Many of you rely on reviews to grow your business—they highlight your amazing hospitality. They’re also a helpful way to get specific feedback on what you’re doing well as a host and where you can improve. But there are times when you feel like a review may be misleading or irrelevant to future guests, and we know that can be painful both personally and professionally.
It’s tricky. Guests and hosts need to be able to share what they feel is important about their experience, so we don’t want to limit what people can and can’t say on the platform. However, it’s also essential that reviews reflect a guest’s stay and that they provide useful information to future hosts and guests. As part of our ongoing journey to get this balance right, here are some of the changes we’re making:
With our updated Review Policy—effective December 11, 2019—we’ve addressed two types of reviews that we know can be frustrating: irrelevant reviews and biased reviews. The updated policy clarifies our expectations and ensures our customer support agents are equipped to remove these types of reviews.
By updating our policy to cover irrelevant and biased reviews, we’re strengthening our commitment to building a community of trust. These review updates build upon our existing Content Policy (which outlines the kind of content that is never allowed on Airbnb) and our new Guest Standards Policy, which will introduce a system for tracking bad guests. Under our updated Review Policy, guests and hosts who repeatedly leave certain kinds of biased reviews may be removed from the platform.
Let’s look at irrelevant reviews and biased reviews in a little more detail:
Reviews that are irrelevant
This policy covers situations where a review contains information that’s irrelevant to you as a host or your listing—and isn’t useful to future guests.
Here are a few examples:
Under the updated policy, both of those reviews would be removed because they contain only irrelevant info.
There are also times when a guest comments on issues outside of your control, or unrelated to the service you provided. Those types of reviews may be removed if they only contain irrelevant content that isn’t useful to future guests. Here are a few examples of irrelevant content that could result in the removal of a review:
These comments have nothing to do with your listing or the service you provide as a host and aren’t useful to future guests. So, under our updated Review Policy, our customer support agents would be empowered to remove both the review content and star rating.
Reviews with biased information
Our community benefits most when reviews share an unbiased view of the member’s experience. Our updated Review Policy covers the removal of reviews with inappropriate bias—this may include situations where the reviewer is attempting to extort the person being reviewed, has a conflict of interest, or competes with the person being reviewed. Here’s a closer look at three types of biased reviews that will be removed under our updated policy:
Guests and hosts who repeatedly violate our updated Review Policy may face consequences, including account suspension and removal from the platform. We’ve also invested in retraining our customer support agents and improving our workflows, so hosts will receive better support in instances when irrelevant or biased reviews happen. As with our new Guest Standards Policy that tracks bad guests, our updated Review Policy includes warnings and education that can lead to suspension or removal of people who repeatedly leave biased reviews.
Updating our Review Policy is another important step in our journey of supporting guests and hosts like you who rely on relevant, useful reviews.
What kinds of reviews will be removed by this updated Review Policy?
A healthy review system is one that respects and protects our community’s genuine feedback. For that reason, we take the removal of any review very seriously and only remove reviews that clearly violate Airbnb’s Review Policy. You can read the updated Review Policy in full, but, in short, this means a review is only removed if:
Guests and hosts who repeatedly violate our updated Review Policy may face consequences, including account suspension and removal from the platform.
What kind of documentation should I have under the updated Review Policy?
We can’t emphasize this enough: Always aim to communicate with guests through the Airbnb platform. If conversations happen off-platform, be sure to keep a record of those conversations too. That way, if you ever need to report a review to our agents, they’ll have—at their fingertips—the information they need to make the right decision. That said, even when you don’t have this preferred documentation, we encourage you to report any reviews that violate our Review Policy because we may be able to identify other evidence or patterns of behavior regarding that guest.
Will all irrelevant review content be removed?
If Airbnb determines that the review contains no relevant information about a host or guest or listing, the review will be removed. Reviews that contain mostly irrelevant information are also subject to removal, but only where the relevant information does not meaningfully inform community members.
Where a review contains information that is unrelated to an experience as a host or guest, or is focused on something beyond the control of the person being reviewed, our team will determine the relevance of the review by considering how useful it is to our community of hosts and guests. To do this, we’ll look at two things:
What’s the difference between extortionary and retaliatory reviews?
