Turning negative reviews into positive comments

When i get a negative score and poor comments, i use it as my own weapon to strike back!

i keep my response polite, but i use it to promote my town, what the town offers and the strengths of my business and then inform them that i would love to welcome them back.

other potential guests look at the poor reviews, so i use it to my advantage by treating it like a personal marketing tool to self promote myself.

i do not take it personally, one guest never even stayed, but wanted a refund because her car broke down, like it's my problem. she wrote a horrid review, but it was worth taking the hit because, it is probably the most read review lol and the best for promoting myself so play the game!!! 

Martina Stoecker

Good morning Captainsquarters21.....

that's exactly what I am doing too. Just lean back and instead of writing a response I actually feel like at that moment I think it over and - make the best out of it. Yes, it is strange but true - the negative once are more focused on and that's now a kind of marketing, to use the right tactic here.

Bad reviews are the unfairest I can think about and they are a story of themselves. It is easy to write them, no matter what's the long story afterwards and how it really affects the business. Even though I stayed at a BnB in Ladismith over the last weekend I really had all reasons to write a negative review to actually warn the readers - I just couldn't. I'd rather let the host know immediately or latest when I depart - wishing everybody would do that ;-(

Sunny greetings from SummerlaneBB in Wildernness, S.A.


Your review should be somehow connected to the guest's comments, or else people will see that it's all about self promotion.

By the way, what do you consider negative?

I normally do not answer negative reviews, because ALL of them came from problematic people:
1) complained about no private parking slot for her car, when never asked for parking space. Left the unit super trashed, empty bottles and towels were all over. Bedsheets were smashed and dirty. 6 days of living as in trash can
2) came with 5 people, when the reservation is for 3. Demanded second free room. Verbally abused my staff. Complained about things we can't change, like traffic on the road. Wrote a miserable review, full of grammatical mistakes and complete nonsense, that doesn't require a reply
3) heartbroken guy, that was fooled by the "friend", who didn't come. Most probably met her on Internet. Complained about everything he could, especially about the "small shower"
4) insisted on early check-in at 11am, when it's not allowed. Yet really insisted and my kind hearted staff allowed. The bad review about "not clean place" and "bad staff" followed

As for positive reviews or not so positive, I normally reply following these steps:
1) thanks to the guest that he is "so stress free", "wonderful guest"
2) admit his strong sides, that potential guests can learn from - "kept good communication", "left the place clean", "was punctual"
3) repeated what he liked "we are so happy that you liked the modern design"
4) tell how could we change something negative (if its not changeble, then say it) or improve
5) welcome back

Martina Stoecker

Hi Katerinka12,

that sounds awful.... but not to answer is actually affecting your score on Booking.com, doesn't it?

As we are not able to write a review about our guests, for myself it is the only way to response, letting the our readers know, what was going on, my site of the story. But again, like I mentioned it in my previous comment, with tactic.


No answer will not affect the score. I don't reply only to really very negative reviews from very problematic people. I think if adequate person will see it, he will understand that I don't want to pick up the fight, or say sorry for things that are out of my control... Or what would you answer to a person that says we didn't provide her second room and "even the Booking can't find the reservation" (when there was never a second reservation in the first place)?

One year ago one guy from Britain complained that receptionist doesn't speak good English. As you say "with tactic" I replied (with many thanks for staying), that gentleman should stay high class to people, for whom English is not native language. Now, when I am looking back I ask myself why did I even spent my time and effort to explain things that are understood instantly by Gentlemen?


I always answer every review good or bad,

i thank them for taking the time to write a review,

i also concentrate on any of the positives,

then answer them on the negatives, if i can change them, but then I say Southport is an amazing town and it has lots to offer etc etc we would love to welcome you back.

We offer an excellent price and a good homely bedroom and if they want a seaview, air conditioning and a bar and restaurant then I suggest they pay a higher price and to always read and research what each establishment offers, as it is unjust to score low on services they required, that we do not advertise

Fossilcoast Hawera

Thank you Captainsquarters, what sound advice...I like your style!!

It follows what I believe, "don't focus on the negative" repond in a positive polite way...

Martina Stoecker

What I really don't understand is, that we are not able to respond to some reviews here at Booking.com. Is it because the person knows, that his or her comment is inappropriate? That the shot goes backwards? We just had that type of story today. The lady stayed with us in March and seems to have a problem about cleanliness according to her review. She booked again through Booking.com and stayed with us again mid May. Today she complaints about everything in her review. Cleanliness, staff, name it as you want it. None of us changed, nothing in the house changed, we are clean like before, SummerlaneBB got even better..... and as she left there was nothing to say- except that she enjoyed her stay again. I even upgraded the couple into another room as a thank you for their return. I hadn't realized that she wrote a review in March. Otherwise I would definitely asked her what was the problem.Now I am asking myself: If a place is dirty out of my sight - why go back???.

