23 Replies Latest reply: Oct 25, 2018 12:56 PM by hmmmm RSS

    Please help me with response to bad review ...

    abm3240 Contributor

      I've read many times that it is not the bad review that is most important but rather the way that you respond to it.  Please help me respond to this one.  Things that might be helpful for context ...

      1. The pool is cleaned once a week, every Monday.  Guests checked in on Saturday.  Even our welcome letter gives cleaning schedule.  However, we had our pool people come out every day while they were there just to try to make them happy. 

      2.  The surface is scheduled to be refinished in November.  We just purchased the house and due to light staining want to refinish it.  It has to be drained so did not want to interfere with anyones stay and needed to block off a full week.  Staining is also addressed in welcome letter so that people are aware that we are refinishing. 

      3.  The filter had just been cleaned two weeks prior.  After this guest, we did decide to replace entire filter unit.  We just purchased the home Aug 30th.

      4.  Grass was cut.  It was cut the Friday before she checked in.  They stayed Sat-Thurs.  We do not own the lot beside of us which is vacant and I can only assume is what she is talking about. 

      Aghhhh ... she was horrible. Complained constantly. 


      "When we first arrived the house seemed to be fine nothing over the top but nice. We chose this home for its location and the fact that it had a pool for the kids to swim in since we went during red tide season. Had we been informed that the pool was not clean, we would have stayed somewhere else. The pool had not been cleaned prior to our arrival it had debris all in the bottom of it and on top. Adding also to the dirty look of the pool was the fact that it apparently needs to be refinished as we were later informed. The pool filter system was not working properly. When it was turned on you could see it blowing gunk back into the pool. The owners were already aware of this problem but failed to inform us. Regarding the debris in the pool, the owners told us the pool man would come on Monday to take care of the debris and that it was just like that because we checked in on Saturday before he was scheduled to come. Also informed us that the pool man told them it would be be okay for the kids to swim in the gunk in the pool. I refuse to let my grandchildren swim in somebody else's filth! This entire problem was already known by the owners before we ever rented the place! I found that piece of the pool completely needed to be redone including replacement of the filter system which was antiquated! I ask the owners for a reimbursement of $300 as I felt that was fair for this pool situation. They refused. They sent us a $100 gift card from Amazon and gave us a $200 credit on our next stay there. I do not believe this was a fair settlement and I am not happy! These are deceitful dishonest people! The house and the pool should have been in pristine condition when we arrived! And also, the grass should have been cut! It was a foot high and no one came to cut it while we were there the entire week! We're only able to take a vacation about once every 10 years so I would especially like to thank the owners for all the trouble of packing up the kids and driving several miles every day so they could swim! Not to mention the added expense of parking, gas and all the trouble of hauling all that mess down to the beach everyday!!"

        • Re: Please help me with response to bad review ...
          hill5185 CommunityAmbassador

          There are volumes posted on the community relating to this topic. The search feature is very useful. HomeAway also creates content and honestly I've heard direct from John Kim's mouth (CEO) how negative reviews benefit a properties credibility. Still, I'm challenged to find one owner who wants to raise their hand and ask for a negative review.


          This article is insightful : Why a Bad Review Could Be Good for You


          Remember if/when you respond keep emotion and personality out of the content. Take the higher ground and address future guests. It's ok to bullet point the post stay review comments and how you improved and corrected the faults. Travelers will respect transparency. As the saying goes @#$% happens, but it's how one cleans it up that counts.


          Sounds like you have a plan in action - be sure to update your listings with pictures of you clean sparkling pool and manicured lawn and also mention in your listing description the updates and investment.


          Good Luck !

          • Re: Please help me with response to bad review ...
            floridarob Active Contributor

            You say she complained constantly, so I can assume she was in constant contact with you about these issues while she was there. You say that the pool maintenance people were there every day while she was there.


            I have one main question: Where are the pictures?


            If the pool was not satisfactory, did she take any photos to document this for you? Same with the lawn?


            Did your pool maintenance people take any photos to document the condition of the pool? If they were there every day in this special circumstance, why not?


