This is a guest post cordially provided by Asher Fergusson.
After having multiple horrible experiences with Airbnb while on vacation in Paris last September I decided to do some research to see what’s most likely to go wrong. This lead to over one hundred hours of research analyzing 1021 horror stories shared by Airbnb guests on third-party review sites. What I learned was that there are some key problems that guests complain about most often, and those issues are fairly straightforward to fix. Many of them can be easily improved upon by hosts, and that improvement can drastically improve the guest experience, host ratings, and reviews as a result. Naturally, this will also make a host more profitable.
The following infographic sums up the findings of my study and shows which complaints were most commonly shared.
There are a few issues on here that can be very directly impacted by simple changes to host habits, even without being “over the top” or extravagant with your services or listing.
Commit – Don’t Cancel.
Guests expect and hope for at least some semblance of commitment from you – that’s why they pay up-front and “sign” an online contract. They’ve done their homework and chosen your listing (and you, by extension), so don’t cause them the hassle of having to re-book unless it’s absolutely unavoidable. Trust me, finding last-minute accommodation is a huge hassle and seldom goes as planned, and Airbnb Customer Care can be difficult to deal with (just look at the numbers in the graphic!). I also know from experience.
One of the most common cancellation issues was hosts either double-listing a location on different websites or at different price-points and canceling on the less-favorable guest after booking and payment. This is really uncool and causes a lot of stress for guests.
When you can’t avoid cancellation for some reason, try to be the hero for your guests as much as possible by helping them with customer service and re-booking. This can really smooth the process of finding another location, and will earn you major points with guests!
It’s the simplest, most effective way to impress your guests, and it really goes farther than you think. Guests who book your listing are expecting, at a minimum, for you to communicate check-in plans thoroughly and honestly so that they know exactly what to expect.
If you can’t physically be there to let your guests in, tell them ahead of time, and make well-communicated arrangements to get them into the listing safely and in a timely manner.
If you’re going to be meeting them, try to be understanding about any hiccups or uncontrollable lateness on their part – they’re traveling and have little control over the logistics of their day, so they deserve some extra understanding.
Above all, keep the lines of communication open and on the Airbnb platform as much as possible. If you have hours during which you do not want to be disturbed, that’s a-okay as long as you let them know that those times are for emergencies only or give them an alternate contact (or both!).
Be honest about your listing.
Listings that are not as described are a huge problem, and a staggering number of guests even report that listings are unsafe or a health hazard in some way. If you’re listing a location for an Airbnb rental, it must be safe, and it should be clean and tidy.
When you list your property, be as honest and inclusive as possible – guests who know exactly what they’re getting will give you better reviews than guests who read your description and expected a Bellagio-level rental but got Motel 6.
Also, this may seem backward, but you should actually take pictures with a standard digital camera or your phone instead of using professional-level photos. Wide-angle lenses, retouching, and filtering can set an extremely unfair expectation and can result in unfavorable ratings and negative reviews.
Be thorough, honest, and fair when listing amenities and features, and you’ll attract the right kinds of guests who will appreciate your listing and you as a host.
Consider “under-selling” and “over-delivering”.
This is another approach that may seem unexpected, but it works in the host’s favor more often than not. When you underplay the niceness or features of your listing a little, you set the bar at a level that you know can be achieved, no matter what. Then you get the opportunity to “wow” your guests with the things you always do.
It’s also fun to take a little bit of time to add some nice touches to an even bigger wow-factor. Things like an information booklet (a simple 3-ring binder will do) that suggests local food or attractions, and which contains instructions for your listing and contact information for you and alternate contacts will strike a really good tone with your guests right off the bat. Including instruction for your appliances also ensure that your guests will know exactly how to respect your listing and use its utilities properly.
Really, the main lesson I took away from the study is that guests would like it if hosts (and Airbnb) would follow the “golden rule” – to treat people as they, themselves, would like to be treated.
It’s a simple rule of life that if you set a good tone with your guests, they’ll be far more likely to do the same with you. You can’t win them all and bad reviews happen, but at least you know you did what you could, and you maintained a professional demeanor in-person and in writing.
Asher Fergusson has been an enthusiastic traveler since he left Australia in 2004. He has lived all over the world including India, Europe, Hawaii, and mainland US. He has used Airbnb since 2012 and has had some amazing experiences and some nightmares as well. Asher loves being a dad, eating delicious food, photography, surfing big waves on Maui, walking barefoot on the earth, and yoga.