I first met Airbnb Head of Hospitality, Chip Conley, during an Airbnb “Meet and Greet.” The gathering was hosted on a boat party that cruised along the Hudson River. It was very, “When You Get Caught Between The Moon and New York City.” Leaving all cliches aside, it was truly a beautiful evening, and we were all enjoying the breathtaking views while telling each other our host stories.
Since that memorable party boat excursion, I have had the opportunity to connect with Chip numerous times by phone, via email, and in person. Each and every time, I have been more and more impressed by how quickly and enthusiastically he responds to my requests and occasional issues.
Seriously, every time…and believe me, I can be a slight nuisance. Keyword, slight. Even the process of getting him booked for one of my monthly webinars was painless. I recall needing his bio, photo, and then figuring out the logistics to interview him (he’s in San Francisco, and I’m in Brooklyn). Chip always responded quickly and perfectly. It all went so smoothly that I viewed it as the perfect example of hospitality, a true testament to his professionalism and commitment to the hosting community.
Here is the webinar:
Or you could read the below highlights. You, my dear host, have options.
Truisms of Human Psychology:
Chip is not one to mess around and got right down to business with his two truisms of human psychology as they apply to guests and the hosts who aim to keep them happy:
“Humans are judging animals.” We judge. We just do, and we tend to do it quickly, like choosing a place to stay when we’re traveling. Chip compared this to blind dating: “We’re looking at many choices and need to make snap judgments. These are the moments of truth when guests are judging your listing. And fast.”'
“Disappointment = Expectations minus Reality.” If your guest is disappointed, it’s because their expectations didn’t match up with the reality of your home. Knowing that we have two elements of hosting in our control:
1) Managing the expectations of our prospective guests; and
2) Improving our guests’ reality. In other words, under-promise and over deliver.
5 Key Tips from the Best Hosts:
Chip also shared the 5 Key tips he has learned from hosts around the world:
TIP #1: Create Trust.
By being candid about 3 things people love about your listing and 2 things that some people don’t like you create trust.
My home, like many others, has quirks (also known as imperfections.) I create a trusting hosting experience when I’m upfront about them. For example, my private bedroom listing doesn’t have a private bathroom, and guests share the house with me. Some people don’t read the entire description or captions. I added the NON-private bathroom and space as some things people may not like.
You want the right kind of guest for your home, so it’s important, to be honest about what you can offer and how. For example, if you have an amazing view but people have to walk up flights of stairs to get to it, you will want to make sure to mention this detail in your description. The views come with exercise. It’s better for guests to be aware of your home’s quirks before they have to be upset about having to carry their heavy luggage up several flights of stairs.
How do you know the things you guests will not like? They will mention it on their reviews or in their communications with you. I mentioned this on Episode 3 Starting a Brand New Airbnb Without Worry.
TIP #2: Be Fast and Friendly in your Initial Responses.
And get to know the guest so you can customize suggestions for their visit.
Chip told me, “Guests will judge your responsiveness as an indicator of the type of host you will be. Being fast and friendly shows you are an efficient and caring host, which in turn makes guests feel respected.”
I would add to this point that. Answering a guest’s inquiry in less than an hour demonstrates that you are a serious and professional host. It shows that you will take care of your guests’ needs. It also stops guests from looking at other listings. A quick response grabs their attention and stops their search.
Finding out a guest’s reason for visiting can also provide vital information as to whether or not you want to actually host them. Is it a group of single men coming for a bachelor party? Hmm, you might not want them in your home. Then again, maybe you might. Is it a group of single men coming for a business conference? They have my approval. I’ll even make sure they have plenty of pens, pads, electrical strips, etc. so they can do any additional work at the house.
TIP #3: Stimulate the Five Senses.
Make a great physical first impression by positively stimulating the five senses of your guests when they first arrive.
This is Chip Conley’s own tip from his experience as a boutique hotel owner. I find tip number #3 a bit harder to implement. How can you stimulate the five senses of your guests when they arrive? Chip suggested, “Move beyond the visual – a basket of fruit, a bouquet of flowers, some soft music playing.”
Of the five senses, smell is the most linked to memory. Invite a friend to come over to smell your place. I’m sensitive to scents, but I will use something with a light touch of lemon or lavender. Nothing overwhelming. After all, clean doesn’t necessarily have a scent.
TIP #4: Be Accessible
to your guests by sending them a message in the first few hours of their stay to ask how things are going.
Place your communication “welcome mat” out by emailing your guests within 24 hours of arrival. Ask them if they have any questions or need anything. This is a good way to reaffirm and continue the great communication you started before arrival. Guests have an opportunity to tell you if they need anything, and it’s better in person or by email rather than on their review.
TIP #5: Create a Great Memory
by writing a message to the guests within a couple of days after they’ve left, which will likely win you an even better review.
Even though I know the importance of Chip’s 5th tip, I frequently fall short of doing this. I forget I get lazy, I have other guests checking in and out. Before long, I find too much time has passed to send a friendly, “I hope you had a good trip back home” email. I do think if you create a “template,” which you can easily tailor to each guests’ experience, it will be a quicker way to write that post-departure email. Don’t ask them to give you a 5-star review. Ask if there is anything you can do to improve. If you use a template, make sure to add the correct information in the places left intentionally blank: name, address, date, etc. You NEVER want to address the wrong guest!
Hospitality is About Being Human
Chip’s final thoughts can be summed up like this: Hospitality is about being human. You don’t have to go to hotel school to become an amazing host. You just need to be empathetic, organized, and someone who can show guests that they matter. Being a great host means being a great human by understanding what’s in the head and heart of your guest.
I’m already changing my descriptions because of Chip’s tips, and I know some hosts are already using Tip #1. Which tip do you feel you have perfected, and which one you need to improve?
If you want more tips and insight about hosting with Airbnb, then listen to my weekly “The Hosting Journey Podcast.” It’s always informative and always entertaining. You can also sign up for the next webinar, subscribe to my newsletter, or just add a friendly Airbnb host to your network. BTW, when you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ll also get the “ultimate room-to-room check list!” Don’t host your home without it.
Until next time,