            It is 2018. Almost every single adult is walking around with a high tech camera in their pocket that connects to the internet and the cellular phone system. There is no excuse for not photographically documenting problems or their resolution. You should have been requesting photos from both the guest and your pool people, and perhaps landscaper as well. Don't ever assume anyone is telling you the whole truth (particularly in Florida).


            There are no such things as weekends in the vacation rental business, particularly when a guest is only staying for 5 nights. The weekend may be the only chance they get to use the pool, so the maintenance people showing up on Monday isn't a great response.


            That fact that you will be refinishing the pool is not relevant to your current guests. They only know, will experience, and care, what condition your pool is in now. Letting guests know it is not up to snuff and that you are 'getting to it' is not a reasonable approach. Unless guests are aware of this issue at time of booking you are (in a way) being dishonest with them.


            PS. You need roughly three weeks of uninterrupted time in the winter to do a pool resurface. One week is not enough time when one allows for delays and the minimum 10 days of after treatment that a newly resurfaced pool requires (and without the pool heat on). You need to budget more time for this project without guests in the house or you will have more problems on your hands.

              • Re: Please help me with response to bad review ...
                abm3240 Contributor

                Hi Rob,


                Thanks for the feedback.  I am hoping someone can help me draft a polite and helpful response.


                She checked in on Saturday and sent me a text Sunday evening.  Throughout the week she sent several other texts and we had one phone call.  She sent two photos, one of mulch/debris in pool, and the other of the light staining on the steps (which we are aware of already).  She sent no photos of the lawn, nor did she mention it (until the review).


                The pool people did not take photos but did communicate with us daily.  She is correct, there was a problem with the filter and we did have the pool company replace the filter.


                Our typical renter is Saturday through Saturday, and Monday is just the day that our pool company services our area.  We could ask to switch days but I am not sure that would make a difference. 


                We have one week blocked off for the pool maintenance and then myself and my family will be there the following week (so two weeks with no renters).  We do not have a heater.



              • Re: Please help me with response to bad review ...
                floridarob Active Contributor



                So you really have to decide something: Are her complaints legitimate? And is it just frustrating to be on the receiving end of them? How would you have felt and reacted if the positions had been reversed?


                I have at times completely agreed with a complaint, because I felt it was legitimate. Here's an example:


                "Dear Guest name;

                Thank you for your comments, and of course thank you for staying with us. I regret the things that you experienced. The truth is that every once in a while, even the finest of organizations will not be on their game and things will go wrong. Unfortunately you did not catch us at our best and for that I want to extend my sincerest apologies to you. Here are the steps we have taken to eliminate the issues you experienced:

                1) We have tortured and then fired the property manager. A new one is in place this week.

                2) We have engaged a new pool service company.  The mess you found was completely unacceptable and not up to our standards, and we have since hired a new service that is in keeping with the high standards we have for our guests' experience.

                3) We have let loose a pride of lions in the tall grass you saw, erected a fence around it, and placed the landscaper inside, instructing him to "Deal with it". The grass now looks immaculate.


                I hope that you will give us another chance to demonstrate exactly what we want to provide all of our guests with every week of the year, and look forward to a return visit.  We do hope that enjoyed the gift of XXXX as an expression of our regret for what you experienced and will use the credit of $Y we have provided to allow you to enjoy our property under better circumstances.





                Obviously I am having a bit of fun with this, but you really have to decide what stance you want to take. What is YOUR opinion on what the guest wrote? Take your own perspective out of the situation. Are her complaints legitimate?  Not to be mean, but frankly based on what you have written, it sounds like they may be.


                Yes, the guest may have complained a lot, but sometimes that happens when there is legitimately a lot to complain about. It is a common experience in the VR business that if you let the guest down in one way, they start looking for other reasons to be disappointed. That is just the nature of the business, and people in general.


                So now you have to decide how you want to respond. Is the guest fair in their comments? If so, then you need to do some serious kissing up. If not, then you have a reasonable right to explain why, but keep this in mind: Will you likely win the hearts and minds of other potential guests reading the review and your response to it? That is the ultimate question. I have taken guests to task over unfair comments and received praise for it (and even defense) in other reviews.


