How to Respond to Bad Airbnb Reviews

Lizzie Griffin
Lizzie Griffin

March 11, 2024

Rates and ratings can make or break an Airbnb superhost status. So when it comes to your reviews, you need a strategy in place. 

An established process on how to manage Airbnb guest reviews—good and bad—will not only help you maintain better star ratings, but also help you be more responsive to feedback and save you time, too.

In this article, you’ll see:

  • The most common reasons for bad Airbnb reviews
  • The proactive measures you can take to protect your business from them
  • Real-life examples of hosts' public responses discussed and analyzed
  • A four-point breakdown of how to structure your own responses
  • The strategies and tools professionals use to prevent bad reviews in the first place

Plus! We include invaluable copy/paste templates for your responses, guest messaging, and even a guest survey.

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The most common causes of bad Airbnb reviews

Negative Airbnb reviews typically center around issues related to cleanliness, the accuracy of the listing, guest communication, the check-in process, and the quality of the amenities. Here's a detailed breakdown:

  1. Cleanliness: Probably the single most important concern for guests is the cleanliness of your Airbnb. Guests expect their short-term rental to be spotless and beautifully presented. Any signs of marks, stains, or a poorly made bed can lead to negative feedback.
  2. Listing accuracy: Guests expect the property to match the description and photos on Airbnb. Any discrepancies, from the spaciousness of rooms and common areas to the character of the local neighborhood, will likely disappoint guests.
  3. Communication: Effective communication is crucial. Slow responses, unclear information, or a lack of personalization can frustrate guests. On the other hand, clear and friendly messaging can often mitigate other issues that may arise during the stay.
  4. Check-in process: A smooth arrival is essential. Difficulties in finding or accessing the property, or having to wait for keys can start a guest's stay off on the wrong foot and lead to a bad review.
  5. Amenities and furnishings: Guests often choose rentals based on specific amenities, like the pool or even the coffee machine. If these features have issues, your guests will notice. Equally important are the basics, like cutlery, crockery, and condiments, as well as bathroom toiletries and other essentials.

By addressing these common issues, you can provide guests with a great stay. However, despite all your best efforts, the occasional negative review is inevitable. Below we look at the steps you can take and how to formulate a professional response.

Bad Airbnb reviewA properly prepared unit is essential to a positive guest experience—and avoiding a bad review.

How to manage a bad review: 11 strategies, including preventative measures

Below we explore three key areas of review management:

  • Response
    Here, we look at what you can do to remove a bad review and how to construct a professional response that enhances your brand.
  • Mitigation
    Next, you’ll see what you can do when you think a bad review is on its way.
  • Prevention
    Finally, find out how to prevent bad reviews with ways to improve your guest relationships and ensure consistency across your services

What to do when you receive a bad Airbnb review

While a bad review can be very frustrating and feel unfair, it’s important not to take it personally, to stay professional, and to follow your established processes. 

This should help take any stress out of the situation, avoid conflict, and help you maintain a positive image as a host. After all, your objective here should be to minimize the impact of the review and, where possible, use it to your advantage.

Here are the first two actions you should consider, followed by an in-depth look into constructing a written response:

1. Ask your guest to change their review and rating

The quickest solution to a bad review is for the guest to remove or change it. If you choose to request such a change, you must remain professional and should avoid any sense of placing the guest under pressure. 

You could also consider offering your guest a partial or full refund, however, it’s important to note that this mustn’t be viewed as a way to incentivize their action, as this would go against Airbnb’s policy on maintaining unbiased reviews.

In the example below, the request is polite and recognizes the issues raised in the review. It emphasizes the importance of reviews to your business, and the offer of a partial refund is clear and to the point:

Dear [Guest's Name],

Thank you for your recent stay and for sharing your feedback. We take your comments seriously and have taken immediate steps to address the concerns you raised. Also, as a gesture of goodwill, we're sending you a partial refund of [amount].

Understanding the importance of reviews for our future guests and our business, would you reconsider your review and rating? 

Please know there's no obligation to amend your review. Should you decide to revise it, we’d be truly appreciative. If you have any questions or further feedback, please feel free to reach out.

Best regards,
[Your Name]

2. Ask Airbnb to remove the review for violating their reviews policy

If a review breaches Airbnb’s review policy or content policy, you can make a report to have it removed. For example, reviews must not be explicit, discriminatory, harmful, fraudulent, or illegal. 

You can see more information about Airbnb’s policies reviews here and you can make your report here.

