When guests have saved money for a while in the run-up to vacation and their dream trip becomes anything less than perfect, they’re likely to make noise about it. Whatever the matter, a negative review is a negative review, and they’re never fun or easy to read as a vacation rental owner.

Unfortunately, bad reviews can happen, even when you think you’ve done your best. But what can you do to rectify the situation? We break down the steps you can take to handle bad reviews professionally and practically.

Guests are human – even the unhappy ones

Always remember: negative reviews aren’t the end of the world.

They actually provide you with an opportunity to showcase your superior customer service – not only to the unhappy guest, but also to the many other potential guests who are reading through your reviews (both on your own vacation rental website and on social media), and making their vacation decisions based on your responses.

In many cases, the guest just wants to feel heard, wants to know that their feelings are valid, and most importantly, wants to make sure that you care. More often than not, a quick, honest and fair response and solution to the problem can help put your guest’s mind at ease.

Most of the time, your guest will recognize that problems can arise, accidents can happen, and sometimes things can get overlooked. As long as the vacation rental business in question doesn’t blame or ignore the guest, they’ll understand and be grateful for your response.

Customer service is key


So how do you salvage a relationship with an unhappy guest?

A sense of urgency, consistency and honesty can make all of the difference. Having your reviews (even the rare not-so-great ones) all in one place on your vacation rental website, along with your helpful and prompt responses, allows future guests to see the character and integrity of you and your vacation rental business.

Take a look at these customer service statistics:

  • If you resolve a complaint in the customer’s favor, they will do business with you again 70% of the time
  • Americans will tell an average of nine people about good experiences, compared with telling 16 people about poor experiences
  • 91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again.

But what do these numbers mean?

Though negative reviews can sometimes signify that changes need to be made to the way you run your vacation rental, when guests draw attention to these hiccups early on, it can be hugely beneficial for you in the long run.

How to respond to negative reviews


Receiving your first negative review can come as a bit of a shock, especially when you’ve tried so hard with your guests. You should always respond to your reviews, both positive and negative, though there are certain things to bear in mind before you start writing your reply.

1. Take your time

When you receive a negative review, especially the ones that aren’t entirely true or don’t portray you fairly, it is best to wait and respond when you’re not frustrated or upset. You have to remember that the guest was feeling a certain way when they posted the review, and you writing a defensive response isn’t going to resolve the situation. Wait until you’ve calmed down to reply so that you come across as cool and collected.

2. Get the facts

If you aren’t 100% familiar with the guest or situation, collect all of the information you can in order to make your response as accurate as possible. Speak with anyone that the guest mentioned in their review (maintenance team, office staff, neighbors, etc.) to get all sides of the story.

3. Thank them for the good stuff

When it is time to respond to the review, always thank the guest for their feedback, and acknowledge that even though it is not the best review you’ve ever received, when guests take the time to let you know about their experiences, it gives you the chance to improve your vacation rental management for their benefit, and to the benefit of future guests.

4. Stay positive

If they mentioned anything that they liked, address these positives first. Then, when it is time to dive into the negatives, confirm and validate the things that did happen, and explain your side without placing blame or fault on the guest.

5. Refresh your guest’s memory

When you reply to a negative review, don’t forget to remind the guest of any work you did to resolve the issue while they were at your vacation rental: any communication that happened; the compensation (if any) that was offered; and the solutions that were presented.

6. Clear communication is everything

It’s every vacation rental owner’s worst nightmare when guests wait until they arrive home to mention their bad experience. If this does happen, take the opportunity to explain (in a friendly manner!) that owners always prefer guests to report any issues during the stay, as there are measures in place to help make their vacation a more positive experience.

To avoid this happening altogether, ensure that you make it clear from the beginning of the stay that if any problems should arise, your guest is to contact you – no matter what time of day or how small the issue.

7. Respond, rather than retaliate

A negative review should be followed up with a quick, honest and detailed response, but that should be the end of it. If the guest responds, find a more private way (telephone, email) to address the guest’s concerns. The last thing you want is an online feud for everyone to see. As tempting as it can be, don’t retaliate after your first response. Remember that your potential future guests are reading your reviews, so you need to remain in control and professional.

We hope you find these tips useful! If you have anything else to add regarding negative reviews, or an experience you’d like to share then get in touch in the comments below.

What do you think about this article?

7 Ways to Respond to a Negative Review of Your Vacation Rental
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  1. Luke Smith Reply

    Thanks so much for the tips on how to handle negative reviews from guests at a vacation home! You made a really good point about mostly this type of review being from someone who wants to be heard. I would imagine that you would want to plan for this whenever you first planned to buy a vacation home.

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