                At other times, like I suggested above, the guest simply didn't catch us (or our sub-trades/staff) at our best, and had a legitimate right to be disappointed. In those cases I was emphatically agreeing with the guest, and doing what I needed to do to make it up to them. Otherwise, I would only look like an uncaring, bad owner, even if I'm not, by trying to defend the situation. It was far better to agree that what the guest experienced was not up to my high standards than it was to argue with them.


                I know it is late now to suggest this, but in those situations, I was hitting the problem head on with the guest, long before their stay finished, so they thought I was a caring, demanding hero with high standards intent on making sure they had the best vacation possible, even if we weren't 100% on our game. I take it as my responsibility to deal with the bad issues BEFORE the guest leaves a review, and the 'fight' gets out in public.


                I regard myself as being in the hospitality business, first and foremost, so if a guest has a problem, (even if I don't think its legitimate) I try to always respond with a massively over-kill response to fix the problem, even if I have to spend some money to do it. Guests will often leave glowing reviews after experience a problem that gets handled in a far-above reasonable manner.


                A very important question to ask "While we are on the phone together, is there anything else, besides (the pool) that is of concern to you? Even any small items?"  This can go a very long way to heading off surprises in post-stay reviews.

                  • Re: Please help me with response to bad review ...
                    calicalling Active Contributor



                    I really like the tone of  the first part of your message. Its hard to respond to a negative review when the concerns are actually valid.... But you manage to strike a tone that is conciliatory but not groveling.  The satirical humor is probably a little over the top for me, but my guests are from CA where you can't joke about torture or having lions perform any kind of work without compensation. ;-)


                    The fridge in one of my units up and died without warning this weekend. Guests still have access to 1 full fridge, but it has been a hassle for them and an inconvenience. We are located 4 hours from the nearest city that stocks appliances. Nearest repair guy is 1 hour away and doesn't work weekends.  Since we have built-in fridges (subzero type) getting a quick replacement isn't easy, regardless of location. So I'm scrambling a replacement but can't have it installed til Wednesday, the day the guests leave. I'm going to file your 'mea culpa' response for use in cases like this fridge debacle and others that will (inevitably) happen.

                    • Re: Please help me with response to bad review ...
                      abm3240 Contributor

                      Okay, here is what I am thinking of saying.  Constructive feedback welcome!


                      Thank you for your feedback.  As I mentioned in our previous communication, we regret that you were disappointed in your experience at our property.  Unfortunately, we did experience some issues with the pool filter during your stay and I want to extend my apologies again.  Since the pool filter unit had to be ordered and could not be replaced until the last day of your stay, we had the pool service come out each day during your stay to ensure cleanliness. 


                      We have taken steps we have taken to eliminate the issues you experienced by replacing the pool filter unit.  In addition, we located a small leak which contributed to water level concerns.  We have scheduled for the pool to be drained, the leak repaired, and the entire pool to be resurfaced.


                      I am also sorry to hear that you had concerns about the lawn. Had we known this during your stay, we would have been happy to have our service address any issues.  We have our lawn maintained weekly.  Since I was not aware of this concern until now, I can only assume you are referencing the vacant lot beside our property.  We have contacted the owner and requested they have the lot maintained and have even offered to have it serviced with our yard at our cost.  We are hoping for a response from them soon.  


                      Our goal is to always strive for a 5-star review from EVERY guest.  I sincerely regret that your experience fell short of that but hope that you will give us a chance to try again in the future. 

                        • Re: Please help me with response to bad review ...
                          sage Senior Contributor
                          I am also sorry to hear that you had concerns about the lawn. Had we known this during your stay, we would have been happy to have our service address any issues . . . Since I was not aware of this concern until now, . . .