3. Respond to the review in a professional manner

Bad reviews may be upsetting, but they allow you to demonstrate professionalism. They also allow you to draw attention to any positive aspects of the review and gain insights you can use to improve your hospitality in the future.

Three key areas to focus on when crafting your response are:

  • Your tone of voice: 
    You should show calm and control at all times. Avoid defensive language or an approach that could be interpreted as aggressive or dismissive. Instead, aim to express understanding and empathy.
  • Acknowledgment and validation: 
    Directly acknowledge the specific issues the guest raises. This demonstrates that you have carefully read their feedback and are taking it seriously. If their complaints are justified, offer a sincere apology, provide some context for the issue, and explain what you’ve done to address it. If the criticism is unfounded, explain why without being argumentative.
  • Clarity and brevity:
    Ensure your response is clear and concise. Avoid complex explanations or excessively lengthy responses that could obscure your main points. Address the key concerns raised in the review, outline the steps you are taking, and express your commitment to guest satisfaction. 

Let’s compare some real responses to bad reviews. See which you think is the most effective before looking at our critique below each one:

Airbnb response 1

Defensive response to a bad Airbnb review

This response to a bad review falls down on a number of key areas. The tone is defensive and accusatory (“if you found it dirty you should [have called] me”). Also, there’s no acknowledgment of the guest’s concerns. For all we know, the original review was entirely false, but the overall effect of this response is confrontational.

Instead, the host would have lessened the impact of the bad review with a more positive approach, even if it meant accepting some aspects of the complaint. For example:

Thank you for taking the time to provide us with some honest feedback, Name, and we’re so sorry our home didn’t meet your expectations on this occasion. To be clear, we provide brand-new toiletries for every stay and take pride in ensuring every aspect of the property is spotless—including the fresh linens! Also, we do encourage guests to review our guide before arrival so there’s no confusion about the parking. We hope to have the opportunity to host you again in the future!

Airbnb response 2

Defensive response to a bad Airbnb review but with some form of apology

Similar to the first response, this Airbnb host is also defensive (“You could have called him right away”). Also, it fails to open formally—beginning this comment with a “Yes, but…” sounds dismissive. However, there is an apology and some explanation of the steps taken, even if the overall tone remains combative rather than comprehensive.

Airbnb response 3

 Professional response to a bad Airbnb review but a little long

This response is a much more professional approach to dealing with negative feedback. The opening expresses gratitude to the guest and addresses them by name. It highlights the positive aspects of the stay, and there’s a sincere apology for the issues the guest experienced. Also, the response explains what steps the host will take to ensure those issues aren’t repeated. 

The comment is a little too long, though, which can make the host sound desperate to defend their position, nevertheless, the overall effect of this response is very positive.

Airbnb response 4

An excellent response to a bad Airbnb review

This is close to as perfect a response as you can make to a bad review. While there’s no direct apology, the tone is clearly very polite, there’s an acknowledgment of the issues raised by the guest, and it provides a clear explanation of what the host will do to improve stays for future guests. Also, it’s clear and concise, and ends on a positive note.

If your goal is to minimize the negative impact of a bad review and strengthen your image as a professional and attentive host, you could use this example as a template for all your responses to bad reviews. 

Here's the structure it uses:

  1. Thank the guest for their feedback.
  2. Highlight any positives from their review.
  3. Address their concerns with a) an acknowledgment b) an explanation c) steps taken.
  4. End positively.

What to do before you receive a bad Airbnb review

Sometimes you know a bad review is in the post. This might be because the guest had to wait to access your Airbnb, maybe there was a maintenance issue, or they may have sent you several negative messages. 

Whatever the reason, here are three steps you can take to reduce the chance of getting a bad review.

1. Offer a small gift and warm check-out message

A thoughtful gesture, such as a small gift, like a local souvenir or complimentary snacks, as well as a friendly message upon check-out, can positively influence a guest's overall perception of their stay. 

This act of consideration demonstrates your commitment to guest satisfaction and may soften any criticisms, potentially preventing a negative review.

2. Ask guests to complete a check-out survey 

Encouraging guests to complete a check-out survey provides them with an outlet to express any dissatisfaction before they come to write a public review. 

Also, this shows you value their input and gives you the chance to provide an explanation for the issue and outline what you’ll do to avoid it in the future.

Note: Check out our guest survey template below

3. Delay reviewing your guest until the last minute

If you postpone submitting your review for the guest until just before Airbnb’s deadline kicks in, it's possible that by the time they see it, the 14-day window for them to submit their own will have elapsed. 

