Over my 2 short years as a host with Airbnb, I have thought many times about which skills, experience and attributes might help achieve the best reviews and that elusive Superhost status. Which ones would make the difference between being a 4 star Host, and getting enough of the 5 star ‘happy guest’ reviews to be (and stay) a Superhost? How many of these would I have to acquire?
Here are just a few of the Superhost traits/skills I came up with (but still haven’t mastered!):
Property Manager; Marketing Genius; Customer Service Supremo; Skilled Negotiator; Interior Designer; Emotional Support Counsellor; DIY Handyman; Accountant & Tax Advisor; Paperwork Lover; Facebook Detective; Communication Specialist; Trip Advisor; Social Media Guru; Toilet, Shower & Laundry Genie; Therapist & Listener (addedbonus to have the patience of a Saint)…………..
Seriously though, over time, I have come to the realization that really only TWO attributes/skills are essential and are the real difference between a Host and a Superhost.
These are: Communication & Graciousness.
But, as my father used to tell me - it’s not what you say, so much as what you do, that proves who and what you are…. so, as part of the Community Celebration Month, let me share some of the beneficial lessons I have learned along my Airbnb hosting highway (and how delighted I would be to know that something I share here might be useful to another host as well) 😊.
Over the last 2 Years, I have hosted 107 stays (1-7 nights max.), and achieved a 97% review rate (104/107 reviews) and 100% 5 stars. And 6 guests have made return bookings. Now I know I have a great property and this makes it easier to get these great statistics, but I also know that the extra effort I put into the interaction with my guests makes that extra difference. It’s a fine line of course – and I must admit I am a little afraid that I may be ‘jinxing’ myself by saying all these things – but I think it works and after 100+ guests/reviews the stats speak for themselves - so I hope you may find something of value here for your own benefit.
Here are my top 10 tips for achieving (and keeping) Superhost Status.
#1. YOUR LISTING. Make your listing accurate, honest and complete – think of it as YOUR CONTRACT with Airbnb, as well as with your guest, so make it good. Take the time to work on it – a great listing can bring in 25% more bookings. Guests look at price, location, price, photos, price, reviews - and then the description (if they even read it all, but still, it is your contract so make it inclusive). Make the effort to look at other listings that stand out to you and compare – find some good examples of rules and descriptions and use them in your own listing. Positive, brief and upbeat sentences of both the area and your property really do help give your guest realistic expectations – less is NOT more in this case - so remember, be honest, and “under-promise and over-deliver” (see #4) for the best results.
#2. COMMUNICATION – Respond as quickly as you can to every inquiry and be enthusiastic and grateful in each and every message. I have several ‘template' messages I send to guests – at the initial inquiry, at booking, on first day, and after the stay. It is definitely an extra effort, and tiresome sometimes to be honest, but the results are worth it (shown in part by the 97% review rate). Thank your guest for choosing your listing – remember they have plenty of other choices out there. Always send a brief welcome/check-in message on the first morning – it shows you care about their stay and it can help bring forth any questions, possible repairs or missing items – and it also serves as a useful backup with Airbnb should a guest ask for a refund later but did not respond to your message when they had the chance. And then again within 24-36 hours of guest leaving – I send a thank you message and review reminder.
(Examples of what I send each guest are at the end of this post. Feel free to copy/use any of them. All saved as templates in the Airbnb message system which makes it easy to send each time with just the addition of the guest name and the day they arrive).
#3. WELCOME GUESTS IN PERSON. I know, this is not possible for every host – but if you can - do it. Humans make assessments of others within the first 4 minutes of meeting – so smile and be enthusiastic right from the start! Explain a few useful things about the room/home/area and point out a few extras/treats left for them. Tell them you are there to make sure they have a wonderful stay – and fit in a few examples of how and why you care about the place or what things mean to you. It is proven that guests will care more for someone’s personal home as opposed to a generic vacation property. Tell your guests that you have tried to think of everything they might need to have a great stay – and mean it!
And leave a Welcome note inside. I use a small magnetic white board (best $3 purchase ever!) on the refrigerator that shows my handwritten note:
Welcome (Taryn & Robert)! – Please help yourselves to anything here, and please let me know if there is anything else you need to make your stay an even better one. Call or text anytime (xxx-xxxx). Enjoy!
Over 50% of my guests then leave their own reply/personal thank you message on that board after their stay (I take a quick pic on my phone before writing out a new message for the next guest – it’s a nice reminder of the guest and makes a great photo to put in your listing photographs!)
#4. UNDER-PROMISE and OVER-DELIVER. You can’t expect excellent reviews for just delivering the basics (a nice room/house). You are getting paid for that, so give the guest some unexpected ‘extras’. Yes, these cost money – but remember how much your guest is paying, including the extra fees that Airbnb charge, as well as local taxes. It adds up, and the few extra dollars can be costed into your daily rate without pricing you out of the market. The reviews will show potential guests that you value and look after your guests, and that is what Airbnb is all about. Extras can include a personal welcome, local info on events/weather/directions, some breakfast items, champagne for celebrations (supermarkets now sell good quality sparkling wine/champagne for under $10), a chocolate or two, some fruit (green apples last for a month and look nice in a bowl on the kitchen counter). I have even made a small picnic basket into a s’mores kit – filled with a few marshmallows, chocolate bar, graham crackers and roasting stick – perfect for the outdoor fire pit. Don’t tick the breakfast box on the amenities list – but leave some basics in the fridge/cupboard as a bonus – juice, butter, eggs, bagels, milk/creamer for tea/coffee. Easy pancake mix in a storage jar on the kitchen counter – cheap and long lasting. No guest books a place just because they say they provide breakfast, so you won’t miss out on any bookings because you don’t tick the box – but your guests will be pleasantly surprised to find out you have stocked a few ‘bonus’ items just for them. It really does make a difference.
#5. NOT GREAT GUESTS? Take a breath and remember the guest paid, turned up and left. So what if they turned up late with no apology, were messy, left the lights on, let their dog poop all over the driveway (and didn’t pick up), broke a glass and didn’t mention it or dyed their hair in the sink and ruined a towel. After all, this is what you signed up for – money in exchange for a room - not to meet people who are as tidy as you, or to make some new best friends. The next guests will be better!
#6. BUT GIVE GREAT REVIEWS. It’s part of that ‘Be Enthusiastic’ modus. Even for the average/OK/irritating guests - keep your reviews honest and civil. Really. It isn’t important to spell it all out in a review. Just let it go. It may seem important at the time, but in reality, no-one else cares as much and it will pass. An unfair or mediocre review will fade with newer, kinder reviews and future guests understand and can figure things out themselves without you showing yourself up by being petty or personal in your review. Never be emotional in any review or response. Just bite your tongue, take the high road, bank the money and move on, it will be more beneficial to you in the long term.
#7. USE - AND LEARN - THE AIRBNB SYSTEM. Of course it does help if you prepare yourself to handle most problems yourself – but should there be any serious problems or damage, deal with it quickly, contact Airbnb immediately, use the Resolution Center, and keep all communication brief, professional and on the Airbnb system. I mean that - keep ALL guest communication on the Airbnb system - it is the only evidential proof that Airbnb will ever accept, and provides valuable backup in case of any problems with guests.
#8. LOVE THE COMMUNITY CENTER. It's the best part of the Airbnb system. So many wonderful hosts around the world give up their time (free of charge) to answer, help and give advice to others. I have learned so much here over the years by reading, asking, and learning from other contributor's posts. It truly is a marvelous resource for knowledge and sharing.
#9. BE GRACIOUS – karma is real and your tolerance will be rewarded, somewhere along the line! And I will just mention cancellations – they shouldn’t happen too often, but when they do, write a short message to acknowledge the cancellation and that you understand and hope to host them again one day in the future. Part of that ‘Communication’ essential. Onwards & Upwards!
#10. Remember to TAKE A BREAK. As tempting as it is to keep an open calendar and get lots of bookings – having a few planned days off now and then really does help to keep fresh as a host and your guests will benefit also. And last, but not least, be kind to your partner/significant other - who is often on the receiving end of the inevitable stress we put upon ourselves as we strive to maintain our self-imposed, impossibly high, hosting standards!
Thank you for reading 😊
Happy Hosting, and may 2019 bring you all the happiness and success (and 5 star reviews!) you desire.
EXAMPLE TEMPLATE MESSAGES
1st MESSAGE SENT IMMEDIATELY BOOKING CONFIRMED
Thank you so much for choosing our cabin - we would be delighted to have you as our guests.
I will be in touch again closer to your dates with directions etc. and please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or requests - we want your stay to be a special one!
2nd MESSAGE SENT 2-3 DAYS BEFORE ARRIVAL
I wanted to touch base and let you know a few things before your stay at the cabin on (Friday).
The cabin will be ready for you anytime after 3pm. Please do let me know if you think your arrival time will be after 6pm.
The kitchen has plenty of spices, oils, condiments (mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup & sauces), and we have stocked up the fridge with some breakfast items for you (pancakes, milk, eggs, bread, butter, tea/coffee and a few treats) so bear that in mind when you bring your groceries.
(Please also refer to the detailed instructions in your itinerary and the listing)
* Always take the route through Murphy town itself, or program your gps to go via Hiwassee Dam Access Rd if you are traveling from Tennessee or up north (other short-cuts suggested are slower, winding, dirt roads and will make you crazy at the end of a long drive!).
* If using your cellphone as a GPS - you may lose signal once you leave Murphy.
So text me when you get to Murphy (also your last chance to shop groceries, there is a Walmart, Ingles & ABC in town), and I will meet you at the cabin to check you in and show you how everything works.
See you soon!
3rd MESSAGE SENT FIRST MORNING OF STAY
Good Morning (Taryn & Robert)!
It was lovely to meet you yesterday - and I hope you are finding everything you need at the cabin.
Please do let me know if there is anything I can do to make your stay an even better one - just text (using the Airbnb system) anytime.
4th MESSAGE SENT 24-36 HOURS AFTER DEPARTURE (I always try to write this message & submit review first before the guest does)
Dear (Taryn & Robert),
I am sure you are only just settling back in after your trip, but I just had to write to tell you what fabulous guests you were!
Thank you for staying with us and I really hope you had a good time. You both were such great guests, and so tidy - I could hardly tell anyone had stayed, you really didn't need to do so much!
This is the review I have left for you. I hope you can find the time to write a review for us - with Airbnb the reviews are so very important - they're one of the major factors people use when choosing a place to rent, and it helps guests find our cabin in the search lists.
"Taryn and Robert were truly wonderful guests! A charming couple with excellent communication before and during the stay, and they were very respectful of the cabin and the location. So 5 stars across the board for Communication, Cleanliness and House Rules. Thank you for choosing our cabin for your special get-away and we hope you'll be back soon!"
Thanks again - it really was nice to meet you both!
And if you ever want to come back, and I hope you do, there'll be a 10% 'Great Guest' discount applied to your booking.
For the life of me I don't understand why Airbnb don't employ you.....You would be a marvelous public relations officer!!
Rachael has the most wonderfull property in the hills of North Carolina that everyone needs to put on their 'Bucket list' before their life ends. I have never been there, but I have seen enough of Rachael's photos and the way she communicates with everyone she comes across to just know....the experience would never be equalled.
Bricks and mortar (or timber and firepits) are one thing, but a host you would dearly love to keep as a friend, is another!
Good on you Rachael, I knew something special would come from you!
Good on ya mate! I stayed up late in so I could post this (early for Day 15) because I knew you would be awake and on the computer down under in Aussieland.
How wonderful that one of the best contributors in the Community Center should be my first responder - Thank you - 'O Great One' !!
Hi Rachel it is just wonderful to hear how dedicated you and many others are .Beeing a host brought such joy into my life i wouldnt wanna miss it anymore .I hope one day i get to visit you property.stay as you are .Greetings from germany sabine
Your process looks pretty much like mine :-)
Indeed make a sigh, so once and a while.
And understand: Everybody is different.
When future guests mention something special in their early announcements.
I will typically refer to that, by the end of their stay (I always send a farewell message, 1 day before their departure).
Such as: I hope you enjoyed that wedding, you attended to.
Or: I hope you and your family, enjoyed meeting up with your old friends, Etc.
Furthermore, I will repeat important information and avoid overloading guests with lots of information in a single message.
I.e.: I’m gradually feeding guests with some information, depending on the ‘status’ of their trip.
Thanks for sharing. There's certainly lots of helpful advice here and your ratings speak for themselves! A 97% review rate with 100% 5 stars is truly impressive. I bet that 3% who didn't leave you a review either never leave reviews or meant to and missed the deadline.
I have a very similar four message system to you, although there of course can be many other messages if the guests have questions.
I think you're clever to include your review text in the thank you message. However, I normally only leave a review for a guest after they have left one for me. In the beginning, I left reviews for all my guests but would get frustrated when they then didn't bother to write one for me. I guess it mattered so much more then when I was trying to build up those first few reviews and gain Superhost status. You have inspired me to go back to writing reviews first (my review rate is only about 70%) and be more tactical about it.
Thank you for your kind words - and for reading right through to the end!
I wondered if/when someone else would catch the radical 'tactic' shared...... So thank you for recognising the strength of that last thank you message and it's potency for guests. There are a few guests I have not used it with (just left a civil but bland review), but not many (less than 10%), as I have been blessed with the majority of guests being very nice and a real pleasure to host, so it has been easy to send that as a genuine message.
I have no doubt that without it my review rate woud still be good (as yours is at 70% - especially good for a London listing!) - as all the ground work and guest bonding has already been established - but I know that last, carefully worded, thank you message really does make the difference.
I have wanted to share it before now, but always hesitated as I wondered how much of a 'suggestive lead' it could be perceived as - or even if some hosts would see it as actually 'asking for' a 5 star review...... but the reviews and stats show that as a whole, everything put together seems to be working well and guests are happy, and don't mind sharing that in a great review!
Thanks Huma ;-)), and Happy Holidays.
I guess sometimes I also worry about encouraging guests to leave reviews that might end up not being 5 star. In the past, I have had guests who seemed to have a great time here and raved about the place in person but then didn't leave a review and, with time running out, I would send a gentle reminder.
The reminder usually worked, but unfortunately, some of those guests who I was sure would leave 5 stars, ended up leaving 4! No explanation, no complaints, I guess they were just thinking that a 4 was really good. After that, I stopped sending review reminders! I felt like I was just tempting fate.
I agree, and totally understand. It was during my first year that I used to send gentle reminders, but felt a little pushy doing it, so further developed this thank you message. I have been using it now for over a year, and it has reduced my use of reminders to almost zero (only sent one so far in 2018, and that is only because I now feel a teeny tiny bit of pressure (albeit good pressure!) to keep up the high % record!! Ha!
Or Airbnb could go back to making SH 80% 5* to match the general expectations in the hospitality industry ! The local four seasons just lost SH based on tripadvisor.
Todays older guests have no internet conn device, so I guess I would do all of this msging using paper, which I imagine would start to annoy them after a while.
At $68/night it's great for them to visit family at univ, but I'd actually rather not have a review since they don't use uber and wont understand the implications of not leaving 5* to my livelihood.
@Rachael Great post and love everything you recommend, with one exception. And that is on reviews. As a host who shares my home with guests, I want great, nicely behaved guests. If a guest is truly awful, then I want to know it and will choose not to host them. Maybe it would not be such a big deal to have a badly behaved guest, if I had guests residing in a separate dwelling, yet in a shared space common courtesy is everything. I want happy, well behaved guests and will do everything I can to see that they leave happy, as this also makes me happy. A poorly behaved guest is not usually a happy guest and definitely makes me question why I host.
Thanks for your post - and for the opportunity to clarify how much I agree with you - never would I recommend accepting poor behavior from a guest, or not declaring it to others through a review. As you quite rightly state - Common courtesy is essential - and if the guest’s version doesn’t match up with ours - it is up to us as hosts to show them the way- or show them the door!
Clear rules and boundaries set out in our listings give us all a cushion of support to refer to when dealing with a poorly behaved guest. And certainly any ‘badly behaved’ guest should not be tolerated for even a minute.
I have been lucky to have hosted mostly great guests, but have experienced a few ‘bad’ ones - and each time left a thumbs down, 3 star or less (which prevents them rebooking or IB other hosts) as well as a brief but blunt review.
One of my favorite mantras -
‘You get the behavior You allow’
Thanks for your post, and here’s to only Great Guests in 2019!