The Ultimate Guide to Getting Amazing Guest Reviews for your Hotel and Vacation Rental - Pt. 1
The key to running a really successful vacation rental business is having enough feedback from your guests. Nailing down the pros and cons of the guest experience is an integral part of understanding how to grow, and what changes need to be made.
Being competitive and getting more bookings is contingent on you delivering exactly what your guests want. And the more you know about their behaviors and impressions, the better positioned you are to make this happen.
Unfortunately, most people don’t leave reviews. In AirBnB’s and vacation rentals, around 50% of guests leave a review. In Hotels and resorts, this number is generally much much lower, often as low as 30%. And in an industry where reviews are one of the biggest growth drivers, these numbers aren’t enough. As this type of user-driven advertising is relied upon by more and more people, managing and growing the number of reviews you receive has never been more important.
Why are guest reviews so important?
The number of reviews you get, and the amount of stars they have are really important, and here’s why. It’s much easier for guests to understand what you have to offer if there are sufficient reviews to paint that picture for them. And this in turn translates into a much higher level of perceived reliability and quality. Your guests should be talking about you. Whether its on the AirBnB reviews, the tripadvisor reviews for your boutique hotel or seaside villa, or in pictures that your guests have tagged you in on Facebook and Instagram, this social proof directly translates into bookings and revenue.
Making sure guests invest more time in writing as detailed reviews and comments as possible also significantly impacts your bookings and revenue because it allows you to pinpoint exactly what they liked, didn’t like, and is critical to better understanding your rental and hospitality business.
More reviews also goes a long way towards helping you rank better on the AirBnB search engine, and on web search engines like google. Even on platforms like Booking.com, TripAdvisor, and Expedia, the number of reviews you have directly impacts how well you rank. Hospitality, like pretty much every other industry, is massively impacted by platform ranking. It’s very difficult to compete for bookings if you have only three reviews, and other rentals in your area have fifty or more.
Laying the Groundwork for a Great Review
The first thing you need to do if you want to get a higher volume of great reviews is to live up to expectations. One of the biggest reasons guests leave a bad review is that the advertisement for the rental or room is substantially different from what a guest experiences. As a rule of thumb, don’t advertise amenities you don’t have, don’t take pictures of your rental using furniture, decorations, and items which won’t be there when your guests arrive, and don’t allow your rental to look too different in terms of cleanliness from what it’ll look like when they arrive. If it’s incredibly well organized and clean in the pictures, and dusty and disorganized when they arrive, they’ll be left with a sour taste. From their point of view, they’re paying for what they see in the picture, and that’s exactly what they expect.
According to industry insiders, “Unfulfilled expectations are the No. 1 cause of dissatisfied guests. Close the gap between expectations and results, and ensure guest expectations are correctly managed.” Your marketing, online presence, and listings need to reflect what the unit actually looks and feels like, and you need to be careful not to over promise. If it’s a budget rental, own it! Don’t make it look like the ritz in the listing only for it to be completely different when they arrive.
The Number One Factor in a Great Review
The biggest contributing factor towards getting an awesome review is making sure your guests have an awesome time. While this seems like a no brainer, the number of hosts and managers who neglect to provide their guests with a great experience is staggeringly high.
It doesn’t need to include guided tours of all the best local museums, or a Waldorf Astoria type room with the most comfortable beds in the world, but your rental does need to provide, at the very least, all the standard amenities. Clean and comfortable sheets, fans during the summer (guests really hate feeling uncomfortable at night. If you don’t have AC, provide fans), bathroom soap, shampoo, body wash, conditioner, and various kitchen/coffee supplies such as mugs, a Keurig, dish soap, knives and forks, etc. You don’t want guests to have to go looking for this type of stuff given how frequently it’s used, and how easily you has a host or manager can provide it.
Providing all the ‘need to have items is enough for the majority of rentals, but if you’re trying to compete in the luxury market, you need to go above and beyond. The room, rental, location, and amenities are a big part of what makes a luxury rental stand out. However, what really sets you apart from your competition and puts you on a step above is the level of service you offer. You need to make sure your guests have something to remember and talk about - memories which years down the road will cause them to look back on that trip in such a way that they’ll keep recommending you to their friends and family. If you can accomplish this, you’ve opened up a lifetime stream of bookings for which you don’t have to advertise, market, or spend resources trying to acquire.
Your guests need to be in awe, and they should be showered with small but nice touches which make their stay incredible. Whether it’s a notecard after each room/rental cleaning telling them to have an amazing day, fresh flowers in the living room when they arrive, or helping them get reservations at a recommended hotel, these touch-points ensure that your guests leave happy and excited. Not only will they be willing to leave amazing reviews and get their network to stay with you, they’ll actively want to do so!
Actively Engage with your Guests During their Stay
Engaging with your guests while they’re at your hotel or rental is one of the best ways to make them feel comfortable and at home. When they arrive, if you’re there to greet theme, ask them if they’d like a drink or a snack. If you’re not there (as is the case with many vacation rentals), leave a bottle of wine on the counter and a few small bags of pretzels or chips. Wine is cheap (especially if you buy by the case), and we guarantee this type of gesture will have a high return on investment.
Branded items are another great way to drive engagement, especially for hotels. A couple of our partner hotels use branded squishy balls with the hotels hashtag on them, and whenever guests take pictures on Instagram or Facebook with that squishy ball and use the hashtag written on it, they get points towards their next stay.
Being active on Twitter and Instagram is also very beneficial. Responding to guest comments in real time on these types of platforms is instrumental in making them feel heard, and if you’re able to engage with negative comments quickly, you can potentially avoid a bad-review situation before it even happens. A large number of people under the age of 35 will actively try to engage with their hotel and rental on social channels, so you need to be on point with these channels as well.
While Vacation Rentals and Hotels differ vastly from Hostels, there are some great ideas we can poach from them. Social spaces where guests can sit, meet, have a drink, and socialize to make their visit more interesting as they get to meet new people and experience a hotel in a totally different and new way. This casual atmosphere also allows managers to easily engage with guests, get their thoughts, and guide them towards following you on twitter, instagram, and leaving a great review.
That’s all for today’s blog post! It’s been a long one, but stay tuned for part two, where we’ll go more proven ideas to get a higher volume of amazing reviews.