By Culin Tate, author of Host Coach
Succeeding as a host does not have to be elusive or a mysterious process. By adopting the correct hospitality mindset, and understanding the categories hosts are rated on, you can accelerate and ensure your status as an excellent host.
As a coach, mentees always ask me how to excel on Airbnb. The factors measured by the Airbnb algorithm for host success and listing placement are intertwined and algorithmic. So, striving for high occupancy, not canceling guest stays, generating quick responses to guests communication, and receiving 5-star reviews will drive your listing upward in search ranks and play into your progress as a host. You have several tools to ensure success for each of the measured factors.
Aside from algorithmic rewards for host actions, there is also a consumer preference component. Many people—myself included— look at reviews pertaining to hosts as well as the star rating of a property when planning a trip. Why? Because guests know that great hosts have great reviews, great guest communication, and a strong commitment to guest satisfaction. The Airbnb algorithm values what guests value, and the reward system ensures that hosts/listings that meet customer expectations are the first ones they see in a search.
When your Airbnb listing is published, you as a host will have officially joined the hospitality industry. You are now in charge of guest relations and are managing a team of housekeepers and other service professionals. Your goal is to deliver a friendly and generous reception to each of your guests.
Creating the correct customer service mindset for yourself and your team will help you navigate guest communications, team mishaps, and circumstances beyond your control. Ritz-Carlton is considered the epitome of hospitality, so as hosts, we can learn a great deal from their company credo. The main takeaways from the Ritz-Carlton credo are prioritizing the genuine care and comfort of your guests, as well as fulfilling their unexpressed wishes and needs. These areas of focus should guide your customer service mindset. Inspired by the Ritz-Carlton, we created our own credo to help frame our mindset as hosts as well as the expectations of our team members:
The Host Coach Credo
Our properties are places where taking care of guests is our number one goal. We endeavor to provide unparalleled cleanliness, comfort, and attention to details that will both exceed our guests’ expectations and delight them.
Airbnb Rating System
Airbnb does not have a host credo or a defined list of guest service values. However, they do have seven subcategories for guest reviews, which means these areas are important to both the company and to guests. Understanding the subcategories of accuracy, cleanliness, check in, communication, location, value, and amenities will aid your quest for great reviews and Superhost status.
Listing Quality > Guest Expectations = High Accuracy Reviews
During the review process, your guests will be asked to rate your listing on accuracy. What does this mean? Guests are asked if your online listing accurately represents your real-life listing. Guests are generally happy when your rental meets or exceeds their expectations. Guests are unhappy when your rental falls below their expectations. This is why we suggested in Chapter 6 that you take accurate photos of all rooms in your listing. Guests do not mind an older bathroom as long as they know about it before they book. Also, be sure that you accurately represent the location of your listing and its amenities. Transparency in all aspects is a policy that will boost accuracy reviews.
Listing Cleanliness > Guest Expectations = High Cleanliness Reviews
Cleanliness is the next subcategory guests will rate your listing on. I believe this is the most important subcategory for overall guest satisfaction. Airbnb has a list of cleanliness standards that include the following: making sure your space is free of mold and vermin, free of mildew in showers and excessive dust, and that cleanings occur between guest stays. Your goal is to ensure that your listing is sparkling clean every time a guest checks in.
Good Communication + Keyless Entry = High Check-in Reviews
Check-in is another guest review subcategory. Communication and technology make this a very easy category to excel in. A smooth check-in experience sets the tone for your guest’s stay. It is smart to invest in a digital lock for your short-term rental. Keyless locks remove the hassle of looking for a lockbox, losing keys, and guests locking themselves out of your listing. They also remove the need for someone to meet guests at a designated time to provide them with a key.
In your guest messaging, communicate that your rental has a keyless lock and that the code will be sent to the guest five days before check in. Then, message guests the door code five days before their arrival along with other standard check in information. If you are using an automated guest messaging tool, like Hospitable.com, these emails can be set up to generate automatically so that you never forget to send them.
Automated Messages + Prompt Responses = High Communication Reviews
Guests will also be asked to rate you on your communication as a host. Using automated messaging software, such as Hospitable.com, ensures that all standard messages are communicated in a timely manner. As a host, you are still responsible for promptly responding to any non-standard messages from guests. When you hear the Airbnb app chime, immediately check your messages and respond to your guests. If you need time to find the correct answer or solution for the guest, reply immediately and communicate that you are working on the answer for them. Guests simply want to be heard and to know that you as a host are available to help.
Have conversations with your guests even when you sleep.
Accurate Location + Environmental Expectations = High Location Reviews
Believe it or not, your listing will also be rated on its location. Airbnb wants guests to receive an accurate understanding of where your listing is located and how close it is to local points of interest. It is also important to accurately describe your listing’s environment. Set guest expectations as to whether your listing is secluded, whether it is exposed to street noise or any other environmental considerations that would be helpful for guests to know ahead of booking.
Value > Price Paid = High Value Reviews
Value is another subcategory for guests to review. In this context, value equates to a guest’s opinion on whether your rental was worth the price they paid for it. If you are charging high nightly rates, make sure to blow your guests away with stellar communication, plenty of amenities, and surprise and delight items. Together, these factor heavily into a property’s perceived value.
Accurate Amenity List + All Amenities in Working Order = High Amenity Reviews
Your listing will also be rated on its amenities. This does not mean you will receive low stars if you do not have a swimming pool. Rather, this subcategory is related to the amenities you advertise in your listing. As a host, you want to ensure that everything you promise to guests in your listing is in good working order. Setting this expectation with your housekeeper that they will check amenities during turnovers and will alert you to any issues is a great way to make sure your amenity score stays high.
Each of Airbnb’s seven subcategories feeds into the most important question posed to guests: “Rate your overall experience at this listing.’’ You are in the running for a 5-star rating if a guest experiences all of the following: the listing description was accurate; it was sparkling clean upon guest arrival; the check-in process was smooth; you communicated efficiently as a host; the location met expectations; the price was in line with the value of the listing; and all amenities were functioning. Even if you were not perfect in every category, a guest’s overall experience is what determines their starred review of your property.
The Personal Benefits of Hosting
Aside from benefiting your bottom line, becoming an Airbnb host will change your life. You will develop keen hospitality skills and have the opportunity to share your favorite place with guests. Over time, you will be tandem to engagements, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and family holidays. As a host, you will also develop close relationships with your housekeeper, service professionals, and neighbors. Airbnb allows your community and skill set to grow exponentially. Enjoy the journey!
Culin harnesses his skills as a successful tech entrepreneur & super host of multiple properties to coach you to achieve your goals as an Airbnb host. He offers specific coaching in 8 areas related to hosting. Visit Host Coach and schedule your free 30-minute consultation.
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The more bookings you get, the less free time you have.
You’re stuck in the old ‘time-for-money’ paradigm…
…and it sucks.
Luckily, however, there are ways (many in fact) that you can run a successful Airbnb business and even scale it up to multiple listings in a way that doesn’t impact your free time.