                          This suggests, at least slightly, that the guests are somewhat at fault for failing to notify you during their stay of the issue. Ultimately it is up to each owner to have their property in top condition at all times during a guest's stay with no action nor notice from the guest. There can be unforeseeable issues, such as the failed refrigerator sonenalpmammoth mentions, that the guest needs to report for the owner to be aware, but you would have been aware of the unkempt adjacent vacant lot. Is that something that would be an issue for many guests or only the pickiest and most unreasonable? Without more information I could not say, but since this guest raised the issue it would behoove you to figure out a way to mitigate this blight. Perhaps that means that you erect a fence to block the view, or plant shrubbery along the property line to isolate the vacant lot and eventually block the view, or perhaps that means getting permission from the owner of that lot for you to take responsibility for periodic mowing.


                          If you did not realize it before, now you know that you may have guests who are picky and unreasonable. Even those guests need to be kept satisfied.


                          Based on the text of the review I understand the guest asked for a refund of $300, and while you declined to do that you did give them $100 in the form of an Amazon gift card plus a credit of $200 on a future stay. So from your side you will be out $300, but the form of compensation is not what the guest asked. I do recognize that some of your loss would be deferred until their next stay. Keeping guests happy is my number one priority. I would not quibble over the method/form of compensating a guest for inconvenience. As an aside, you say of this guest "she was horrible. Complained constantly." Why would you have wanted this guest to return to take advantage of the credit on a future stay?

                          I am a believer in avoiding responses to specific issues as anything said will almost inevitably come across as defensive if not hostile. Assuming that this is a 1 or 2 star review, I think floridarob is striking the right tone with one slight addition:

                          • Thank you for your comments, and of course thank you for staying with us. I regret the things that you experienced. The truth is that every once in a while, even the finest of organizations will not be on their game and things will go wrong. Unfortunately you did not catch us at our best and for that I want to extend my sincerest apologies to you. I promise we will do all we can to meet your expectations on your next stay.


                          Welcome to the fun and exciting world of vacation rental operation, the effortless, risk-free way to vast wealth.

                          • Re: Please help me with response to bad review ...
                            scowol Active Contributor

                            If helpful, here's a draft to consider that is a bit more condensed. Also, keep in mind that your review is for all other guests--not the guest who stayed.   So one of the biggest "errors" to make is to not make future guests the reader of your response.  Writing a response as though it is directly to the guest suggests that you were not (or are not) in direct contact with them privately.  Case in point, guests don't write reviews written to the owner--they are written for other travelers.  So try to do so similarly as your goal is to attract future guests--not the guest who wrote the bad review.

                            We strive to provide the best accommodations and amenities for our guests, and we fell short when this guest arrived the house.  Upon hearing of our guest's concerns, we immediately dispatched our professional pool service provider who cleaned the pool, as well as provided ongoing maintenance during the guest's stay.  To address this for the enjoyment of our future guests, we have replaced the pool filter unit, and repaired a leak that was resulting in a lower than optimum water level.  We have also scheduled for the pool to be drained, the leak repaired, and the entire pool to be resurfaced by (XX/XX/20XX date).  While we do not own the adjacent property with the lawn, we have contacted the owner and requested they have the yard better maintained, including to have it serviced by our gardener at our expense. 

                            Oh, as a consideration, you may want to have your pool cleaned twice-weekly.  I don't know your marketplace, but pool chemistry (PH, etc.) and cleanliness is very difficult to maintain with it being cleaned only once per week (4 times a month).  In my marketplace, it's sunny year round, yet no reputable pool cleaner will take on a pool cleaning job only once per week because it's simply cannot be properly maintained.  Also, for the reasons you mentioned, it's a never-win situation every time you have a guest check in when the last time the pool was cleaned was 6 days beforehand.  Guests expect a crystal clean pool on check-in.  It's just comes with being in the hospitality business and having a pool as an amenity.  You just can't change that expectation.  So you might anticipate this as a future issue when you have the same timeframes.

                            • Re: Please help me with response to bad review ...
                              ohst8er Premier Contributor

                              abm3240,  Writing a review is hard when your emotions are involved.  I always try to remember to write my responses with the FUTURE guest in mind.  If you have things to discuss with this guest, discuss them in an email, but for your responses, your ultimate GOAL is for your future guests to understand, issue acknowledged, here's what we did to correct it for YOU. 


