Many vacation rental owners live in dread of bad reviews and the damage they might do. But are they always bad news? That depends on how you deal with them.
I’m not the only independent vacation rental owner who hates the idea of bad reviews of their property. Independent owners always invest something of themselves in their properties. Fortunately, I’ve had very few and they were easily remedied. But I was intrigued to see an item on Skift entitled ‘The Science and Art of Online Reviews’.
This thought-provoking piece was written by Camilla Vasquez, described as a ‘discourse analyst and sociolinguist’ at the University of South Florida. It’s worth reading for the 6 things she emphasizes about online reviews. There are things we can all learn from here. Each is a useful point, but one in particular grabbed my attention.
An opportunity to reinforce your brand
It was this: ‘The best management responses to negative reviews come from companies that view them not as merely solving a problem but view the written management response as a way to reinforce the brand.’
Regular readers of my blog may remember that I’ve touched on this vital subject before as I’m a great believer in the power of user reviews. They are a prime marketing resource for independents like ourselves who need to use everything in the arsenal to secure bookings.
What Camilla is saying is that here is an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. If you handle it in the right way. Even a bad case scenario where it might cost you to put things right.
Invite criticism from your guests
Don’t wait for disaster. Invite criticism from your guests and act upon it. That way, over time, you can fix the little things that may niggle and gradually improve your property to become the near-perfect vacation rental.
You won’t need to follow up every suggestion of course. Some readers may also remember Australian blogger and vacation rental property owner Rex Brown who gave this sensible advice: ‘Each must be a business decision, a hardnosed trade-off between cost and whether you think it will help bring your guests back.’
By employing this positive attitude to guest feedback, Rex has brought his properties up to an enviable standard. ‘I still sometimes ask guests personally if there was anything they have missed,’ he says. ‘These days, they usually just say – “No, you seem to have thought of everything. You have amazing attention to detail”.’
When feedback is ignored
I stayed briefly in one modest little cottage in a superb location on a small village green with semi-wild ponies grazing outside the window. But we arrived in cold wet weather and the property had not been warmed up. By the time it did warm up several hours later, we had overlooked any charm it may have had.
Interestingly, the two comments I landed upon in that property’s guest book made reference to the same thing and both suggested that the owner switch on the heating in advance. Worse, these comments were dated 12 months previously.
Not a massive failing, but one which would deter me from ever returning or recommending the place to friends.
Use software tools to make more of good reviews
Good reviews are, of course, gold dust, though not as rare as you might expect. When you get them, make the most of them. Recognizing their value, some SaaS (software as a service) providers have developed features to help owners capitalize on reviews. These powerful tools can follow up your guests automatically, collecting comments and reviews for your approval before they are posted on your website.
Look out for the more sophisticated services which can supply ‘feature rich’ responses from your guests. These can be used to help you market your property even more effectively.
In the meantime, good luck with those reviews.