be sure to proofread your response for spelling and grammar before submitting it. Consider writing your response in a word processor and then cutting and pasting it into the response form.
How to Build Reviews for Your Property
How do you get past renters to leave reviews in your online guestbooks? Just ask. Most renters (especially those that enjoyed your home) are more than happy to leave a review. The key to getting your future renters to leave a review is repetition and persistence.
- Be sure to include your property URL on all correspondence to the renter.
- Include review instructions with your directions. This will condition your renters to be ready to leave a review after their stay.
- E-mail each renter immediately after they leave thanking them for their stay and inviting them to leave a review.With their deposit refund, include a note asking them to leave a review.
- Mail your guests a handwritten thank you note that includes a business card with your property URL.
The bottom line: Think of offering reviews from past guests as additional marketing for your home. Your future guests will have the information and the assurance they need to make a decision which should result in more inquiries.