It gets me really mad when I ask if everything is in order as they arrive or was in order as they depart and more mad because I can't reply. This should not be allowed from Booking.com. Anonymous is ok, as some are really shy (let's name it this way) but still we must get a chance to set things straight and write our point of view - positive or negative.



I have personally phoned the guest up, explaining that I was deeply saddened by her review.

She responded and said she was sorry and that she'd had a really bad day and took it out on me.

She said it was unfair and unjust and if she was totally honest, she enjoyed her stay.

So my advice would be it may be anonymous, but us smaller places can easily work out, who wrote the review.

My only tip is to kill them with kindness and concern, rather than to go on the attack.

This lady is now a great friend of mine and we have holidayed together and she stays regularly.


It happened to me several times, when the guest left bad review and asked him why - same answer: he just had a bad day and the place and the host was actually great. One lady even wrote to Booking asking to change her review, but nothing happened (that's according to her words).

Martina, I think they intentionally hide their name, because they know that they are doing bad thing. Just like criminal will wear black and hide his identity. Remember, that Booking is all about money. While Airbnb is making steps to make sure that they have the guest's identity, Booking attracts those group of people who is "identity less" but has money to stay in the nice place and opportunity to get rid of the stress on a nice host. It's like hey host, you swallow it, you were paid for it!

My advise is to be nice, but just nice... Not supernice and try to please everyone, including racists, and other bad people, who didn't want you as a friend from the very start. What's the point of trying to show the whole world and try to change the person, when he left your place already. Finished. Bye bye the "relationship", that was one way.

If you will be nice to everyone and stop yourself to feel disappointed when it is a proper situation to feel that way, then after 6 months of being emotionally very high you will suddenly feel very deep depression. That what doctors say and I admit that I did such mistakes many times in my life.

Delbert Adair

I'm using the Captain's suggestion to thank guests for leaving reviews. So, thank you for leaving the comments. They all had good points. When I do get a negative review I'm going to try and use it to my advantage.

We had more snow last winter than usual. My driveway was blocked. It took a little manpower to clear it. That's not the end of the world, is it?


I empathize totally with the horrid experiences you guys have had. Mine is a basement apt., where absolutely no smoking is allowed. Well, one couple smoked so much marijuana that the white ceiling fans turned black, and I had to dump s new sheet set. Still, I am grateful that most of my guests are great, and their criticisms are useful.

Ritchie Basilio

Receiving negative reviews is an opportunity telling you that you need to improve more. Negative reviews are the jumping points for making you a successful entrepreneur if you are serious to it.


Most often Ritchie, that is true, and we appreciate those criticisms. Like all business people though, we must learn to be gracious and remain professional when the reviews are totally fabricated. After my first cardiac episode following a below average review, I stepped back and looked at the big picture - one score in the 7 range stands out for its variance from the many 10s. An occasional bad review doesn't hurt my 9.9 rating. In fact, while it attracts more eyes, it makes readers wonder why that off person out, is do fussy!

Delbert Adair

Ritchie, That is a good way to look at it. I know I have much room for improvement.


Wow, Chantal, how many days did they stay?

Ritchie, so easy to give advise on how to become a "serious successful entrepreneur". I just wonder if you have available at least 1 million dollars to make "improvements".

As for me, I will never support any lies, comments about 3rd parties, things out of my control, promotions of competitors (yes, it's not against Booking policies), and will not make any "improvements", when my staff was not paid for it. Please, carefully read the topic before to post a "business" advise.


Just to remind you, Booking allows:
1) abusive language
2) personal attack to personnel without mentioning their names
... And their understanding of racism is also very questionable.

Anyway, I sincerely wish everyone have either positive or at least truthful reviews.


Interestic topic, it is a challege how to react to a negative review.

I can see it is an opportunity to grow and respond.Similar experience I had in my hostel.Once a guest left a terrible review, those reviews that hurt...and I called him to inquire what was the reason that we earn the score.He told me, he was regreted and he put it because the business he was expecting, did not get it so we were his target.He really called Customer service and changed his review grade.So it was rewarded to follwo up the negative ones,

I take the time to respond the excelelnt reviews to explain why we got the score, it is not for free, it is due to focus on customer service.When is a negative, we responded in a professional way, trying not to engage in discussion, just in plain english.

When we have excellent reviews, I take it as a subjet to explore with my employees to discuss the strategy and outcome of a good service and routines.


"He really called Customer service and changed his review grade."

So that's possible! In my case, the review grade was not changed or the guest lied. But I really appreciate that the person can admit that he really had a bad day/business/fight, maybe it will also help them to grow spiritually.

