2015 Airbnb Open — Ten hosting improvements I’ll be making after the conference
(You might also like to read read about ten things Airbnb did well, and not so well at the conference. But here you can learn how to be a better host by seeing how I distilled knowledge from the Open and converted it into improvement action items)
One of my favorite things about going to the Airbnb Open is talking to hosts. We have diverse listings in different places but common goals, and many teachable moments to share with each other as we strive for better guest experiences.
Many of the hosts at the event are the highest quality hosts on the Airbnb platform. Worldwide, just eight percent of hosts are what are called Superhosts.
To maintain superhost status you need to pass four tests every quarter: 10 or more reservations in the last 4 quarter period, 90% or higher responsiveness measurement, zero cancelled reservations, and at least 80% of your overall ratings must be 5 stars.
Only 8% of all hosts meet these strict requirements, but at the 2015 Open, 40% of attendees were Superhosts.
So when I broke bread with someone from Oman (which I did), or Oklahoma (which I didn’t), the odds were good that they knew a thing or two about exceeding guest expectations. It is much harder than you might think to get 80% 5 star reviews from guests.
Here are ten things I picked up from fellow hosts, that I will apply to my very own properties (which currently have 94% five stars).
I’m not big on social media, but that doesn’t mean my guests aren’t. I met hosts with instagram accounts for their listings. So I resolve to encourage guests to post photos with the #vailspot hashtag. In addition to individual appeals I will add a note about my hashtag to every welcome note I leave for guests.
I used to have a very difficult shower. You know what I’m talking about. You visit a friend and can never get the temperature quite right. You go from scalding to freezing and can never get the water quite right. You only take a couple showers on a visit and never can reliably reproduce a comfortable cleaning.
To help first time users I marked the porcelain tile of my shower with tape as a stop gap.
When I got serious about hosting I changed the shower head and got a better dual shower head and controls.
At the Open I learned I could take it a step further from a Caribbean host. There are shower heads with digital temperature displays. I’ll install one over Thanksgiving.
Business Travel Ready
The Open is a forum for new concepts and software releases by the Airbnb team. As someone who once had an amazing business trip experience renting a beautiful apartment with my hotel budget in New York City, the business ready program was a very exciting announcement for me.
Listings meeting business traveler friendly requirements like hair dryers, laptop friendly work spaces, 24 hour check in and more can now get business certification. Travelers can search for these listings and identify them with a briefcase badge. Airbnb is also partnering with company travel departments to increase business travel. This is great for hosts. Business travelers travel midweek, are not seasonal, and spend more.
One of my top goals upon returning from France is to make my listing business compatible. You can too by visiting the Corporate & Business Travel Accommodations site.
Note that only entire properties are eligible and they require at least three positive reviews among many other prerequisites.
Another exciting new feature rolled out at the Open is Smart Pricing. With smart pricing your property becomes more like an Expedia listed hotel room with variable pricing through daily price changes.
This is a feature I plan to test out carefully. Airbnb has had price suggestions for a while and in my area they have been a little crazy at times. Smart Pricing just makes the process of manually reviewing and assigning suggestions automatic.
I’ll be reviewing this feature and thinking about implementing it.
The new Airbnb Community site replaces an old private groups forum where hosts could communicate. It will be a world readable forum of questions and answers from hosts.
My goal is to sign up for it and start participating. So far it looks pretty weak in terms of high quality content and interactivity.
The old community site which was private to hosts had a lot of engagement by contrast.
My goal is to ask and answer at least one question and see how it goes.
An idea I got from a keynote is a way to make cleanings more consistent regardless of who does them.
The quick and dirty way I hope to do this is by populating a Dropbox folder with pictures and a short movie walk through. Most cleaners don’t bring laptops to their cleaning so this might not be ideal.
I was touched by Brian Chesky’s roast of his parents tourism heavy visit to Paris (spoiler — his parents spend a lot of time in lines on a bus and eat at Subway, generally looking miserable). It was followed by a contrasting local guided experience where everyone is smiling and dancing and experiencing the real Paris.
I pride myself on letting guests know special insider tips, like where in the summer you can probably see a wild Beaver walking distance from my unit, or where in the winter the snow is best when it gets crowded.
I usually offer this information when prompted by a question. Next year I will try to get creative and give even guests who are not asking questions local knowledge.
I really enjoyed Marie Kondo’s presentation about zen and tidiness. It was the kind of thing I would have never sought out on my own. The cliff notes are that you shouldn’t keep stuff you don’t really enjoy and you should give away that which no longer brings you joy.
I resolve to apply this in a purging exercise sometime soon at my properties. It will be painful at first, but I think I will be happier in the long run, and my properties will be tidier.
Reviews in listing description
Evelyn Badia is well known in the Airbnb Host community. She has a blogand a regular webinar. She gave a session at the Open about reviews and one of the interesting ideas I took from it was to use your guest’s own words in your marketing materials.
She suggested quoting your guests in your listing description text and even putting the same text on top of your photos where appropriate. For example if someone talks about “the best night of sleep in my life on that awesome bed”. You could put that quote on top of a picture of the bedroom.
I am going to pull the text of all my reviews, read them all, and figure out a way that makes sense to incorporate some of the language back into my listing description. I have over 100 reviews so this might take some time.
Nate (Blecharczyk), a co-founder of Airbnb shared his hosting experience in a main stage address. Something that stood out to me was a nerdy trick he used to help guests get reservations at difficult restaurants. When they book he sends them links to reserve tables during their stay at some of his favorite places.
In response to this inspiration I am going to work on a side hacking project to help users do similar in Vail. I’m having trouble finding a public OpenTable API (I suspect that Nate has private access) but I hope to have a solution that also incorporates text messaging and Google Sheets by the end of ski season.
Bonus: Eames Chair and Moo Cards
So much happened at the Open it’s hard to limit to just ten improvement ideas. Here are two more quick hitters.
I met a gentleman with 10 entire properties in the New Orleans area. Half our conversation was about furniture and I couldn’t understand a single designer he mentioned. I already have an Aeron chair in all my properties and one of the things I love about Vail is that the public library has Eames chairs (local tip: great for napping!). So I am going to investigate investing in an Eames chair, which I have always aspired to own, for my own property.
Moo.com is a business card business, and it turns out it is in Rhode Island where I grew up. Rhode Island School of Design is where the founders of Airbnb met. So why not promote this business from the biggest little state in the Union? I met a couple hosts with property business cards. I always run into people on ski lifts I want to give business cards. By the end of this year I resolve to have beautiful, photo heavy cards made for my property. If I get ten different photos I can give a virtual tour on a chair lift and then leave one of the cards with the potential guest.
That’s it for 2015 folks! Be sure to check out my related posts about 10 things Airbnb did great and not so great at the Open.