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As a property manager, you might be forgiven for thinking that reviews are a bit of an "afterthought" when it comes to your vacation rental website, vacation rental marketing, or online presence.
After all, aren't guests more interested in seeing beautiful photos of your rental, checking out your amenities and surrounding area, how much it is, and seeing when and how they can book?
Well, yes - but don't underestimate the vital importance of reviews in helping potential guests make the final decision to actually book.
Reviews might be on your own website, or on listing sites such as Airbnb or VRBO—but getting top Google Reviews is also especially important, as they show up when people search for your property, are easy to read due to their five-star reviews rating system, and are considered independent and trustworthy.
Good reviews can help you build trust, show your professionalism, help you to continuously improve, and crucially, increase your revenue too.
And it's easier than you think to automate the process too, using platforms such as RueBaRue, which offer vacation rental email templates designed to be sent automatically after a guest's stay ends.
Here's how to maximize vacation rental income, and start putting these tips into practice in your short-term rental business today.
RueBaRue helps you get more and better reviews by impressing your guests with excellent customer service and sending automated review requests. Book a demo personalized to your rentals to see the platform in action.
Getting reviews might seem like a low priority compared to selling your space, but trust us: increasing the quality and quantity of your vacation rental reviews is a crucial part of the job, and will lead to more success overall.
They say if one person likes something, that's anecdotal; but if three or more people like something, that's a trend. This couldn't be more true when it comes to vacation rental reviews.
Because it goes without saying—at least, it should—that your social media or website will show your place in its best light. But if other, independent guests have had a great experience, then that shows your rental is genuinely good, and other guests can reasonably expect to have a good stay too.
This means the more reviews from different people you have, the more readers will trust that your previous guests' judgment is reliable, leading them to trust you more too. Better reviews help you get more bookings and increase your revenue
Having good reviews, such as clearly visible 5-star Google Reviews, is central to making sure potential guests place an online booking.
One study by PhoCusWright for TripAdvisor found that 83% of guests say reviews help them pick the right hotel, 80% read at least 6 to 12 reviews prior to booking, and more than half of guests (53%) say they won't even book a place without reading reviews first.
If others say they had a good time at your place, others are likely to believe them and are likely to want to avoid the "fear of missing out" (FOMO) and become part of the "club" of others who have had a good past experience.
Put simply, great reviews use previous customers' good experiences as a way to positively influence future guests and make them more likely to book.
Reviews can be incredibly helpful and offer free pointers on what you're already doing right, and how to improve.
For example, if a guest mentions they really loved the personalized vacation rental welcome book and the coffee, you know that offering the book and coffee is a good idea, and keep doing so.
But even criticism can help. While it might sting when you receive less-than-glowing reviews, guests that leave fair, constructive, and polite criticism are basically doing your vacation rental industry research for you, and you can use these reviews to continuously do better.
For example, if a guest says that they would have appreciated a couple of extra pillows, or they would have liked some tea as well as coffee, those are simple fixes that you can easily improve.
But even genuinely negative reviews can offer you the chance to take stock and improve.
While you may not agree with the guest's assessment, you can still take the bad review feedback on board and—if appropriate—consider whether there is some truth in their experience, and take steps to make sure no one else has the same complaint in the future.
Credit: Dominika Roseclay / Pexels
Responding to reviews—whether publicly or privately—actually gives you another chance to show your friendliness and hospitality, even after the guest has checked out.
To continue the coffee/tea example above; you might reach out to that guest personally, thank them for their stay and feedback. You might even ask them their recommendation for the kind of tea they would like to see next time.
This gives you a chance to thank them, shows that you are open to feedback, and genuinely interested in their opinion.
Your positive response will likely stay in their memory even after they've left your place, which improves the chances that they will recommend your place through word of mouth later.
They will feel that you (or someone on your team) are a real person and that your rental management company is a dynamic, open-minded organization that is continually striving to offer guests a great stay.
Even replying to an unhappy guest can be helpful. Reaching out to them professionally, without getting defensive, and maybe even offering to make amends, or ask how you might improve, can offer an opportunity for resolution and a better outcome from an otherwise poor situation.
Publicly responding to reviews in a fair and friendly way—using the same platform they were left on, for example—can also show your hospitality and professionalism to other potential guests as well. It's a virtuous cycle.
Good customer service is one of the main things that guests consider and talk about when it comes to leaving reviews. Offering exceptional service will prompt your guests to mention it in their write-ups, and will be able to point out memorable or clever extras in particular.
