If IB is inevitable, consider 2 vital refinements

Status changed to: Not In Plan

As discussed in other posts, it seems clear that Instant Book is inevitable based on how Airbnb is driving guests toward it, with hosts expected to follow along.

It’s unfortunate, but there it is. As hosts, I don’t think we can boycott our way out of this mess. So maybe there’s a way to make IB more workable.  I propose two refinements.

 

No. 1: MORE OPTIONS IN THE INSTANT BOOK POP-UP WINDOW.

If you examine the “funnel” through which guests searching for properties now pass, you’ll note that before long, they see a pop-up window about the Instant Book feature. 2016-12-09.pngThe language used in that pop-up suggests that unless you press the red button that says “Show Me Instant Book Listings,” you won’t get to see those easy-to-book listings. Which of course isn’t true. At the same time, the language also suggests that by pressing that button, you’ll still see non-IB listings. This also isn’t true. Press that red button—the only option given to guests – and you’ll only see IB listings. All other listings disappear. I propose that guests see two options in that window.

"Show Me Only Instant Book Listings"

"Show All Listings That Meet My Criteria"

It's a simple software change. But it will make a big difference to hosts like us who'd rather not have IB imposed on us and are trying to live with it. Though frankly, a far better solution is to show all listings, but to list IB listings first for those who have selected the IB option: “Show Me Instant Book Listings First.” That way, if they don’t spot anything they feel fits their needs in the IB listings, they can scroll on to non-IB properties.

 

No. 2: GIVE INSTANT BOOK GUESTS A CHANCE TO SEE AND QUERY LISTINGS WITH ADDITIONAL VERIFICATION REQUIREMENTS.

Currently, hosts willing to activate Instant Book have the option to require guests have a "Government-issued ID" and "Recommendation from other hosts." This returns a little bit of the trust and safety elements that are lost when you go with generic IB. But if a host checks one or both of those boxes, then any guest who doesn't meet either of those checked criteria will not even see the listing in searches. In other words, if you check “Recommendations from other hosts,” then any newbie guest who selects the Instant Book filter will never see your listing. They just won't even know it exists.

Let me illustrate the impact of this: The other day we ran some rudimentary analytics on our own guest booking history and discovered that if we had both of those boxes checked since the day we first started hosting, then 75 percent of the guests who've stayed with us would never have seen our listing because they failed to meet one or both of those criteria.

If Instant Book is the way forward, just a couple of tweaks to the current search process could make a world of difference to hosts.

  1. Allow guests who have selected the Instant Book filter (but who don't meet one or both of those additional requirements) to still see those listings that require it. When they select the "Book" button, you can deliver a pop-up window that says, "To book this property instantly, this host requires additional information about guests. But you can still Request to Book now and the host will have 24 hours to reply to your booking request."
  2. Then offer two buttons: "Yes, I'll Send A Booking Request Now" and "No Thanks, I'll Keep Looking"

This allows guests to still book the property they were all set to book, but they'll simply do it through the more traditional Airbnb process. And if they're not interested, they can just continue their search. It also allows guests who want to retain some control over who occupies their guest space a chance to secure bookings that would have been wiped out by the shortcomings of the IB system as it exists.

PLEASE consider implementing these refinements. If Airbnb hosts are going to have to live with IB, these small adjustments could make a world of difference.

 



Response from Airbnb

Being able to book instantly, without waiting for the host to review your request, is a better guest experience and reduces discrimination on our platform. For these reasons we will continue to encourage guests to look for instantly bookable properties. If the listings displayed do not meet the needs of a guest, they can always view additional listings that are not instantly bookable.

 

In response to the first point: guests can simply dismiss this popup to see all listings. The message is only shown once, to new guests. We tested this with guests and found that they were not confused about the message, and they appreciated having a better understanding of Instant Book. We will continue to explore ways to educate guests about Instant Book, while giving them a path to find listings that are not instantly bookable.

 

Regarding the visibility of your listing: your listing is visible to all guests, even if you have one of the Instant Book controls enabled. If a guest does not have a recommendation from a past host, or does not want to provide a government ID, they will see your listing, and can send you a reservation request.