                              A future guest cares way LESS about what the issue was, and way MORE what you did to resolve it. 

                          • Re: Please help me with response to bad review ...
                            susaninrehoboth Premier Contributor

                            In our county, lawn 12" or higher is considered a health hazard. Constable is contacted and sends a letter to lot owner that lawn must be cut on regular schedule. If not, county has mowing done and charges $250 for what lawn maintenance companies charge $50. If you pay to have your neighbor's lawn cut, you are rewarding bad behavior.

                            • Re: Please help me with response to bad review ...
                              georgygirl1955 Senior Contributor

                              scowol gave you a great response. Nice job scowol

                              Use it....if it is true and you are taking all those steps.

                              In the future the pool Must be cleaned the day of arrival right before they come, and again a midweek.

                              Once on a Monday is not enough.

                              In this case you did let down the guests so the review was accurate...people can not swim in a pool with a faulty filter...it is unsafe.

                              I agree with the guest that what you offered was insufficient for the pool situation.

                              Take this as a lesson and improve what you own and how you go forward.

                                • Re: Please help me with response to bad review ...
                                  abm3240 Contributor

                                  Thanks for the response but it seems you are assuming that the information in the review was true.  When the guest sent me a photo, there was some mulch in the bottom of the pool. Our professional pool maintenance team assured myself, as well as the guest, that the chemical balance was fine and cleaned the mulch. 

                                    • Re: Please help me with response to bad review ...
                                      scowol Active Contributor

                                      The extremely FRUSTRATING aspect of having a swimming pool is that most travelers who rent out your home don't own a pool themselves.  Consequently, they fail to understand that it's a large, open body of water that is subject to foreign debris (grass clippings, leaves, dirt, sand, etc.)  landing in the pool within just a hour of being cleaned.   Worse, those items sink to the bottom.  The plaster and clear water creates a magnifying effect on items at the bottom.  As a pool owner, I see 5 sunken leaves at the bottom. To a guest checking in, those 5 sunken leaves is an overblown crisis. THE POOL IS FILTHY!!!   So you need to recognize that that "mulch" is perceived by the guest as "dirty."  You simply cannot change that perception--ever.


                                      As I see it, georgygirl1955 is just calling out what guests are going to expect.  Trust me, in my 10 years of owning a pool and renting it out, you simply cannot change this expectation of distorted perception. In my marketplace, I read the bad reviews of my competitors.  The majority of the bad reviews are for a "dirty" pool. I sympathize and cringe for those owners because I know they have their pool cleaned regularly. But a simple breeze blows in leaves and gives the very false impression to a guest checking in that the pool is "filthy" and hasn't been cleaned in weeks.  So my advise is to, minimally, have someone skim the pool on the day of check-in.  Pay a neighbor kid to grab your skimmer net and skim then pool and scoop up leaves.  Otherwise, you will be at constant risk of a guest thinking incorrectly that your pool was "dirty" and getting a slew of bad reviews.  A second "dirty pool" review for you can spell catastrophe because it will be a trend you can't recover from.

                                  • Re: Please help me with response to bad review ...
                                    hmmmm Senior Contributor

                                    You have gotten some great advice for your response.


                                    Shall I assume or did I miss that you are not near the home?


                                    That can be an issue.

                                    I would add, that before anyone arrives, if the cleaners and pool cleaners have not been there for a couple of days, you might want to have someone do a last minute check....meaning several hours before any quest arrives to assure that all is in order for their arrival.


                                    I do that myself, but live nearby.

                                    It will save any of these issue from happening.  The QC person....could then call the pool maintenance and ask them to come back out to clean up.
                                    Or they would catch any potential problems before the vacationer arrive.

                                    I think if a vacationer finds one thing wrong, they go on the hunt for more things wrong.

                                    • Re: Please help me with response to bad review ...
                                      dinamight Contributor

                                      The last thing I would do is write to these guests in the hope that they come back! I would refuse to let them rent from me again.


                                      I think they are just making up a bunch of stuff because they're mad they didn't manage to con you out of $300.


                                      Of course, none of this should go into your review response, the suggested answer is excellent.