Today, I’m going to be talking about talking… Not with yourself (even though I do live by myself, no dog, cat or parrot, so I can chat with myself like nobody’s business), but that’s a whole other subject…
Today, it’s a different kind of talk. “Communicating Effectively with Your Guests”
Good communication will allow you to know who your guests are, which makes you feel more secure, but and it’ll get you a 5-star rating on communication.
I know we sometimes complain about our guests NOT reading our listing’s description… I don’t know why they don’t, but the truth is communication is a two-way street.
Sometimes, we might need to be a bit clearer when it comes to dealing with our guests. Because unfortunately, they’re not mind readers… and frankly, who is?
This episode is all about: “How to Best Communicate with Your Guest.”
I will discuss from the moment you get an inquiry to after your guest leaves, including asking your guest for a 5-star review. Hmmm. It’s touchy.
And if you want to use some modern technology to help you in the communicating process. I will provide you with some tips to help you respond to the same questions, over, and over, and over again.
Let’s start with PRE-BOOKING:
Pre-booking can be very telling… You might get that one-word inquiry, “Available?” I know. Why? One word. Really?
Or you get a, “Do you have an elevator?” I know the title of your listing is “Walk up apartment…” and you have a photo of your lovely stairs. You even mention the flight of stairs in your description and photo captions, but they still will ask, Why? Again, I assume they don’t read….
I know you want to respond with, Hellooo? And point out the obvious: the listing title, the picture, the caption…or not respond at all, but you know better.
After all, this could be a potential booking, and more importantly, not answering will definitely affect your response rating. I know It’s all about the rating. A hazard of the trade.
Your pre-booking communication is key, and of course, a quick response is crucial. Like it or not, you must respond.
Even if your description has all of the answers they need, the truth is, sometimes guests are sending the same email to a few Airbnb's or vacation rentals. It’s happened to me. And even though you’ve answered the question, you get caught in this viral email response chain.
So, it’s best to politely respond. After you’ve taken a deep breath.
Let them know that your listing has the information they requested. This might actually prevent further unnecessary questions because now they might read the entire listing.
For the one word “available” question, don’t take it personally. You have no idea how many times rental calendars aren’t updated. I know yours are, but sometimes it can be overlooked. If you get that one-word inquiry, and it just so happens that you are in communication with someone else, you can respond with:
“Thanks for inquiring about my listing. It is currently available, but full disclosure, I am in contact with another party for those dates.”
This response will give the guest a sense of urgency to book but would not be considered aggressive or pushy.
Now, if you’re always getting the same type of questions, repeatedly, make sure your listing’s description is clear and provides answers to those repeated questions. You might think your listing is straightforward and the description is perfect, but in fact, it might be clear to only you.
Have a friend read it, someone, who might not be familiar with your home. Remember, your language might not be their first language, so just have someone proofread it, as well.
This way your listing description is obvious, and it has to be in order to avoid confusion and misunderstandings.
Of course, you also don’t want to write a novel about your home. I know you might have a novel in you, but this is not the venue.
It can be a bit overwhelming if you’re looking at a listing and you have a “War and Peace” to read…nothing against literature.
You need the essentials:
- House Rules
- The space
- Are there any pets,
- Are they sharing the space with anyone
- Bed size,
- And much more
Listen to episode 3 Starting A Brand New Airbnb Without Worry for more tips and information.
As time goes by and you get more questions about your listing, you will start incorporating those answers into your description and providing information with photos and captions.
Ok, onto PHOTOS:
Remember, photos are guest attractors…and most likely, the only thing they will view. I told you, they’re not into reading, so much so that I even have a photo of a map that provides the distance from my house to the train station…but again, don’t overwhelm them with 40 photos of your studio apartment…or every corner they will encounter to that train station.
Captions on your photos are a great way to provide invaluable information. It’s the stuff they might miss if they don’t read your description.
I had a guest once mention how “narrow” my stairs were… I have a photo of them in my listing…. It’s your typical New York, Brooklyn stairs… I think she was expecting your typical Park Avenue Staircase.
Something I like to do is actually use my guests’ reviews to highlight something in my photos. Please, again, don’t use the entire review. You only need one line or phrase to highlight that photo.
I already have some pre-written messages on my “Airbnb Saved Messages.” You can create these in advance and just have them filed and ready to go.
Here are the steps to create and save a message.
- Go to any previous conversation you had with a guest (it doesn’t matter which one)
2. A popup will open, showing you a list of saved messages. You can either pick a saved message (including the House Rules and the House Manual of your listing), or you can save a new template.
3. When you create a new message, you will be able to choose:
- The title – only visible to you. Remember, you will have multiple messages.
- The message – this is the text that will be copied into the conversation with your guest. Don’t worry, you can modify it after you copy it into the conversation.
4. Once you’ve saved a message, click on it to copy it into the message thread. There, you can modify the text if you need to adapt it to the current conversation with the guest.
5. If you want to add a new saved messages, edit or delete existing templates, just click again on “Use a Saved Message” to bring up the pop-up where you’ll find the list of all previously saved templates.
Some “saved messages” that I have include the following. This particular one is for guests who make an inquiry but might not realize I also live in the apartment with them. All of this is done before booking.
Some guests book and they’re due to arrive in a few days. Others are not due for a few months. Of course, the message I will send depends on their trip and arrival date .