We are working hard to make sure hosts have the control they need so that using Instant Book will be a successful experience for different types of hosts. We find hosts that use Instant Book are more successful and get more bookings. Please see our landing page for more information on all of the improvements that we’ve made in the past year, and send us feedback on what additional controls you need in order to give Instant Book a shot.

Comments
Level 2

Hi Carl and Diane,

 

This is an excellent and reasonable solution to the new IB requirements.  As one of the original ABB hosts in my city, and someone who does require at least a minimum dialogue with guests before they enter my home (which is not a hotel), I believe your propositions would go a long way towards equalizing the playing field for hosts who aren't just running a flophouse, in order for them to have trust in the IB process.  I cannot face the possibility of hosting bachelor and bachelorette parties.

 

AirBnB is thoroughly eroding its original branding.  Like Virgin, it used to be perceived as innovative  fresh and idealistic, and now it too has succumbed to the lure of maximising shareholder profits.

Level 2

I checked our listings as a customer from several browsers a few weeks ago and could not find my listing.  When I called Airbnb, they never mentioned that it wasn't showing because it was not on "instant book", but asked me to change the setting to show listings that were not instant book.  I do NOT like that all customers cannot see your listing automatically if you do not want to do "instant book."  I think all hosts should call Airbnb and let them know this is unfair and also potentially dangerous.  I personally want to know who is coming to stay at my listings.  It is much more personal too to know who is coming in advance and to make sure they are vetted. 

 

Level 6

I turned on instant booking finally but wrote a note in the house rules that says if you have kids or mobility challenges to contact me first (as I have steep stairs). So far I've had one Booking of someone who sounds great. Because as a host you are allowed to cancel if a guest immediately breaks Your rules, having very specific rules is a possible workaround to fit within what hosts are allowed to do.

 

 

Level 6

Sorry for my weird capitals as I can't edit text after typing it here :)

Level 10

@Carl&Diane Very valid points and very astute suggestions for how to make the "funnel" better. I appreciate the time and testing you put into this.

Level 10

All hosts: If you don't click the Thumbs-Up button for this suggestion, I have to say that I don't know why you even bother reading the Host Voice postings. This is one of the BEST suggestions ever put forth here. Click that thumb!

Level 2

Airbnb pays heed to marketing and public image.   Perhaps media coverage of these issues would help them consider the hosts' perspective.  Personally the whole IB thing has me flummoxed! 

Level 10

I don't know why you are fatalistically trying to "fix" this for them. It just SUCKS, and we all should be deserting like rats from a sinking ship.

 

Level 10

@Cathy, I understand your point. And while I hope IB is eradicated from the earth for all time tomorrow, I don't see it happening without a mass exodus of hosts forcing Airbnb's hand.

Case in point: Has anyone heard word one from Airbnb on the topic of hosts decrying the force-feeding of Instant Book? Is there a blog on it, or even a mention in the "host newsletter?" There has been nothing. The truth is, Airbnb has already calculated how many hosts they'll likely lose to IB. They know how much water they're willing to take on before the ship starts to right itself again without a single corrective action on their part. I propose they're nowhere close to that point so they're content to let us steerage class passengers in the lower decks just b*tch about it amongst ourselves until wey've used up all the oxygen and can b*tch no longer.

I too am considering leaving Airbnb for HomeAway/VRBO (our casita is a separate dwelling so we can do that quite easily; true home shares and room rentals can't be rented through those platforms, and you know Airbnb has factored that in as well). But I'm not willing to leave just yet, so I'm hoping to at least make IB somewhat more workable for people who prefer the pre-IB way of booking.

@Juliahas hit the nail on the head, though. Some negative coverage about all this could do more than anything the hosts could do on their own.  A well-placed article or two, a TV spot describing the horrors of not being able to have any control over who is staying in your own home -- that's the ticket. Better still: Somewhere out there, an Airbnb host is the cousin or friend of a celebrity with a huge Twitter following, and a single tweet constructed with just the right level of outrage and "Boycott @Airbnb" language -- not to mention a bit.ly link to one of those articles -- would go a long way. Twitter storms and other viral social media phenomena are the new way to get things moving in this world. We relearn that lesson every day.

Level 10

What if we got our localities to specify in the short-term rental ordinance that it is unlawful to have a listing that does not allow the host to vet the guest???

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