Over the past half-year, I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to 15 cities around the world to teach classes for Airbnb hosts, a class I call “Hospitality Moments of Truth.” While this was meant as an educational tour with me teaching what I’ve learned in 27 years as a hotelier, it truly became more of a listening tour as I got to learn so much from you. Here are some of my key lessons and the five most powerful questions I heard on the road.
My first lesson is that Airbnb hosts passionately want to learn more and be the best hosts in the world. I found such an enthused and curious set of hosts amongst the nearly 2,000 hosts I’ve met on this Hospitality tour. And, for many of you, being an Airbnb host has allowed you to become a micro-entrepreneur. You may never have imagined you’d own your own business, but now you do and you’re looking for guidance and tools to be as great as you can be.
I also learned that you want to create more of an ongoing dialogue with Airbnb. This is part of the reason we’ve just created a program in which we’re surveying Airbnb hosts regularly about their level of confidence and contentment as a host as well as their level of satisfaction with Airbnb as a business partner. You will likely get a survey in the next few months and we appreciate you giving us your candid feedback as it’s one of our primary ways for us to become more effective as a company. And, you can always reach out to me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As for the questions I consistently heard on my tour, here are five of the most powerful along with my answers:
1. “We love that you’ve introduced Hospitality Standards because creating better quality Airbnb experiences helps all hosts and there are a few hosts who aren’t taking their hosting seriously. What are you doing to enforce these Standards and assure that bad hosts get better or get off the Airbnb site?”
Now that we’ve introduced Airbnb’s nine Hospitality Standards as well as tips on how hosts can use these to improve the guest experience, we are helping those hosts who are not doing well on a particular Standard know that fact as well as giving them feedback on how they could be better. For example, if a host is consistently unresponsive to guest reservations inquiries, we give that host a warning and, in certain cases, have told a host that we have to suspend their account until such time as they’ve proven to us that they can responsibly respond more quickly to guest inquiries. We’re also working on creating more materials to help hosts develop their hosting skills.
2. “I appreciate the new Host Standards and believe they’ll help me be a better host. But, what about standards for guests? I have more and more guests staying with me who are trying Airbnb for the first time and they don’t really understand that being an Airbnb guest is different than being a hotel guest.”
You’re right. Given that we’ve surpassed 11 million guests who’ve used Airbnb and our momentum continues, there are thousands of new guests using Airbnb for the first time every day, so we’re developing recommendations to help new travelers. Upon signing up, a new guest will be given a simple set of guidelines that helps them understand what it means to be a guest and we’re also developing a short video with Airbnb guests talking about the rewards and responsibilities of being a guest. Our goal is to help manage the expectations of our guests to let them know that they ought to treat their host, their place, and their neighbors and neighborhood as if they’re going to be a long-time friend.
3. “While the review system is a fundamental part of the Airbnb community, it has a few broken parts. I don’t feel comfortable giving an honest public review when I’ve been disappointed. What can you do to help the review system become more candid and helpful in providing respectful, but honest feedback?”
Great question. Trust is the cultural glue that makes Airbnb such a powerful platform, and our review system is one of the key ingredients in that glue. We will be working to improve the system in 2014. We’re proud that almost 70% of hosts and guests leave a review after each visit (far higher than the percentage of hotel guests who fill out an online guest satisfaction survey), but we also know that one of the primary reasons people don’t review is because of their fear of retribution. We are doing a pilot study right now on reviews in which hosts and guests do not get to see each other’s reviews until they’re simultaneously published. We’ll also be shortening the period of time to create a review to 14 days from 30 days since more than 90% of reviews come in within 2 weeks.
4. “What are your three most valuable tips that can make me an even better host?”
First, I’m a big believer in the idea of creating an authentic listing. I recommend hosts list the three things people love about your listing and the two things that some people don’t like—not only does it help you find the right guests for your experience, but it also shows you’re honest and self-aware. This leads to trust and the first thing you want to do with a prospective guest is to grow their trust.
Second, find out why a guest is coming to your city. The more you know about the guest, the better you can make recommendations of unique things they can do when they arrive. Customized suggestions show that you truly care about your guest.
Third, soon after your guest has checked in, send them a message to see how they’re doing and if they have any questions. Guests are often cautious about looking for help about something that’s not working properly and this kind of proactive step on your part will make it easier for them to ask a question and for you to maximize their delight.
5. “I want to be a SuperHost so that prospective guests can know they’ll get a consistently great experience if they stay with me. You mentioned the SuperHost program coming back at the Airbnb Open in November. When will we hear more about this?”
We’re excited to introduce the elements of the new SuperHost program later this year as well as other levels of recognition that hosts can earn. Stay tuned to learn more—we’ll have more details in early summer 2014.