There are many things that new hosts need in order to be successful and one of the most important is getting good reviews. The most important aspect of getting good reviews begins with setting proper expectations for your guests. This blog post will give you 6 secret strategies on how to get consistent 5-star reviews. We’ll show you how to get your first five-star review and keep’em coming to grow your vacation rental business. Hosting has never been easier to do than it is now, but there’s still a lot of opportunities for hosts to take advantage of in order to get ahead of the competition.
It’s imperative for new hosts to make sure your guests are happy. This means doing everything in your power to provide them with a great experience while they’re staying with you.
The biggest thing that can make guests unhappy is when their expectations are not met. So that brings us to our first tip.
1. Make sure your property listing is accurate and complete.
No matter how amazing your place is, if someone is expecting something and they don’t get it, they will almost never leave a 5-star review. There’s nothing more frustrating than over-delivering for your guests and then finding they didn’t leave you a perfect review because the board game on your listing wasn’t there or because you had a microwave listed that wasn’t available.
As hosts, we never know exactly what the most important aspects of our homes are that attracted them to stay with us. Maybe your guest saw you had a Monopoly board game in your listing and they have a yearly family Monopoly battle every year. When they arrive and find it’s not there I can assure you they won’t be happy. To you, the board game seems so inconsequential but to them, it may have just ruined their night.
When what we advertise is accurate to what we’re giving our guests then this removes one small but consequential detail that can end up hindering our ratings.
In my history, this is the number one thing that can make an unhappy guest. So managing expectations is instrumental to being the best host you can be.
Make sure to go through your listing every couple of months to make sure that all the amenities and features of your properties listings are still complete and accurate. It’ll seem petty when you get that one bad review over something so small. So nip it in the bud now and you’ll be happy you did.
2. Leave an unexpected gift
First impressions matter just as much with Vacation Rentals as they do with people. When your guest walks in the door and is pleasantly surprised to find a nice gift or snack layout this can set the tone for the rest of their stay.
Never in the history of hospitality has a guest been unhappy to get a little welcoming gift upon arrival.
My favorite idea, when I know I have a couple arriving, is to leave them a bottle of wine with two wine glasses on the table. A decent bottle of wine can be purchased for less than $12 in most locations. So isn’t $12 a worthwhile investment into your business?
If it’s a larger family we like to leave a small basket of snacks or candies.
Not only will this make your guest feel special, but it could be just enough to help your guest look past a problem they may have with something else during their stay.
3. Communicate with your guests early and often
My policy is to personally write our guests immediately after they make a reservation. As soon as I see I have a reservation I reach out to the guest welcoming them and telling them how excited I am for their arrival. I give them my personal contact information and tell them to expect our House manual in the next message. I tell them to reach out to me if they have any questions after reading it.
Read my article on what I think is the best house manual in 2022 and why you need to set one up asap.
The day before your guests are set to arrive, reach out to them and ask what time they expect to arrive the next day. This helps verify two things.
- That they have read your house manual and are aware of what check-in hours are
- That they will not arrive before your check-in time.
(The house manual itself will actually help with this)
When I first began hosting I can’t tell you how often we would have guests arrive earlier than the allotted check-in time. No matter how many times we posted it, in on our listing, our house manual, the fact is guests will not always read everything. Sometimes they won’t read anything at all. Literally. So that’s why I like this little trick because if they tell me they want to arrive at a time before our check-in we still have time to prevent the problem from happening in the first place and advise them otherwise. It will also give me a little forewarning of what to expect from these guests and allow me to be better prepared.
You should ask this question regardless of whether your property is a self-check-in rental or not. It’s a good indirect way of seeing if they have read the house manual and it will also prevent this unpleasant instance for both parties. Even if the guest is completely wrong in arriving too early it won’t matter, they won’t see it that way and they won’t be happy that they have to wait for their vacation to start.
It goes back again to controlling expectations and this is a good little trick to help that process along.
If you have guests that are staying longer than a week it’s good practice to send a quick message to your guest to check in with them. Ask if everything is going well and see if there is anything they need or have questions about.
I had guests one time spend a week with us and did not take the time to ask how to turn on the TV. They spent the whole week not being able to turn on the TV and then wrote about it in their review. I had no idea they were having this problem. By sending a quick message it may have prompted them to ask me about this. Because they didn’t know the Roku remote sitting right in plane site doubled as the TV remote, I got a negative review.
I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t they just ask? It’s a good point. That was my question too. But the fact is they won’t, for whatever mind-boggling reason, and it will ultimately cost YOU. Fair? Probably not. But life’s not fair and not everyone is going to know all the things you do.
But all it takes is one simple text message and you can help bend the hand of fate in your favor. You never know what your guest feels is important or is going through, so it never hurts to check in with them in the middle of their stay.
People who consistently get good reviews don’t happen by luck. It’s the little things like this that can make a huge difference over time. Give it a try and let us know how it’s working out for you.
At the end of their stay, I usually like to send a message the evening before check out just to reiterate the check-out time and details. Especially if you have a tight time frame between guests it’s imperative that your guests leave on time so that you can prepare the place for your next guest.
