Responding to guest reviews
Holidaymakers want to see reviews from previous guests, but they also want to see how you respond to feedback. In fact, the way you respond can be more important than the review itself. A study of Holiday Lettings adverts conducted in 2012 showed that whatever their rating, advertisers that responded to their review got on average of 12 per cent more enquiries than those that didn’t.
It’s a good idea to respond to all guest feedback, whatever it may be. It’ll not only be well received by that guest, but also provide an impression to future guests reading your reviews – they’ll see you’re a communicative and proactive holiday home owner.
Tips for responding to reviews:
Respond as soon as you can but make sure you have considered your response before submitting it. Your response will appear just below the review on your advert page so potential guests can read it. We recommend writing your response in a word document first so you can easily edit it and check for spelling and grammar.
Once you've written your response, sleep on it and look at it again with a fresh pair or eyes in the morning; you'll probably find that you end up changing it again for the better.
Ask a friend or family member to read it. They might spot something you've missed and offer an alternative perspective.
Try not to say too much: just thank the guest for their feedback and suggestions, apologise if necessary and address the main points. Try to keep your response to a few paragraphs and keep it shorter than the review itself if possible. Holidaymakers have told us that when a response is too long, they might only scan it or not read it all.
Try not to take it personally, it's a business you're running after all. If you do get a review that you consider to be unfair, remember that you have the opportunity to respond - just be clear and honest without being defensive. You can email your guest personally if you feel the need but the way you respond will be scrutinised by any future holidaymakers when they're making their decision.
Reviews - not something to worry about
Despite what some people think, around 88 per cent of reviews posted online are positive. In fact, the average rating for TripAdvisor reviews is a 'good' four out of five. On Holiday Lettings, 95 per cent of reviews are rated as 'good' or 'excellent'. Even so, receiving a low-scoring review may come as a surprise, but it need not be anything to worry about.
Everybody is different
Everyone has different expectations and needs, so what may be good value to one person might not be to someone else. Similarly, scoring is subjective so don’t worry if you aren’t getting five out of five in every review. Whatever people write, the handling of a review can be more important than the review itself. If you respond well and show that you care about the comments and needs of your guests it may make someone more likely to book with you.
Will one low-scoring review put people off?
Quite simply, no. If the majority of your reviews are positive, people will see through one critical review. Adverts with just one review - whatever the score - receive a 40 per cent increase in enquiries. This is probably because potential guests feel more comfortable enquiring about a home when they can see that someone else has stayed there. It may also be because guests are reassured that if a problem were to arise during their stay, you are quick to act and resolve any problems.
Reviews are subjective
The vast majority of people use common sense when viewing adverts and know not to take all reviews on face value. What’s more, an advert with only glowing comments might arouse suspicion, while having a mix of reviews will build authenticity. The odd spelling mistake by the guest here and there and the slight niggle about the local fish and chip shop helps to solidify their authenticity.
"I've received a positive review. Should I respond?"
Yes. It will illustrate that you're grateful, polite and have a good rapport with those that come to stay. You might want to say something like "We're looking forward to seeing you again next year" to encourage a repeat booking. Here's an example of a review and an effective response.
"We just wanted to say thank you for a great holiday at Rose cottage. You'd thought of everything right down to the travel games for the kids in the welcome pack. Everywhere was so clean and the outdoor shower was great for cleaning up after a day at the beach! Just a shame we had more rainy days than sunny ones but we will definitely be back bring better weather next time! We're recommending it to our friends too."
"Thank you for leaving such lovely comments. It was a shame about the few rainy days that you had so I hope you put those games to good use! We're glad that you enjoyed your holiday and will look forward to seeing you again".
✔ The responder shows they are polite in thanking the reviewer for their comments from the outset
✔ They've addressed the issue of the weather and turned it into a positive by highlighting that they have board games at the home for rainy days
✔ They have reinforced that the guest had a great time despite the weather and welcomed them back to encourage a repeat booking
"I'm very upset by the review I've received. How should I respond?"
Take a deep breath and remember that it's natural to feel upset by negative comments, especially when you have tried your best. Allow that guest to have their opinion even if you don't agree with it and then start thinking about how you will address the comments in your response. You may have already smoothed things over with the guest in question but the response will show your future guests how you dealt with the situation. For example:
"We were so disappointed staying at this apartment and were glad to get back home. The microwave was broken when we got there so we couldn't use it which was really inconvenient. When we arrived it was so windy and cold so we couldn't go to the beach and loads of places were closed. The theme park was shut and so was the zoo. They said the local cafe serves great English breakfast but even though the service was good we weren’t impressed by the food. We couldn't find many places to eat out so ended up cooking at the apartment most nights. Everyone was so bored there was nothing to do at all. It says on the advert that the pool would be heated but it wasn't so we couldn't use that either. All in all, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone."
"Thank you for your comments. We're so sorry that you didn't enjoy your holiday. We do say in the advert that the pool is heated but only from May to September and your stay was in early October; this may have accounted for the less than favourable weather you had too! We do offer great deals when travelling out of season but we warn our guests that some local attractions may be closed. There are many beautiful walks nearby and local restaurants that are still open. Unfortunately, we were unaware that the microwave was not working so we thank you for pointing this out to us and apologise for any inconvenience it may have caused you. We have now replaced it with a new one."
✔ The advertiser has thanked the reviewer for their comments and the response is concise
✔ They've addressed the main issues regarding the broken microwave and the fact that the guests chose to stay out of season
✔ They are managing the expectations of future guests who may choose to book out of season and have said they will replace the microwave
✔ The guest complaint has been acknowledged and an apology given where necessary
Whatever the feedback, review responses are an incredibly valuable sales tool. By receiving feedback from guests you can better understand what people want and then act to enhance the service you offer. You can also show future guests that you're adaptable and willing to take guest comments seriously.
Please visit our FAQs page if you have any further questions about guest reviews, watch our 'How to' video guide or contact us if you would like specific advice before responding.
Author: Kate, customer communications executive
Date: March 2012