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Ask anyone – the key to any business, is knowing your customer. Luckily, as a vacation rental host, it’s incredibly easy to step into the shoes of your Airbnb guest. And doing so often enough can help you stand out from the rapidly growing number of hosts ­­– which, in fact, has increased 85% year over year. So what’s the difference between a good Airbnb experience and a great one? The answer lies in your empathy for the guest.

Here are some things I learned from a few recent “work trips” that I like to categorize as research and development. (O.K… summer trips with the family – but a hosts’ work is never finished)!

Hosts Need to Invest in Decent Amenities

Small pleasures matter when you’re away from home. I find that an available iron or some extra clothes hangers go a long way toward making the vacation rental experience just that little bit easier – and they shouldn’t cost you more than a few dollars. Unfortunately, many properties lack these basic amenities, and some don’t even have a kettle. Don’t make the same mistakes: Invest in some home comforts.

Then there’s the bane of Airbnb guests across the land: a sluggish Wi-Fi connection. If your Internet is slower than L.A. traffic, brace yourself for negative feedback on your Airbnb profile. I’m not the only one with this pet peeve: Wi-Fi was voted the most important vacation rental amenity last year, trumping hot tubs, balconies, and climate control.

My advice to other hosts out there: Spend the night at your own property, as a guest. Try to iron your clothes, browse the internet, brew a coffee, and even get a good night’s sleep. If you feel like tearing your hair out halfway through your stay, it’s likely your guests will, too. Becoming a guest in your home, even if it’s just for a few hours, shows you what works, what doesn’t, and what you need to change in your home.

A Seamless Airbnb Guest Experience Tops All

I’m not a fussy guest. I crave a comfy bed and a functioning shower. Still, some Airbnb users expect five-star hotel service when they book a vacation rental. Your property might lack a plunge pool or a sprawling patio, but optimizing the guest experience can more than make up for a lack of fancy features.

Ask yourself what you would like from a vacation rental if you were a guest. A hassle-free check-in will likely be near the top of your list, so make it clear where visitors can pick up and drop off their keys; or better yet, try smart locks.

A good house manual with information on the local area is another must-have. Help create the experience your guests are looking for by providing them with a few tried-and-true options like your favorite restaurants, recommended nearby hikes, and interesting cultural landmarks and attractions.

One of the most important things I learned is that excellence is in the details. The details which show, you – as the host – took the time to think about your guest and cared enough about their comfort. Extras like coffee to go with your coffee maker, cycling paths maps to go with your bikes, beach towels if you live by the water, and fresh linen will make your property a much nicer place to stay. Details like a small welcome gift, a map of the local area, and a phone charger help you go that extra mile to ensure you get that five-star review.

The key is that these thoughtful gestures don’t cost much and require minimal effort on your part, but can mean a whole lot more to your guest.

Communication is Key

Nobody likes waiting around. For guests, speedy communication is essential, especially when competition in many Airbnb markets is fierce. Hosts have 24 hours to formally accept a reservation request, but responding faster is even better. Poor response times could jeopardize your standing on the platform and make it difficult for you to attract visitors to your home. Keep in mind your guest has probably reached out to multiple hosts. If your response isn’t quick enough, someone else gets first dibs.

Airbnb themselves also place a huge emphasis on good communication – it’s a prerequisite for Superhost and Business Travel Ready status. If guests have questions about your property, answer them punctually. Alternatively, send them a digital copy of your house manual via email.

All in all, I’ve learned the outcome of a guest’s experience is a byproduct of the service I can provide. Albeit, I know there are still some guests you can never please (like the woman who fled my property in the middle of the night due to paranormal activity).

My best advice is to take some time to live as a guest whether it’s at your own property or someone else’s. The knowledge and insight gained from stepping in those shoes create mass amounts of empathy that can’t be garnered elsewhere. It becomes a no-brainer once you put yourself in the shoes of a guest. Ultimately, anything you can do to refine your guest experience will keep those five-star reviews flowing – and keep your guests clicking the “book” button.

Looking for more tips on how to be a successful host? Try these posts:

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