[:en]If you manage a vacation rental, you know how critical keeping a 5-star ranking can be. Potential guests look at your reviews to determine whether they should hand over a credit card to rent your property. If the property has 5 stars, it’s a no-brainer. If it has 3.5, they might decide to pass you over for a less risky-seeming property.
There’s just one problem: reviews can’t reflect the quality of the property, the attentiveness of the management, or the amenities provided.
Guests should be able to set their own expectations for what a property will provide based on more than the photos. They need to know what caliber of accommodation they’ve rented.
They need, in other words, a rating.
Isn’t a Review a Rating?
Nope, but it’s easy to get confused, since we use stars to measure both. What you’re looking at on Airbnb or VRBO is a review: a guest’s opinion of the property and its features. Guests are ranking the communication, accuracy, location, and so on based on their hopes for what level of communication, accuracy, and location would be provided.
Reviews are a measure of a single factor: did this guest get what they expected from their stay?
Naturally, this means that guests with more accurate expectations will leave higher reviews, even if the property is objectively not a very good means of accommodation. We recently saw an Airstream with a shower made out of an actual metal garbage can surrounded by a flimsy plastic shower curtain.
That property had 4.5 stars.
This isn’t that surprising. Guests knew they were arriving to an Airstream; they had seen the pictures. They expected a “glamping” experience, and that’s exactly what they got. Since the host had thoughtfully provided many amenities that made it easy to enjoy camping in a mobile trailer, the guests were thrilled with the experience they had.
If the guest had been expecting a studio apartment and been presented with the Airstream’s garbage-pail shower, they would have been furious. But since the Airstream was clearly an Airstream, guests’ expectations were set low and easy to exceed.
It’s a little harder to set expectations for a house or apartment.
One apartment in the same area as the Airstream had a mere 3 reviews and the bad luck to get some disgruntled guests right out of the gate. One left a 5-star review, one left a 4-star review, and one left a 1-star review because the property had “put no effort into decor” and “didn’t even have salt and pepper.” The reviewer was also unhappy with the lack of street parking.
Now this apartment has just over a 3-star review, simply because one guest expected a nicer apartment with more amenities than this one possessed. The pictures were accurate, the amenities listed were all there – but the guest had expected more, and was unhappy to not have received it.
How Ratings Work
In the hotel industry, ratings work by creating objective measures for each hotel’s quality. The guest can then set their expectations accordingly, knowing that a 1-star hotel provides a more basic offering while a 5-star hotel is awash in luxury.
Forbes, AAA, and Michelin all have hotel ratings systems, all independently operated, thought their requirements tend to be quite similar across the board. A hotel that AAA has rated at “3 Diamonds” is likely also able to achieve Forbes’ “3 Stars” rating.
That said, it’s up to the discretion of the rating body. Forbes, AAA, and Michelin all review hotels regularly and remove or add hotels ratings as necessary. A hotel that had been 4-star for years could drop to a 3-star if Michelin visits again and finds that the property has gone downhill. Similarly, a property once seemed 1-star could raise itself to a 3-star with some additions or remodeling.
Ratings are based on a (mostly) objective set of criteria. While there are a few standards that are in the eye of the beholder – such as the distinction between “uncoordinated” furniture and “well-coordinated” furniture – by and large they are easy to assess objectively.
Here, for example, are the AAA standards for the section “Clothes Hanging Space.”
- 1-Diamond: Open wall-mounted clothes rack
- 2-Diamond: Semi-enclosed clothes hanging area with detachable wood, plastic, or heavy metal hangers
- 3-Diamond: Fully enclosed clothing-hanging space with at least 6 wood or plastic, removable, matching hangers
- 4-Diamond: Same as 3-Diamond, plus at least 8 open-hook wood hangers
- 5-Diamond: Same as 4-Diamond, plus at least 10 hangers, and an illuminated closet
Pretty irrefutable. If you have an enclosed clothes-hanging space with a mix of 4 wood and plastic hangers, you will be ranked as a 2-Diamond property for this standard. If you enclose the clothes-hanging area and upgrade to 6 matching hangers, you can meet the 3-Diamond standard for Clothes Hanging Space.
Vacation rentals do not have a ratings system that allows guests to make these kinds of objective decisions. With only reviews to go on, they only know that previous guests liked their stay. They don’t know if the property has outlets next to the beds, a desk in the room, or large enough towels.
Vacation rental ratings would provide certainty about what type of property guests can expect. And property managers and owners need to provide that certainty – because otherwise, guests will be in short supply.
Vacation Rentals Need Trust
Guests aren’t certain whether they can trust vacation rentals. While reviews assure them there’s nothing actively wrong with the property, they’re not always confident they can get what they need
That uncertainty keeps many travelers from making the shift from hotel lodging to alternative accommodations. USA Today recently summarized the problem in an article titled “Are travelers cooling to the sharing economy?”:
Travelers say they’re tired of the unknown.
Without a ratings system, vacation rentals will remain an unknown quantity to travelers, and their interest in trying them will dwindle – as, indeed, it already has. In 2017, 26% of Americans said they were “very likely” to use sharing economy services during their vacations. This year, that number has dropped to 19%.
An objective vacation rental rating system would assure guests that they know what they’re getting from the property they book. Vacation rentals won’t lose any of the assets that make them an appealing alternative to hotels: they’ll remain unique in their layout, furnishings, and neighborhoods.
The only thing that will change is that the guest will know in advance if the property is going to meet their standards for a great vacation rental.
That’s a level of trust this industry badly needs to earn.
Properly is a changeover tool that helps property managers set and maintain standards for each and every property, no matter who’s in charge of cleaning. With visual checklists and verification photos that ensure you know each property is guest-ready long before the guest arrives, Properly can help you win travelers’ trust. Sign up for a demo and learn more here. [:]