Why are there less reviews for the villas each year?
After a decade of renting out our properties, we just don’t get as many reviews as we used to. It doesn’t mean we are off our game. In fact, we keep improving the properties and our service all the time! I would love to get more reviews, but it keeps getting more difficult. Here’s why:
1) First of all, when you have been at this for a decade, many of our bookings come from repeat guests. After they have left a review a few years ago, and then another or two, they don’t bother leaving reviews anymore. They have said what they have to say, and feel that the fact that they have returned again says all they have to say and they have nothing to add.
2) We have bookings coming in from all sorts of sources. If someone didn’t book with us on HomeAway, they can’t leave a review on HomeAway, so our chances of getting a review there are about only 25% of what they would be for properties that get all of their bookings through them.
3) Guests leave much fewer reviews now than they used to, generally speaking. It is just the nature of it, and common to all long time owners. Once an owner’s posted review numbers start to get up there, guests feel that the owner doesn’t need the help so are not nearly as concerned about leaving positive reviews as they might otherwise be.
4) All of our guests are given a detailed exit survey automatically, before they are ever invited to leave a review on HomeAway or some other listing site. We want it that way, because in our exit survey we ask a lot of detailed questions about their stay, what they liked and didn’t like, to evaluate different features of the property… it’s pretty detailed because we want that kind of information, and we don’t get it if we just leave guests alone to say “Great property, great house, Robert’s great, would recommend.” That doesn’t help us improve at all.
In our exit surveys, guests often leave us real pointers and information. For one thing, the information they share isn’t being posted publicly and we let them know that, so they have no fears about sharing with me any concerns they have, and I want it that way. We get real opportunities to improve from the suggestions or negative points a guest may provide. And guests will share suggestions with us, even if they have had a fantastic time, loved me and the property and are very happy. They are often so happy that they wouldn’t want to give me suggestions ‘in the open’ because they don’t want to cause me any embarrassment or public negativity. They have had such a great time they don’t want to do anything that could hurt my business, so the private survey gets around that issue.
With having left such detailed review information and completed our survey directly with us (completely away from HomeAway or TripAdvisor or whatever) many guests will not, or simply don’t care to, post a public review on some other site. They have had a chance to give their comments, they have let me know what they think, so why post a review online?
5) Many guests don’t like the fact that they have to login with a user name and password on may sites to leave a review. It becomes a hassle that dissuades them from bothering to do it.
6) I have had more than a few guests say “This place is fantastic! Why would I want to tell others about it? If I do, the next time I want to come back you’ll probably be all booked up!” So they prefer to tell no one about us!
7) I try to call many of our guests when they first arrive at the property to check in with them, make sure they got in okay and answer any questions they may have. After they have spoken to me personally on the phone and told me how much they love the villa, they aren’t too concerned about leaving a review, because they feel they have already let me know what they think about the property after their arrival.
8) We have somewhere around 140 reviews on our own website, which includes all reviews received from all sources. Every other place you can find a review for us, there will be substantially less. As the years have gone on, even I have gotten lazy about chasing guests down for reviews, and even when I receive them, afterwards posting them to our website.
When you do a good job for your guests, and it is your ‘norm’, reviews become a lot less of a priority to you. I have to refocus myself on them at least once a year, and try to collect some current ones, because I understand that they go stale rather quickly. When you’ve been at something for a while, and you have as many guests approaching us for quotes and dates as we do, you don’t focus as much on reviews as you perhaps should. Other things become priorities.
I completely understand that our guests get a chance to review us in public online if they want. I hope that they will, but if they generally have a concern, I hope they will allow me to address it worth them first, in private, before they post something negative online. As the old line goes, if you are happy and satisfied, please tell others. If not, please tell me.
We genuinely want our guests to have a great experience, so letting me know of anything that is less than satisfactory will allow me to fix it for future guests. But to post a negative review, which only serves to warn others away, is a completely different matter.
If a host doesn’t care about their guest experience, and is likely to not provide a good experience to others in the future, it makes sense to warn others off of them. But if the host truly wants all of their guests to have a great experience (like we most certainly do) and works hard to achieve that, what is the benefit to anyone in leaving a negative review? All it does is hurt the host’s future business… when in fact, if the host does care about their guests, simply letting the host know privately of any concerns should be enough, as future guests won’t be also experiencing similar problems in any event because a responsible host will take steps to fix anything needed.
So, less reviews each year doesn’t mean our service, experience or properties are going down hill. Far from it. I truly think it means that we’ve gotten so good at what we do, expectations are raised, and usually you have to significantly surpass expectations to get someone to take the time to post a really positive review. It comes down to sort of being victims of our own success!