2 Step Guide To Perfect 5-Star Reviews on AirBNB & VRBO

Reviews are the lifeblood of a successful vacation rental.  They can be the difference between tens of thousands of dollars (if not more) per year in rental income.  As a vacation rental owner myself, I can still remember how stressful the first dozen or so stays were when we first launched.  Being complete newbies to the vacation rental management profession, yet doing everything in our power to make sure we landed a 5-star review.

As time goes on and you begin to pile up dozens and even hundreds of positive reviews for a single property, the stress fades.  You know you have a good product and one 4-star review, 3-star review or dare I say 1-star review is not going to break what you’ve built.

With all that being said, I believe landing consistent 5-star reviews can be broken down into a simple two step process:

  1. Make sure guests understand 5-stars is the default
  2. Catch negative reviews (1 and 2 stars) before they go public


5 Stars Is The Default

I’ve spoken with some amazing property managers hosting dozens of vacation rentals.  The majority have nearly perfect 5-star ratings across all of their properties.  What’s keeping them from the perfect 5-stars?  Typically a handful of 4-star reviews where the comments mention how amazing the property was.  Why are guests leaving 4-star reviews when they had a great stay?

This issue is most likely explained by the hotel industry.  For decades, hotels have used a 5-star rating system to organize hotels into categories.  Based on that rating system, this is the criteria for a hotel to be considered 5-stars:

“A five-star property provides flawless guest services in a state-of-the-art facility. As a five-star property, such as premium dining options and personalized services to its guests. With no detail being overlooked, these hotels commonly even provides high-end, luxury toiletries for guests.”

Being a 5-star hotel was meant to be extremely difficult.  However, with vacation rentals on AirBNB & VRBO, 5-stars has become the standard for a good stay.  Many guests who leave a 4-star review may be considering the hotel grading method and as a result think they are leaving a terrific review which actually hurts the hosts listing.

What can we do to combat this?

You need to set the expectation of 5-stars from the beginning of the stay to the end.  We achieve this by mentioning 5-stars in numerous communications to the guests.  For example, we have an auto-responder set up with AirBNB so the guest receives a pre-written email from us as soon as they complete their booking.  Within that email, we start off with the sentence, “Thanks for booking your stay!  We look forward to providing you a 5-star experience.“.

Just like that, within minutes of booking, we’ve already set the expectation (for both sides) of a 5-star review and we did it in a positive way.  The guest knows we plan to give them a 5-star experience, and we expect one in return.

Continue this throughout your communication & in your printed/digital guidebook.


Catch The Negative Reviews

When you’re a great host, this won’t often be an issue.  However, when you’re in the game long enough, you will eventually come across somebody who is impossible to satisfy.  Or they’re the passive-aggressive type who hold in the disappointment just to publish it to the world.

We leverage our GoGuidebook digital welcome book to collect reviews from within the guide.  Many guests will submit this form prior to checking out of the rental.  The vast majority have been positive, glowing reviews but every now and then we’ll get a review submitted that we’re able to take action on by contacting the guest.  Since the guest has not checked out yet, they haven’t yet had the opportunity to review on AirBNB/VRBO.

We’ll address any of the negative points in the review with the guest prior to checkout.  Sometimes we’ll even bring them a small gift or if it was a mistake on our part, offer a partial refund.


Go Be A Great Host

In the end, the best thing you can do is go be a great host and let the reviews take care of themselves.  But if you’re after that elusive perfect 5-stars, we believe it can be achieved with these two simple steps: making 5-stars the standard with slight changes in communication, and catching the negative reviews using an internal review system.