"When we have excellent reviews, I take it as a subjet to explore with my employees to discuss the strategy and outcome of a good service and routines."

We also do that for both positive and negative ones. Except for supernegatives (lies and not staff's fault) as I realized that people really might say lies and here I am taking time from employees and myself when we do already have lack of sleep. Then what will happen to us if we run hostel and have hundreds of reviews? :)


Hi guys!

I got insight from all your comments, thank you

I think people tend to review more if they have a bad experience rather than a good one, so we really have to focus on a polite and constructive reply and we always start with

"We are very sorry you didn't get to enjoy our hospitality to its fullest, obviously something went wrong somewhere and we'll make sure to improve it for your next visit"

If they complain about something we know it's not right then we work on improving it, as Rich points out, because let's face it, we're very busy people and not always on top of everything.

If it's something stupid like a 2.5 review because a guest cancelled the day before and didn't get a refund, then a polite reply highlighting booking conditions and good point of the accommodation

Like "i didn't get to enjoy the beach or pool as it was pouring with rain"...

Working in hospitality means empathy, so we need to know the world of sad people who's life is miserable and they'll just take it out on anyone!!!

But we have the best job in the world!!!


I agree that the best way to turn negative into positive is to respond to the negative comment in a friendly and positive way.

We sometimes get comments on our stairs leading to the bedrooms on 1st level despite this being clearly noted in the description and advising no children under 4 because of the stairs.

When I get a comment like "Stairs are a challenge" or "Stairs are a bit tricky and not suitable for the elderly" I point out some lovely facts about the house in my response. Examples are: -

  1. Thank you for review which is greatly appreciated and we do agree that the stairs are rather quirky. The cottage was built in the early 1900's as a stable where the Boere (Afrikaaners) gathered for Holy Communion every quarter with their oxwagens. In the late 1960's the upper level was added and it was the 1st home in Clarens to become a double storey building. This resulted in the locals calling the cottage "Die Flets".
  2. Thank you for review which is greatly appreciated and we do agree that the stairs are rather quirky. The cottage was built in the early 1900's as a stable where the Boere gathered for Holy Communion every quarter. In the late 1960's the upper level was added and it was the 1st home in Clarens to become a double storey building. This resulted in the locals calling the cottage "Die Flets". It has always been somewhat of a challenge, not only for the elderly and children but also to get furniture to the upper level. All furniture has been lifted over the external balcony but due to the laws around the heritage status of the cottage, we are not allowed to change any windows or doors which makes alternating the stairs impossible.

Guests are loathe to read and unfortunately it is best to pre-empt negative reviews and counter them before the guests stay. For example, should I get a booking with children, I send a general email saying thank you for booking etc and then add "please remember that there are stairs to the upper level not suitable for children under 4 or those who battle with stairs."

Hope someone will find this helpful.


Feel very down when I receive a low review because I do the utmost to make their stay feeling home and comfortable. I treat every one the same do the same things for every one . I m not perfect but after receiving 10 out of 10 from guests and all of a sudden someone who tells you he enjoyed the apartment and holidays give you a lower rate for nothing it makes me sad.

But also the good reviews make me Happy at the moment I’m 9.6.

So I look at the bright sight.


Please, do not feel "very down"... negative reviews are integral part of Booking :)

9.6 is a Great Achievement!


Yes Katerina I know that it’s a great Achievement but I can’t understand why guests have a real good price and good service decide to give you low rating.

but as I said I look positive on the good excellent rating .


we have been lucky and had mostly good reviews, I find it irritating when the guests eave and you ask about their experience and was their stay enjoyable etc and they say yes, fine, lovely and then give a score of 5 or 6...why not tell me face to face about any concerns or suggestions??
We have had one appalling review and we decided that there was nothing we could say that would mitigate what the guest had said. They complained about everything from the size of the bed, clearly only a double not a queen as advertised (yes it is a queen size!) to the height of the shower! (water was too cold by the time it reached him! he was over 6 foot tall shower is 7 foot!) to the grounds were untidy (its a natural bush block) and he did'nt get his share of the breakfast, the other guests ate it all!! There was nothing we could say that would have been anything other then arguing with him so we chose to be quiet. Fortunately the comments before and after it are ver positive and balance out his It rant.
It is tricky when people dont tell and them complain online but we just have to do our best. :)


One man wore poor clothes and pretended he was a beggar. People looked down on him, thinking he is no one and only few thrown him coins.

Next day that man wore a nice suit and was begging again. People not only gave him money, but were trying to get a taxi for him.

So "really good price" could be tricky. If it's lower than your place deserves, than people will not only find it's suspicious (pictures are better than advertised, host is hiding something, maybe something broken inside), but will add more suffering to the poor host by throwing "coins" - bad reviews.