Personal touches, fast and easy communication, and useful local knowledge will definitely be noticed and appreciated.
For example, RueBaRue customers say their guests especially enjoy special extras such as digital guestbooks and easy SMS texting, because they have all the information they need in one place and feel truly welcomed and at home from the start, with minimal fuss.
Guests love to feel that you have gone above and beyond to welcome them personally.
You might leave them a personalized welcome note, make sure their emails are personalized with their names, that the guidebook is addressed to them personally in an SMS.
RueBaRue helps you to do this by enabling you to personalize all communication with guests and using its automation tool to time your messages perfectly for when guests arrive and leave.
This helps the guest feel as though you're connecting with them as a real human, rather than them being "just another guest" on your list.
Talking of personalization and treating people like real humans, leaving thoughtful "extras" on arrival is another way to increase the chance of receiving a good review.
You might leave a bottle of wine, some flowers, and some luxury snacks; or even go one step further and offer food personalized to the guests' dietary requirements—such as gluten-free, alcohol-free, or vegan—to truly impress them, and show that you care about them specifically.
It's not just about leaving gifts.
Ensuring that you communicate quickly and reliably with guests is also highly appreciated, and increases the chance of a good review.
Getting back to your guests quickly via text helps them to feel supported and cared for, and they know that if anything happens, you'll be on-hand to ask.
What's more, RueBaRue allows you to do this through SMS rather than email.
SMS is better for quick responses as it's more instant, doesn't need the internet to connect, and won't get lost in guests' overflowing inboxes.
RueBaRue also allows you to set up SMSs so that guest messages come through to a "team" inbox, meaning that any of your staff can respond at any time.
This means that guests are not relying on a specific property management team member to be available to answer 24/7. Messages can be shared among the team, and they can respond on the go via the dedicated iPhone or Android app, so it's easier to send a great response, faster.
Getting great reviews starts even before the guests arrive!
Ensuring that your guests have everything they need well in advance—such as booking confirmation, check-in details, vacation rental house rules, and emergency contact numbers—gives guests peace of mind as they plan their trip.
It also means that everyone is on the same page about how the rental works, what to expect, and how communication will work during and after the stay too.
Giving guests the house rules and emergency contact details at the exact right time—not too early, but not too late either—means they will be more likely to read them and respect them, providing extra peace of mind for you too.
Professional communication before, during, and after the stay will increase the likelihood that guests will want to thank you and point out your help in a positive review.
It's easy to forget this, but one surefire way to increase your guest reviews is to, well, ask for them.
Even very happy guests can easily forget to leave a review in all the busyness of travel, and very few will do so unprompted.
One way to get more reviews is by sending surveys asking for guests' opinions and feedback automatically after their stay, just as they're checking out. The sooner you send a simple survey request inviting them to leave their thoughts, the more likely they are to respond while the stay is still fresh in their minds.
RueBaRue makes this super-easy. Vacation rental managers can send automated text messages with a link to a form asking one simple question: How was your stay? Guests can rate their stay 1-5 stars. If they say 5 stars it asks them to leave a review on Google or Facebook, again increasing the likelihood of public, positive testimonials.
It also offers the option for improvement; if they say anything less than 5 stars, it takes them to a survey to get more insight on what was wrong, such as cleanliness or other factors.
Property managers can build out the survey and automate its sending at the exact right time directly in RueBaRue, making the process as straightforward as possible.
It's also a great idea to resend a survey asking for comments a few days after you send the first, as guests may easily forget to respond the first time, or could still be busy traveling. Sending a friendly reminder means they are more likely to give their two cents at a time that suits them.
We hope we've given you a great idea of why getting good reviews for your business is so important to increase your vacation rental bookings and income.
Reviews not only help you to build trust, show off your great hospitality skills, build positive connections with guests, and enable you to continuously improve—they are also directly linked to a thriving business that has strong social proof, excellent word-of-mouth appeal, and gets consistent, successful bookings.
For property managers looking to continually improve and refine your vacation rental business, it's clear that getting good online reviews is far from just an "afterthought". It's at the heart of offering guests an excellent experience from start to finish and should be a key part of your strategy.
RueBaRue helps you get more and better reviews by impressing your guests with excellent customer service and sending automated review requests. Book a 30-minute demo personalized to your rentals to see the platform in action.