Business development · 18 November 2015

Airbnb’s head of hospitality shares the secrets to being a good host

First impressions can count for a great deal
First impressions can count for a great deal

Want to be a good host? Airbnb has shared some tips on how to stand out, using a combination of attentiveness, personalisation and forethought.

Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky said with his platform, the hosts are the products. Speaking during a Q&A at the Airbnb Open, he said that prior to Airbnb there were two separate categories – people and businesses, but now with hosts on the platform listing spaces for travellers, they are “people as businesses”.

Airbnb’s global head of hospitality, Chip Conley, has extensive experience within the hotel industry and has offered insight to Airbnb’s hosts through training for the past couple of years. He said the best hosts are those who are “great psychologists”.

He outlined some key points to keep in mind if you want to be a good host.

(1) Realise what the guest wants before they do

“Hosts that do an amazing job are the ones who realise guests’ unrecognised needs,” he pointed out. The basic amenities like clean sheets, fresh towels and providing Wi-Fi will get you off to a good start, but to differentiate yourself from other hosts, personalise what you offer to the guests that come to stay. For example, providing a list of family-friendly restaurant options nearby if you’re hosting guests with children, will set you apart.

Similarly, what may be obvious to you, might not be to a guest. Think about if there’s anything that could cause confusion and leave a note to explain ahead of time.

(2) Line up expectations with reality

Conley cited a popular equation for happiness – an individual’s disappointment or happiness will be decided on how their expectations meet up with reality.

An Airbnb rental doesn’t have to provide the same experience as a huge hotel chain, Conley pointed out, it just has to meet expectations, or indeed surpass them. Where hotels are about consistency, Airbnb focuses on accuracy. “It’s important that you tell your guest what they’ll get. If we help our hosts become more and more accurate, we become more dependable,” he explained.

(3) Be attentive and reliable

It’s imperative to answer any questions a guest may have quickly and accurately, and providing assistance if there is a problem as soon as possible. Cancelling a reservation will also set you back on building trust and dependability.

On Airbnb, Conley said it was a platform “where the currency is trust”, and hosts operate within strict conditions, in that if they cancel on a guest, they can be demoted from superhost status, drop down the listings or – if the problem is recurrent – be banned from the site entirely.

Conley also said 87 per cent of hotel guests never tell the front desk about minor problems. To prevent little issues turning into big problems, Airbnb advises a host to check in a few hours after the guest arrives to make sure everything is in order and see if they have any questions.

(4) First impressions are crucial

You don’t get a second chance at a first impression, and sometimes they really can make or break an important decision. When it comes to Airbnb, personal touches are effective – an in-person greeting, a handwritten note or a little gift to welcome the guest.

(5) Customers’ comments count

Guests leaving happy will likely bring about more future guests. On Airbnb 70 to 75 per cent of users leave reviews, which is a substantially higher number than most hotels. Conley said they get around 20 per cent of guests to leave a review – at best.

He said Airbnb was “a community”, and those that succeed show a caring approach about creating memories for their guests that will encourage them to tell others. Everyone knows the power of a peer recommendation – and it’s the same principle across business. A tailored, attentive approach to a new client will likely lead to new contacts from word of mouth.

Image: Shutterstock

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

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