Category: Owner Information

Holiday cottage owners: How to handle reviews

There are a number of different marketing tools that you can use to help maximize bookings for your holiday home. Choosing the most relevant advertising platforms, taking good photos, engaging with social media and creating and maintaining your own website all help to generate bookings.

Arguably the jewel in the crown for holiday home owners is positive feedback from previous guests. Guest reviews are a natural extension of word of mouth marketing. They are free, unbiased and show potential guests that other people have had a great time staying at your holiday home. They also confirm that you are a credible and trustworthy business. With more and more people booking their holidays online, guest reviews have never been so important. This article looks at how to get good reviews and how to handle those that are less complimentary.

How to get good reviews

It goes without saying that in order to get a good review you need to give your guests something to shout about. Whilst you can’t control the weather or the traffic, there are a number of things that you can control to ensure they have a good holiday. As well as making sure your holiday house is spotlessly clean, warm and comfortable, a thoughtful welcome pack and a few personal touches goes a long way to getting your guests into the holiday mood. For more tips on how to get your guests holiday off to a flying start read our article here.

Encourage people to leave reviews

Sometimes, even when they have had a great holiday, guests need a little nudge to give their feedback. Don’t be shy to ask for a review. It is best to email shortly after they have returned home so their holiday is still fresh in their minds. A good time to ask for a review is following the return of a security deposit. Or you could send a thank you email and ask if they had a nice holiday. Try and gauge if your guests had a good holiday first. If they left a list of complaints in the guest book you might decide to address them off line!

Show that your property is a great place to stay at any time of the year by making sure that you collect reviews from guests staying in the winter as well as during the peak seasons. Endorsements of your warm and cosy cottage, refreshing seaside walks or the roaring fire at the pub at the end of the road, will help sell those harder to fill out of season gaps.

How to show off your good reviews

There are a number of different places that you can collect reviews. If you advertise your property through OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) such as HomeAway or TripAdvisor, it is likely that your guests will be prompted to leave a review here. Some OTAs ask you, as holiday home owners, to also review your guests. Assuming you were happy with them, it takes less than one minute to give them a good review. This in turn might prompt them to give you a positive review too. A page of glowing reviews will certainly help your property stand out from the crowd when potential guests are sifting through a number of similar properties. If you have a number of good reviews you can consider adding a link from your own website to your reviews page. Make sure you remind guests that it is much cheaper to book their holiday directly with you though!

Whilst good reviews on OTA sites are likely to help boost your bookings, remember that if you decide to stop advertising with them you will lose all the reviews that you have built up over the years. It is therefore important to collect reviews in more than one place.

Collect photos of guest book comments and let potential guests see them

It is a good idea to leave a guest book in your property where you can ask guests to write a review at the end of their holiday. With your guest’s permission you can then copy these reviews onto your website. You can also upload photos of guest book comments onto your Independent Cottages advert or use it on your social media posts. Make sure that you protect personal data and delete any personal information such as names and addresses of your guests first. The advantage of this is that you can choose not to publish any reviews that are less favourable! However, bare in mind that future guests will be looking for unbiased and objective comments and if you only publish reviews that you have personally approved then they will seem a little less credible.  

If you have a business page on Facebook this is also a good place to ask guests to leave a recommendation. Facebook no longer has the star rating review system. Guests now choose whether to ‘recommend’ you or not. If you are publically recommended in a group, or to someone’s friends, it will appear on your page for everyone else to see. If your guests ‘check in’, Facebook are likely to send them an automatic reminder to write a recommendation for where they are staying. For holiday home owners who use Facebook as part of their marketing strategy this is a great place to collect reviews or recommendations.  

According to the 2018 ReviewTrackers Online Reviews Survey, Google is the review site of choice. The survey found that 63.6 percent of people are likely to check Google reviews before visiting a business. This is more than any other review site – including TripAdvisor and Facebook. In addition, your ratings in your Google reviews will help your ranking in the local search results. It is relatively easy to set up a Google My Business account. Once you are up and running you will ideally need a steady stream of new reviews in order to stay visible on the search results page.

It is worth noting that anyone can write a review on your Google account, including someone who has never stayed at your property. As a small business it is unlikely, but not impossible, that someone will write a ‘fake review’ of your holiday home. If they do, you can flag it to Google and ask them to remove it. It can sometimes take a while for Google to evaluate your request and decide whether it warrants removing or not. You can find more information on how to remove a fake review here. In the meantime, it is a good idea to politely respond to the review so other potential guests know that you are aware of the review, and whilst you have no record of them staying at your holiday house you are also serious about remedying any problems. Google provide some useful tips on how to respond to reviews.  

How to handle a bad review

Three drawn cartoon faces, one smiling, one neutral and one unhappy with finger touching it

When good reviews come rolling in it is easy to pat ourselves on the back and enjoy reaping the benefits of doing a good job. It is likely that you have worked hard to provide your guests with the best possible experience whilst staying at your holiday house and it is rewarding to know that this has been appreciated. It can therefore come as a bit of a shock, and feel like a bit of a disaster, when you receive your first negative review. However, don’t panic! This won’t be the end of your business. You need to accept that you cannot please everyone all of the time and not everyone will give you a 5 star review. Whilst negative reviews are never nice, if you respond to them in the right way you can use it to your advantage to show how much you care about your business and your guests.   

It is important to act quickly and calmly. Look at the review objectively and see if there is a simple way that it can be resolved. Even if you disagree with the comments made, there is a time and a place to pick your battles, and this certainly isn’t one of them. If possible respond within 24 hours. If someone has taken the time to write a review it is important that you respond as quickly as possible. Thank them for their comments, apologise, and show that you care by taking their comments seriously.

When you reply to a review, you are not just replying to the guest. You are replying to everyone else who might read it. Potential guests will judge your response to reviews. If you are polite, appreciative and can be seen to be doing your best to solve the problem as quickly as possible, it will reflect well on you.

Make sure you take note, and if necessary, make any improvements to help prevent future guests having the same issues. It may be something as simple as replacing an old mattress or adding a few extra pots and pans. Whatever the problem, don’t automatically think that a bad review means a guest will never book a holiday again with you. In some circumstances an apology is enough. If you make improvements to your property on the back of a review, let them know.

Keep calm and carry on

There is no denying that good reviews are paramount for any holiday home owner. It is easy to sing the praises of your own holiday home, but when past guests do the same, it becomes a powerful marketing tool. However, you can’t expect positive reviews all the time. Whilst it is disappointing to get a bad review, especially if you feel it isn’t warranted, remember that negative reviews are an opportunity to learn and make improvements. With the right approach it is perfectly possible to turn a negative review into a positive experience.

If you have had any experiences involving negative or positive reviews that you could share with other holiday home owners we would love to hear from you. Please leave any comments below.

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