And if the price is just right or higher, they will get the feeling that the host values the property and himself. Few people are not knowledgeable about pricing structure in your area, but seeing the higher price makes them believe that there is a reason for it and most probably this place is better than competitors (and good host could be a reason of it, not just better interior).

And there is another point, psychological :) Cheaper places attract people with cheap behavior. Look at the reviews of 5 star hotels in any country. People PAID MUCH for it and now they will show how they paid much for miserable stay? Maybe good mood and mood to spend is other reason, but something is very clear - those paying high are flying high.

For one of my "really good price" property I did experiment on Airbnb. I made a very long and emotional statement in my House rules, that Unjustified low stars will return to the one who complained. After his stay we will have inspection and if we will find any of his fault, we will file a dispute case with all possible consequences such as penalties and account removal. People must acknowledge it Before they book.

And you know what? People not only booked like crazy, but started talking to me First! "Excuse me... Can I ask you a question?... Did anyone really leave a bad review? How come? Your place is wonderful, very clean, etc. And you are very friendly, polite, etc wonderful :))"

I never knew that those guys that drink, party, sleep few hours and still have to fly, would leave such amazingly written and very long reviews with not even one comma missing how wonderful I was as a host, how promptly replied, that attention!..location is perfect (with mentioning places nearby)...and many, many things more.

And all of this happened because I warned them Before they even booked on how much I care about the property and the guest, but will fight for Fair review till the end!

I am working now on my House rules, that I will send to the guest right after the booking. It will include my favorite paragraph about reviews.

On some other occasions when the guests were too demanding from the start, I sent magical words (after polite explanation what we can do and what we can't) "If you do not like this, please feel free to cancel. We don't charge any penalties for cancellation". Only one canceled (demanded early check in and late checkout because she is Genius").

So, dressing up my suit - house rules. No more throwing coins at poor host, who gave all his money to the bank to pay mortgage to cover wonderful stay of a stranger!

Journeys End

Well done you,  very interesting and I am sure true.  Spent loads of time answering French guests for birthday party and cake, we are 40mins drive from nearest shop! for 4 guests 2 arriving separately.  My staff pulled the stops out pictures of wedding dress for parents.  We only have 6 bungalows and they had two.  Not even throw of coins for my staff or Review! This is not polite or normal and find some guests have no manners at all.  So much unchargeable and would have cost an arm and a leg at a hotel....been taken for a ride now a number of times by guests where its cost me more than the price they paid for the room.  4 horrible false reviews that look ridiculous against our good ones.  I answer them nicely...and actually see it as a chance to promote now too. 8.8 though and only just finished our 2nd 5 month season, on an island so difficult this year we close for 5 months to upgrade!

jennifer mary …

I believe in giving the guest nothing to criticize but no guesthouse is perfect so I keep a stock of what I call 'Feedback Forms' inside the information folders on the desk in the guest's rooms.  Guest can use the forms  to comment on items that might not be working to their liking (perhaps they feel that the shower is not hard enough or the basin empties too slowly - that kind of thing).  So far I have had no bad reviews of that nature and I have been in business for 13 years. 

I also believe in telling guests on arrival to let me know if they have any problem during their stay (my phone number is on the breakfast menu, on guest information pamphlets etc in the room) and I always ask them if everything was okay when I see them at breakfast. I maintain a friendly attitude so that they are not intimidated and will be honest with me and I always attend to complaints immediately.  If something can't be fixed straight away then I leave a note in the room with information about what is happening and how long I estimate it will take to fix. Same with power outages or water shortages. If people know that you are concerned (which I truly am) they will always be more generous while you fix the problem.

The most unfair criticisms I have had have always been on price and I do not respond to those because I have no intention of reducing my prices and there is no point in being insincere.  (BTW we are the most reasonably priced guest house in our area).   If the price suits you when you are shopping around, why complain about it afterwards, especially when such complaints are unfounded.  Your quality guesthouse can always be compared to a cheaper one in a less salubrious area but guests don't book into those do they? I offer quality service and good bed linen, good food, comfort, convenience and a high standard of cleanliness.  People who complain about price want all of that but then they don't want to pay for it and, as we all know, nothing is free. 






Daniela Troia

How to respond to a very negative review from a guest who broke something in my apartment and he wrote a negative review as we had to retain some money for repairs from his deposit? He complained that he had to go up three set of stairs (the apartment is on the third floor and the description clearly says there is no lift!), also he complained about having to empty the water bottles that hold the water produced by the air conditioning and some other comments about the communal pool. I believe he was just annoyed we had to retain part of his deposit as we exchanged messages during and after his stay and he was very happy about the apartment.thanks