Turning Negative Reviews into Positive Change

Negative reviews aren't all bad if you know how to spin them.

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and (now) billionaire philanthropist once said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” These are wise words, of course, but they’re easy to lose sight of when you’re frustrated, defeated, or just plain tired of handling complaints and less-than-stellar reviews.

Most vacation property management companies will have a policy in place for how to respond to complaints from guests, in person or online. But is responding to a guest’s concern enough? Like Bill Gates suggests, you can actually turn negative feedback into positive changes that benefit your business.

Find a Short-Term Solution

When an unhappy guest is in front of you, on the phone, or leaving reviews online that could damage your reputation, address their concerns promptly. You know the drill: apologize and acknowledge their concern (even if you disagree with it) and communicate a reasonable solution. Then follow through with your solution.

In some cases, you may feel like a guest is threatening to leave a bad review if you don’t give them a hefty refund. There is no right way to deal with a guest who’s holding your company hostage; each property management company responds differently. Regardless of how your company chooses to respond, make sure everyone on your team knows how they should respond and who has the authority to offer what type of refund.

It helps to understand your guest’s expectations and values before you have to work with them to resolve their concerns. This white paper helps you understand what the three largest generations of travelers–Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials–expect from their vacation rental management customer service.

Write It All Down

If you don’t already document guest complaints or concerns, start now. You may be able to store this information in individual guest profiles within your vacation rental booking software, but even in a simple spreadsheet will do. Note the date of the complaint, write a sentence or two about the concern and how you resolved it, and make a note of the type of complaint.

Separate types of complaints into a few large groups, like housekeeping, maintenance, amenities, staff responsiveness, fees, and environmental concerns. (Your customer service team will be a great resource for brainstorming these categories!) Then, every month or quarter, review your list of concerns or complaints. Do you see any trends or patterns? Are most complaints the same type? If so, this is the area you should work to improve immediately.

Take Long-Term Action

With helpful data that shows you genuine, recurring guest concerns, you can take long-term action to resolve their complaints once and for all. And you should take action! In a highly competitive industry like vacation rental management, property managers have to move fast.

As you plan your long-term action, consider these three things:

  1. Set your threshold for taking action. Will you take long-term action if only 5% of your guests have housekeeping concerns? What about 15%? What about 25%?

  2. Try taking small actions to resolve the problem. This could mean re-educating your housekeeping staff on appropriate procedures, or developing new criteria for quality control checks.

  3. If needed, take large actions to resolve the problem. If small actions don’t fully address the problem, large actions might. Continuing the example above, this may mean adjusting your housekeeping schedule to allow more time for quality control checks and fixes, or even finding new housekeeping staff.