How to respond to bad reviews

Learn the most common reasons guests leave a begative review and how to respond.

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Every owner or manager of a non-hotel property facility (vacation home, farmhouse, bed and breakfast) knows this: guest reviews are critical to the success of the business.

However, this applies to positive reviews. Conversely, negative reviews can be a problem. In fact, vacation rentals with low ratings on booking portals tend to have lower visibility and receive fewer bookings.

In this article you will discover how to respond to a bad review, reducing its impact on your business and turning it into a tool for growth and renewal.

What causes guests to leave a bad review?

Why do your guests decide to leave you a negative review? In general, people are more likely to leave bad reviews because of the high emotional response associated with a bad experience.

Also consider that vacations are an essential time in everyone’s life. We can finally relax, forget about work and other daily commitments, have fun, and maybe spend a romantic evening with the person we love. If something goes wrong during your guests’ vacation, you can hardly avoid negative feedback.

On top of that, sometimes you will receive bad reviews even if your performance as a host or your property is not the main cause of guest dissatisfaction. Even if you constantly strive to provide great service and a memorable experience, sooner or later you may run into a 1- or 2-star review.

That’s why it’s important to know how to respond to a bad online review and turn it into a moment of growth for your business. A bad review can help you improve your service and build trust in your future guests. Indeed, they will notice and appreciate the way you handle unhappy situations and turn negative feedback into constructive criticism.

Bad reviews: here are the most common reasons

The first step is always to do your best to avoid a negative review. Obviously, some things are out of your control as an accommodation manager. However, there are some things you can pay attention to in order to avoid problems with your guests.

Here is a short list of the most common reasons guests leave bad reviews on booking portals:

  • Misleading description of the property and facilities available
  • Poor cleanliness of the property
  • Security problems: doors and windows not closing properly, alarms not working
  • Disturbing noises: neighbors or other guests, broken equipment
  • Poor or inadequate communication from the host or owner of the vacation rental
  • Broken equipment and maintenance problems
  • Overall disappointment, when the accommodation does not meet guests’ expectations
  • Unfulfilled promises

How to respond to bad reviews?

Since there are a whole range of reasons why your unhappy customers might leave you poor online reviews, you will need to tailor your responses to the situation. Carefully analyze the criticism you receive and remember:

1. Don’t respond impulsively

Especially when you receive undeserved and hurtful bad reviews, take some time to write an appropriate response. Initially, you may feel like giving back. Keep in mind, however, that your future guests may base their reservation on your response.

This applies both to comments received on booking sites, on your direct booking website, and on your social media accounts.

2. Put yourself in your guests’ shoes

At the root of a bad review there are usually more or less valid reasons. To respond accurately and constructively to feedback, you need to understand exactly where the negative experience stems from.

Immerse yourself in your guests and analyze the situation. Is there anything you could have done differently to avoid the problem? If yes, admit it and make sure you don’t repeat the mistake. Is the cause of the dissatisfaction not your fault? Explain the situation politely to the guest and potential customers who may see the comment in the future.

3. Use appropriate language

Always be polite, professional and polite in your responses, even when your interlocutors do not deserve it. Losing your temper could cost you dearly: not only will you look bad, but the booking sites themselves may decide to penalize you.

4. Turn the review into constructive criticism

Negative comments allow you to improve your offer and show that you care about your guests’ opinions. For this reason, begin and/or end your responses by always thanking the feedback partner.

Explain how guest feedback is critical to optimizing your services and learning how to meet the expectations of those who book your accommodations. Share what you plan to do to avoid experiencing the same inconvenience in the future. If the problem is a broken appliance or a missing service, resolve the issue and report it in your listing.

5. Make sure the situation is always clear to those reading the comments

Responding to bad reviews keeps you from having any unfinished business with your past guests. But writing complete and accurate responses to feedback will also help you avoid losing potential guests in the future and save your online reputation.

For this reason, make sure that anyone reading the comments can fully understand the situation. Since the guest may dwell solely on your shortcomings, be sure to highlight the situation as a whole. If, for example, you tried to resolve the situation in person or by message, mention that in your response.

However, report only the facts that are related to the dissatisfaction. Otherwise, readers may think you are grasping at straws to justify your mistake.

6. Respond to all bad reviews

Try to respond to all (or at least most) of the positive and negative reviews you receive in a timely manner. Otherwise, potential guests who are considering your listing may think you are not a negligent or indifferent manager.

Examples of responses to bad reviews

Let’s look at some examples of bad reviews and appropriate responses you can take a cue from.