If your guest was waiting to see your review first or simply lost track of the review period, this strategy can prevent them from leaving their negative comments.

How to minimize the chance of a bad guest experience and review

To enhance your guests' satisfaction and reduce the likelihood of receiving negative reviews, it's crucial to be proactive and attentive throughout each stay. 

Here are five practical tips you can implement to ensure a positive experience for your guests and generate more 5-star reviews:

1. Set realistic expectations in your listings

Ensure your Airbnb listings accurately reflect what guests will experience to drive great reviews. Be transparent with potential guests about the size of your space, the amenities available, house rules, and any quirks or limitations, like WiFi seed, pool closing hours or limited hot water supply. 

Also, include honest information about the local neighborhood and if there are red flags, like heavy traffic or some nearby construction, mention this, too.

2. Include check-up messages in your message flow

By sending check-up messages one or two days after guests arrive, you can discover and rectify any problems before they escalate. This proactive communication will helpincrease good reviews by showing guests you care about their comfort and are attentive to their needs.

Here’s an example of what you can say:

Dear [Guest's Name],

I hope you’ve settled in well at [Property Name]! I just wanted to check in to see how everything is going. Are you finding everything to your satisfaction? If there's anything you need or if there's any way I can make your stay more comfortable, please don't hesitate to let me know.

Best regards,
[Your Name]

3. Implement a streamlined process to respond to issues fast

When guests encounter problems, a swift and effective response can turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one. Have a system in place to quickly address and resolve any issues, demonstrating your commitment to guest satisfaction.

For example, with Breezeway you can manage your guest and team messaging in one place, where you can also create work orders, which you can easily track to completion.

Breezeway’s guest communication and work order creation viewBreezeway’s central portal for guest messaging and team coordination makes it fast and easy to respond to guest issues.

4. Be responsive to feedback 

Use surveys or feedback forms to gather insights about your guests' experiences. Ask specific questions about different aspects of your service and take action based on their responses. This not only helps improve your service but also makes guests feel heard and valued.

Here’s an example of a survey you could ask guests to complete:

Dear [Guest's Name],

Thank you for choosing to stay at [Property Name]. We hope you had a great time. Please take a few moments to complete this brief survey about your stay—we’d love to hear your feedback.

  1. Overall Satisfaction: On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate your overall satisfaction with your stay at our property?
  2. Accommodation: How would you rate the cleanliness and comfort of your accommodation? Were all amenities as described in our listing?
  3. Check-in/Check-out Process: How would you rate the ease and convenience of your arrival and check-out?
  4. Amenities: Were all the amenities you expected available and in good working order?
  5. Feedback and Suggestions: We welcome any additional feedback or suggestions you might have. What could we do to make you want to stay with us again?

Thank you so much for taking the time to complete our survey. We look forward to hosting you again in the future!

5. Automate scheduling and quality control

Using Breezeway’s vacation rental operations management software, you can set scheduling to auto-pilot and provide cleaners with user-friendly mobile checklists with representative photos. 

With these solutions in place, you’ll never miss a clean and your Airbnbs will always be guest-ready on time.

Here’s how it works:

  • Breezeway connects with your Airbnb account or property management system.
  • You add your property information and housekeeper availability into Breezeway.
  • Breezeway now creates and updates cleaning schedules based on your customized rules and latest booking information to ssend task notifcations to cleaners.
  • Now you can customize cleaning and inspection checklists so your housekeepers have a set of instructions with helpful photos for every turnover and clean.

Breezeway’s mobile cleaning checklist

Breezeway’s mobile checklists are easy to use and will help make sure your Airbnbs are always guest-ready.

Using Airbnb reviews to positively impact your brand & business

Bad guest reviews are disappointing to receive but you can use them as evidence of your credentials as an attentive and professional Airbnb host.

Here’s a summary of our top tips:

  • Always respond to reviews—good and bad.
  • Never take bad reviews personally.
  • Tone management is key when responding to a bad review.
  • Have an established process in place so you can save time and stay on brand.
  • Use gifts, warm messaging, and surveys to help encourage a positive review.
  • Be responsive to feedback and automate your scheduling and quality control.

With a clear and focused approach to managing guest reviews, you can turn every setback into an opportunity, strengthen your brand, and keep your occupancy rates and review ratings up.

Create a fantastic guest experience for every stay
Use Breezeway’s ops management tools to automate task scheduling, quality control, and guest messaging.

Book a Demo