Elusive, like a prancing unicorn.
Slippery, like an escape artist.
Twinkling in the distance, like a little fairy.

You have heard tales about them.
Day dreamed about the day they will appear in hordes.
You may even consider them to be your Nessie.

And when you finally have a review appear, you float upon Cloud 9. A shot of adrenaline courses through your body.

Then, you resume your quest for another one.

If this scenario does not sound familiar to you, if you are inundated with reviews from each and every one of your guests, and if you simply do not care about new guests…

Stop reading this post.
It does not apply to you.
Here’s a link to some cute kitten videos on You Tube.

For everyone else, the vast majority of vacation rental owners (and businesses in general), you are not alone.

Three facts about reviews that you must overcome if your vacation rental or business is to continue to succeed:

  • Guest reviews are difficult to obtain
  • Guests have good intentions to leave a review but do not follow through
  • Guests rarely leave a review on their own accord

London Breakfast Club

Step 1 to get a review:

You must request one, and you must ask for it differently than all of the other places clamoring for a review.

Let me tell you about Jake.

Jake is a local high school student in my little town west of St. Louis, Missouri. His weekend job is to work the drive thru window at Sonic (an American drive-in fast food restaurant).

I had never met Jake before, but my encounter with him at the drive thru window made me want to leave a review for our Sonic. (Side note: I was so enthralled with writing this post for you that I forgot to leave that review. This is the part where you chuckle at me.)

By now, I am used to many businesses, both brick and mortar and ecommerce, asking me to leave a review of a product or fill out a survey for them. Some even offer a discount or a free item with my next purchase.

I have now mastered the smile and nod as I take my receipt and head to the parking lot, and my delete button reflexes are nearly world record. It is a little annoying to always be asked what I thought of the service or product that I have experienced.

But Jake did something different. He did not simply hand me my receipt and give me a rote speech that if I go to the site below, answer a couple questions, blah, blah, blah…you have heard it before, I am sure.

He asked me with enthusiasm.
He made me feel special.
He made me smile.

Here is what went down just before 11 am on a Sunday morning in January:

Jake: Hi! Your total is $2.15.
Me: <hands him $3>
Jake: Here’s your Coke, and…<looks down at receipt>…oh, wow! <smiles big> You get a free Coke!
Me: <perks up with a big smile> Thanks!
Jake: <hands me my change> You just gotta go to the website I circled on your receipt and tell them how I did this morning. <continues to smile> My name is Jake, and it was a pleasure to serve you! Have a great day!

new orleans doorStep 2 to get a review:

You must make it easy and convenient.

I like Sonic’s large Cokes. I will crave their Cokes. A Coke from any other place will not satisfy that craving.

Whether it is the little ice pieces that perfectly mix with the fountain Coke or because it is in a well-insulated foam cup, I will take a Sonic Coke over any other Coke every day.

Obviously I am happy with their product, so why do I not head over to their website and write a review about how addicting their Cokes are to me? Why do I not call the corporate office and tell them how their Cokes can make my day so much better?

Because it is inconvenient. I would have to stop what I am doing, search for the appropriate website page or the correct phone number, and then take my time to give a review.

Jake made it easy. Simple instructions, no searching for the right website, and he wrote his name on my receipt as well. He put a friendly face to the business.

Guest reviews are a hot topic for vacation rental owners. Lively forum and group discussions will reveal that owners have trouble getting guest reviews, some owners only want to give a handful of guests the opportunity to leave a review, and other owners are confused as to how or when to ask for a guest review.

Savvy owners have their tried and true methods of extracting reviews from guests (yes, it is like pulling teeth).

Here are a few of my secrets:

  • I do everything within my power to make sure my guests have a good time at my vacation rental properties.
  • I thank my guests for choosing my places.
  • I ask every single guest to leave a review. Every. Single. One.
  • I make it super easy for my guests to leave a review.

I am sure you are already doing what you can to make your guests happy. And I am sure you thank your guests. If you didn’t, I am also sure you would not be reading this post.

But, are you asking every single one of your guests to leave a review? Even the complained-about-everything PITA guests, the left-the-place-a-mess guests, the lost-their-deposit-due-to-damage guests?

You should. You might be surprised with a 5 star review from the mom who may have left your place with Cheerios under every appliance and piece of furniture throughout the house. Or 4 stars from the patriarch of the family who was never satisfied with the temperature in the condo (some people just do not leave 5 stars, ever).

Kauai Napali coast - Tyann MarcinkThank those guests anyway for staying at your place. Grin and bear the extra sweeping. Make sure your future guests have clear, simple instructions on how to adjust the thermostat.

And if the guests leave a 3 star or below review, do not panic. Do not take it personally.

Take a deep breath, type out a nasty reply email, and then DO NOT send the email. Just get it out of your system, and then sleep on it.

The listing sites do not post these reviews immediately, so there is no need to have an anxiety attack.

If the review is blackmail for a refund or violates the content guidelines of the listing site, then contact the listing site to discuss having the review removed.

If the review is within the content guidelines, and it is scheduled to be posted, you can choose to reply to the review.

When you reply, though, you are not writing to the guest that left the review. You are writing to your future guest who is reading the negative review.

Choose your words carefully and seek help from a vacation rental owner support group (aka community forums).

Making it easy for your guests to leave a review is actually very easy. My method is to use a custom thank you email triggered by my reservation management system along with a section in my Touch Stay digital welcome guidebook.

This thank you message contains more than a “thank you” and a review request with a link that takes them directly to a page to write a review.

I take this opportunity to do two more things:

  • Ask my guests what would have made their stay better
  • Give them a strong idea of what to write in a review

This method has worked tremendously for me. Those picky guests who complained about everything? I received a laundry list of complaints of what would make my place better and then was notified of a beautiful 5 star review later that afternoon.

Earning the 5 star review does not begin with the guests’ departure. It does not begin when the guests arrive. It does not even begin when they make the reservation with you.

Capturing the unicorn and riding to the end of the rainbow to snag the pot of gold begins with the guests’ very first impression of you – your vacation rental property listing or website.

Grab the traveler’s attention with your listing photos and description. Then hold your guest’s hand from the time they inquire, through the reservation process, through the planning-the-rest-of-the-vacation time, throughout their stay, and then give them a big hug and heartfelt “thank you” as they return to their daily life.

Yes, you should do your best to give them warm fuzzies. Because it’s not what you say that people remember – it is how you make them feel.

What do you do to get the coveted guest reviews?
Will you share your wisdom in the comments below?
I am always looking for new ideas to improve the experiences of my guests.

By the way, the best way to stay on top of all the good stuff is to get on my vacation rental marketing email list.

You can sign up right here: