Long before I was an Airbnb host, I was a Revinate marketer. In the early days of online reputation marketing, I traveled to hotels and shared what I knew about the growing influence of online reviews on the hospitality industry. One thing I stressed over and over was that guests wrote great reviews when they were surprised and delighted and wrote bad reviews when they were surprised and disappointed. I urged hotels to be transparent and let guests know about renovations before they arrived on property. I pleaded with them to review their photos to ensure they accurately represented the property.
Years later, when I became an Airbnb host, I used my Revinate experience to climb the ranks to become a Super Host in San Francisco. Here’s how I did it:
1. I make it very clear in my listing who my target guest is and isn’t:
My house is modern in design and has some sharp corners and ledges that small children can easily fall off of. I made it very clear in my listing that the house wasn’t appropriate for children. In addition to being a liability, I know that it would create stress for parents when they should be relaxing. I would rather have fewer happy guests than more unhappy ones.
Lesson: It’s ok to not be all things to all people. Make it clear who your hotel is best suited on your website and in your 3rd party profiles.
2. I am honest about the shortcomings of my home:
My house is brick and timber so it gets pretty cold in the winter. Rather than disappoint people looking for a warm and cozy nest, I was honest about the lack of heat and when people mentioned it in reviews, I publicly thanked them for reminding others that it can get chilly and if warm and cozy is their thing, my house probably won’t work.
Lesson: Use reviews as your opportunity to emphasize what you want prospective guests to know. People often read reviews closer than the marketing copy you write.
3. I spend the time to prepare a guide:
Like a concierge, I know the best dry cleaners, restaurants and cafes in my neighborhood and I put together a guide to help people navigate. Not only do I get to share my favorite places but my guests get to feel like locals, which makes their experience better.
Lesson: Do a little something extra to help guests feel like locals. I once stayed at a Kimpton that provided laminated running maps to put around your neck with 1-, 3- and 5-mile routes highlighted. It was so helpful and thoughtful.
4. I leave out lots of snacks and drinks:
How great is it to find a local, yummy snack after a long day of travel. When I traveled a lot for business I loved receiving room amenities so I pay it forward to my guests. In addition to a bottle of wine, I love to put a basket together with local snacks and sparkling waters. Tcho chocolate from San Francisco is a 5-star review maker.
Lesson: While hotels need to focus on room profits, a fresh cut flower in a vase or a piece of fruit in a dish can go a long way after a busy day.
5. I trust people to treat my house well:
I always hated the hangers at hotels that you can’t remove because they make me feel like a criminal. I find that when you show that you trust people, they want to leave your house in great condition. Of course, I lock up my valuables but I leave out my books, liquor and collectibles. I encourage people to help themselves to whatever they need and I have never felt that a guest took advantage of my generosity.
Lesson: There’s going to be a bad egg here or there but for the most part, if you make a personal connection and treat people well, they will return the sentiment.
I love when guests reach out to me with questions because it allows me to be helpful and feel like a host, versus a home renter. I leave my number out and encourage guests to reach out, any time, for any reason.
Lesson: I have stayed in hotels that leave a note from the GM in the room, encouraging guests to contact him/her with any issues. Knowing that the guy/gal at the top is focused on guest satisfaction is a great touch.
7. I check in with guests:
I have an electronic lock so I know when guests arrive. An hour after a guest checks in, I shoot him/her a text making sure everything is in order.
Lesson: Do everything you can to solve issues early in a guest’s stay. Service recovery is a great way to drive loyalty.
8. I go the extra mile:
I have a neighbor drop off cupcakes on the second evening. I have extra toothbrushes, combs and bathroom supplies on a shelf in the bathroom. I make sure there are tons of big, soft towels and extra blankets for the bed. I use nice sheets. I leave fresh flowers.
Lesson: With so many hosts/hoteliers settling for adequate, be extraordinary and your reviews will shine.