Please note: these are fictitious examples.

Example 1: Defective equipment

Negative review:

Title: Disappointing experience due to faulty faucet.

My recent stay in the apartment was compromised by a faulty faucet in the kitchen. Not only did the water leak ruin my sleep, but the slowness of the owner to fix the problem was incredibly annoying. You better improve the upkeep of the accommodation if you want to provide the relaxing stay promised in your listing.

Example of an appropriate response:

Dear [Guest Name],

First of all, we would like to thank you for informing us about the problem with the faucet in the apartment’s kitchen. Your satisfaction is of utmost importance to us.

We sincerely regret the inconvenience you experienced. We would like to clarify that we received your report only two days after check-in, on a Saturday, and unfortunately, we could not find a plumber available over the weekend. This circumstance made it impossible to take timely action.

We apologize again for the inconvenience. We would like to point out that the problem with the faucet was successfully resolved the following Tuesday morning. We also took steps to ensure that the rest of your stay proceeded smoothly.

To compensate for the inconvenience, you were offered a discount to a local restaurant during your stay. We hope that this small compensation helped to make the rest of your stay more enjoyable.

Thank you again for your understanding


[Host’s name].

Example 2: Poor service

Negative Review:

Title: Poor breakfast and service

The bed & breakfast was a total failure. The breakfast was sad and of poor quality. The staff seemed disinterested, ignoring our requests. Avoid it if you can, it is not worth spending money on such a place. I hope the owner can improve, but until things change, I would definitely not recommend this place.

Example of an appropriate response:

Dear [Guest Name],

Thank you for your sincere feedback about your experience at our bed & breakfast. We sincerely regret the inconvenience you experienced.

We have taken your comments seriously and are actively working to improve the quality of our service and breakfast. To gather more in-depth feedback, we are creating a survey to send to past guests.

We appreciate your input and hope to welcome you back to our bed & breakfast to provide an improved experience.


[The Name of the owner or management team].

Example 3: Disturbing noise

Negative Review:

Title: Accommodation not suitable for those who want some privacy.

My stay was disappointing because of the constant noise generated by other tenants. The lack of quiet, especially at night, greatly detracted from my experience. Despite my attempts to report the problem, it was not resolved to my satisfaction. I hope that more effective measures will be taken in the future to provide a calmer environment for guests.

Example of an appropriate response:

Dear [Guest Name],

We thank you for your feedback and are sorry that noise from other tenants negatively affected your experience. We would like to point out that the listing description clearly states that the house is shared with other young people and is a good place for those who wish to socialize. However, we understand that each guest has different expectations.

We are keen to improve and will take your opinion into consideration. Should you wish to give our space another chance, we will do our best to ensure a more enjoyable stay.


[The Name of the owner or management team].

Can I delete a bad review on booking sites?

Bad reviews can ruin your vacation rental’s reputation, as well as often being unpleasant. Especially when guest comments are untrue. Or when you have gone to great lengths to resolve the situation during the stay and, despite this, your guests have decided to leave you a low review.

You might then wonder if it is possible to delete a bad review on booking sites. In general, most booking portals do not allow the posting of offensive or false reviews. 

Also, in some cases you will be able to ask that a negative review be deleted if it is false. Clearly, you will have to be able to prove that what is written in the review is not true. 

As for Airbnb reviews, you can report comments that violate Airbnb’s terms and the portal will decide whether to remove it. also works similarly regarding offensive and untruthful reviews.

Why can bad reviews be good for your business?

However, although it seems counterproductive, you should not try to have all unwanted reviews removed. In fact, in some cases, bad reviews can be good for your short-term rental business. In fact:

  • Most people who are in the process of booking an accommodation look at both positive and negative reviews.
  • Having no bad reviews at all may seem strange, almost dishonest.
  • How you react to negative comments will show your potential guests how you handle difficult situations.
  • Finally, by taking guest reviews and dissatisfaction to heart, you will show that you are a reliable and attentive host.

Manage your reviews with Smoobu

Even the most reputable hospitality businesses have received bad reviews. If balanced by many positive reviews, they will not affect your visibility and occupancy rate.

As a vacation rental owner, keep in mind the most common reasons why guests leave negative reviews and do your best to provide a memorable travel experience for your guests. Also, to manage all your reviews from one place, consider using Smoobu. Our channel manager will not only allow you to synchronize all your calendars, and will also give you the ability to manage reservations and guest communication from a centralized interface.

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