It’s considered extortion if a guest attempts to use reviews (or review responses) to force a host to do something they aren’t obligated to do. So, for example, if a guest threatens to leave a bad review if you don’t allow them to bring additional guests, that review would be extortionary and would be removed under the updated policy.
Then there are times when a host may feel that a negative review is made in retaliation. This is when, for example, a host doesn’t allow the guest to bring additional guests, and the guest goes on to leave a review about how inflexible their host was, or even writes a negative review about cleanliness or location. However, without evidence of a threat to leave a negative review, this would not be considered extortionary and would not be removed under the updated policy. If this happens, we encourage hosts to use their public response to politely address the issue.
Why aren’t you removing all retaliatory reviews?
While we understand how frustrating it can be when you receive a review that feels retaliatory, we don’t have a crystal ball to tell us what a person’s true motivations are. So, without a documented threat to leave a negative review or other evidence of a biased review, Airbnb won’t intervene. Here’s why:
To reiterate, as outlined in our updated Review Policy, Airbnb can—and will—intervene where there’s evidence of a threat, promise of action that’s dependent on the review, or other conflict of interest and/or competition. Additionally, we will continue to intervene when a guest leaves a review that violates our content policies—including discriminatory content or a violent threat.
Sometimes, a negative review is less about the guest’s experience in your space and more about them not understanding how reviews or the platform work—they can even be the result of an honest mistake. Earlier this year, we built a tool to help address these types of reviews by automatically detecting inconsistencies, and then interrupting the flow to give guests a chance to correct them. So, for example, if a guest gives you 4 or 5 stars in every category (cleanliness, accuracy, and so on) but then a 1-, 2-, or 3-star rating overall, a pop-up will ask if they’re sure about their overall rating.
Similarly, if a guest leaves a low rating for something like location or value—two categories we know can be interpreted differently by guests—a clarifying question will appear.
These interruptions force guests to think a little more about the rating they’re giving, which they can then go back and correct. As a result, we’re already seeing more consistency between the category scores and overall scores. Improvements like these help ensure that guests’ ratings align with their experience—better ratings are more useful to guests and reward the hard work of hosts.
Reviews are the backbone of our community—they help hosts grow their businesses, and they help guests gain the confidence they need to make the booking. We have a dedicated team doing lots of thinking around how to make our entire review experience better for hosts and guests. We’ll continue to improve the review system over time—please keep sending us your feedback about improvements that you’d like to see. In the meantime, we’re excited about these changes and hope you are too.
I have one question that stands out for me in particular. It's about the idea that if a host offers a checkout that is later than stated, it represents a bribe for a good review. I have a check in time listed as "by agreement", because I personally hate being forced to sit around for hours after arrival in a city to finally be allowed into my room. I want my guests to feel welcomed by being flexible, so they can come straight from the airport. However, because some people book months ahead and others only days ahead, I realized that I could have a problem with enough cleaning time before the 2nd booking if I didn't put a time limit on the departure for my guests. When I know that in advance, I can accept the next booking without hesitation or having to ask the 2nd guest to arrive later in the day, when it may be inconvenient for their schedule.
Even though I have set my listing to allow one day ahead and one day after each booking to be blocked for the cleaning process, Airbnb has, on a regular basis, allowed booking requests to come through for dates when prior booked guests are scheduled to leave. To my point, I regularly allow guests to name their preferred checkout time also, upon arrival, if I have a few days before the next guests arrive. I do this because I want to, in terms of offering excellent hospitality, not because I am attempting to tip the scales for a better review. I also offer guests free entrance to the museums in which I have a membership privilege allowing me to bring guests in for free. It is my choice made in the name of hospitality, not bribery.
I try to treat guests like friends I have invited into my home, so generosity and flexibility levels may exceed a standard business model. That does not mean I'm bribing for a good review or to ace out the competition, but does mean that I want to be an exceptional host. My question is, will you scuttle a good review if I continue to treat my guests to these benefits?
It says "Conflict of interest: ....or providing something of value (like cash or a late checkout) in exchange for positive reviews."
Do you tell your guests you will only give them a flexible check-in time if they leave you a positive review? I'm guessing not, so this doesn't apply to you.