So follow up the night before with that text.
4. Start a Whatsapp or Text thread.
As I outlined before, there are some guests that will arrive and won’t read one thing in your manual or check-in details. For me, this has always been one of the most frustrating parts of hosting. At one point I had house manuals that required the guest to digitally initial next to information they needed before arriving and STILL, people would arrive and not follow the details.
It wasn’t long after that I gave up and realized I’ll never win that battle. I learned to just accept this as a fact of the business and prepare accordingly. You put all this time and effort into organizing this amazing house manual and they can’t even take the time to read any of it? Answer: Nope. No, they won’t.
And be prepared for this too. This is after something does go wrong. Guests that claim they were never told or didn’t know something when it’s in your manual. Be prepared. It will happen. No matter how right you are. You never win that battle.
Sometimes you’ll end up with the guest that will ask you a dozen questions that are already outlined within the house manual. It will sometimes make you wonder why you bothered writing that manual anyway.
It’s actually far more common that your guests won’t read your manual than those that do.
It’s exactly for these reasons that it’s important to make sure that you create an open and clear line of communication with your guest right from the start. Especially one they can easily start up again without having to search for your contact.
I like to send my guests a WhatsApp message the day before they arrive. I prefer Whatsapp for the ability to send documents and images and to see if the guest has read your messages. If they don’t have Whatsapp I’ll send a Text. Starting this conversation thread makes it easier for your guest to reach back out to you during their stay. The easier you make everything for them the better experience they will have.
Remember. Your business is hospitality. When you give them a great experience this is what gets you good reviews. Make it a part of your expectations that your guests won’t read your manual and you will still have to answer a lot of questions. When you get those guests that read everything and follow all the details consider it heaven-sent.
5. Try to meet them in person at least once in first day.
I’ve hosted thousands of guests over the past 20 years.
Some of my short-term rentals I set up to be almost completely automated from start to finish. I sometimes had dozens of people checking in on a particular day and automating the process made scaling feasible and much more efficient from a logistical perspective.
However. There is a downside to this process and it ties into why tips 2, 3, and 4 work so well. The automation process tends to remove personalization.
For some guests, this is perfectly fine. Some won’t need and/or will actually prefer not to see you. They may like having a sense of Independence or privacy. But there are a lot of guests that will not feel this way. Unfortunately, you have no way to be able to predict what kind of guest you will have next.
I found that when you completely automate the check-in process and don’t meet your guest in person that your guest naturally will end up seeing you as ‘a business’ when it comes down to review time, rather than a person.
Now let’s say all things are equal. Who do you think gets a better review? The no-face business or the nice person the reviewer just met? 9 times out of 10 the person will win.
Even if it’s just to say hello and give them the keys I suggest you meet your guest at least once within the first day of their arrival. This quick person-to-person introduction can play a big difference in the end. People are just simply less likely to give someone they met in person a bad review, if for nothing more than out of fear of seeing them again.
6. Send a Thank you Message with Review Link
This is the Magic Bullet right here!
Most people only text with their friends and family so the fact that you are now in that realm psychologically gives you a benefit over a host who just sticks to email.
The day after a guest departs I like to send a quick message thanking them for staying, letting them know we will be leaving them a 5-star review, and then dropping a review link and asking for a quick review.
Now this of course assumes you had a great guest. I’m not suggesting to say this and then go leave them a 2-star review if your guests just filled your pool with a truckload of dirt. But if you had great guests make sure to tell them specifically, that you are leaving them a ‘5 Star Review’. You won’t believe how good this trick works!
Even when I had my properties completely automated and never met my guests in person this technique alone still improved my ratings by 15 – 20%!
Vacation Angel will automatically send your guest a review request after they depart but it’s always best when you ask your guest personally.
This is a super strong technique to collect and build positive reviews for a few reasons.
- It will propt them to leave a review where they may not have taken the time to do so otherwise.
- Being the day after they’re not still traveling and have time.
- They’re stay is still fresh in their mind.
- Guests rarely leave negative reviews when being personally asked for one.
- Knowing that you gave them a ‘5 star review’ will increase the odds they’ll reciporcate in kind with a 5 start review.
Positive reviews are essential for any business and it’s no different when it comes to Vacation Rentals. It’s not just about the number of positive reviews but the quality and description of those reviews will speak volumes. When it comes to reviews quality is just as, if not more important, than quantity in driving customer bookings.
When guests have a more personable experience they will reflect this in their review usually. When the review is talking about how great the host was it gives the potential guest a lot more confident they too will have a great experience. People reading the reviews want to know they can trust the person in charge. If your guest doesn’t know you at all it’s difficult for those reviews to happen.
It only takes a small handful of good reviews for a new host to start seeing a difference. We compiled this list from over 20 years of real-world experience and listed the top 6 things we felt had the strongest impact on driving more positive reviews for our properties.
These techniques work! I promise you. I want you to use them to make your vacation rental a success!
We’d also love to hear things you’ve done to get more positive reviews yourself. Is there something you’re doing that’s working and not listed here? Tell us in the comments below and let’s hear all about it.