A business person doesn’t receive the same message that I send to a guest who’s coming to New York as a tourist. Believe me, I learned this from a guest… That’s for another show.
Once the guest books, I have another saved template with the following information:
- My address.
- Check-in information.
- Requesting flight/travel information.
- Providing my personal email and requesting theirs (they may or may not give it to me).
- Car service recommendations.
- Links recommending tourist attractions (I delete this part of the message if the guest is traveling for business).
In the PS part of the message I do mention my facebook page of the house (a little marketing never hurt anyone).
If the guest isn’t arriving for a few months, I don’t provide them with any other information at this time.
I’m also not expecting them to provide me with any travel details anytime soon. I will reconnect with them once it’s closer to their arrival date. For now, I have done my part as a host.
Closer to their Travel Dates:
Ok, so it’s 5-10 days before their arrival date to my home. Now I send my, “Hey, you’re due to arrive email,” which is another type of message. In this message, I reiterate some of the same information, and I also add:
- My address one more time (sometimes, they just print my message and don’t need to print more than that).
- Number of guests they booked (super important just in case more people attached themselves to the trip. It happens, and this way neither of us have any surprises).
- Check in and Check out times – if they made any special arrangements, I will make a note here as well.
- Travel information (if they haven’t provided this information, I request it one more time. I don’t want to be waiting for them, and I want an idea of arrival time. Plus, by now, they better know if they’re taking a train, plane, or automobile).
- Check-in information: If I’m not home, I have a lockbox. This is the time I provide the code and location. I also reiterate the importance of the lockbox information.
- All I need is for me to be unavailable, and for my guests not to be able to get into the house. So, I request a confirmation that they understand the check-in procedure.
- Car Service Recommendations (by now, they forgot what I already provided in an email. Yes, it happens).
What I provide in the house. For example:
- Linens (hey, some hosts don’t provide any towels or sheets)
- Hair Dryer
- Some breakfast items
That’s it! Simple and uncomplicated.
While At Home:
If I’m not home upon their arrival, because we hosts have a life, too, I like to provide my guests with a handwritten postcard next to where I keep the House Manual. I let them know that the House Manual has all of the information they will need, and WELCOME to EVELAND!
Simple stuff that makes them feel welcomed…especially, if you're not there. It’ll pay off come review time.
This is one of the reasons my house manual is mentioned so often in my reviews. It also invites guests to read it, and let’s them see that ALL of the information they might want and need is right there. This, too, will solidify your 5 stars!
Remember, stars and categories.
You can listen to Episode 10 A House Manual Guests will Read. Whether you buy my House Manual templates, go digital, or create your own, please have something that provides your guests with information about your home and your neighborhood. It will save them time and save you from having to answer the same question, time and time again.
Do note that your guests will contact you on occasions and if the answer to their question is in your guidebook, answer it and just let them know, “Oh, that’s in the House Manual.” Of course, if it isn’t you might want to update it.
24-hours After Check-In:
It’s a kind and professional gesture to send them an email to make sure everything is good and to see if they need anything. You may or may not get an answer…but the gesture will be noticed.
Again, don’t take it personally if they don’t respond. They’re on vacation or business and might not be checking their emails. Not everyone is attached to technology like we are.
Around the Apartment:
I also have some important information in picture frames around the apartment. Yep, frames. People like to look at frames, thinking they’re gonna get personal pictures…
They might get a few, but they mainly find those important house reminders. My previous shower was a bit complicated… Sometimes, guests would call me while in their bathrobes (thank God, I provide them), asking me to help them with the shower. So, I simply framed the instructions and placed them in the bathroom. It worked.
Another tidbit is readable signs where frames won’t work… I have four trash cans in my house, yes, we recycle and even compost. Every can has stickers and information, even though the information is included in the house manual, so there’s no excuse for guests to not recycle correctly.
Now make sure you’re not writing passive aggressive notes while upset. Those notes NEVER come out right… And please don’t have post-its all over the house. It can be a bit of a turnoff for a guest…and it just doesn’t look good.
Also make sure they’re printed – nothing scribbled or handwritten – unless you have amazing penmanship, or perhaps have it framed. You know, I’m a frame girl.
The day before your guest is about to check-out, send them a reminder email of your check-out procedures.
Yes, I know your have them in your House Manual and maybe even in a beautiful frame for your guests to see, but again, vacation brain. They probably don’t even remember the exact time of their flight or when their train leaves… Sometimes, it’s up to you to bring your guests back to reality and get them on their merry way.
Now, this is the part of the stay that might get a little tricky if not handled correctly, as guests might make requests that you can’t accommodate. One such request is usually: Late check-out or to leave their luggage behind to be picked up later.
There are times when you can absolutely handle their requests, but there are those occasions when you just can’t. You must be firm with your rules and boundaries. You don’t need to fully explain why you can’t provide that service or feel guilty about it if you can’t. It doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad host.
If check out is at 11am and they have an 11pm flight, they could have booked the extra day or made arrangements beforehand.
Remember, “No” is a complete sentence. Your house, your rules my dear hosts.
Asking for a 5-Star Review:
Some hosts in the facebook group The Hosting Journey, Mention if they should ask a guest for a 5-star review. My opinion is always, No! You don’t do that. You just don’t.
You can say, “I hope everything was to your satisfaction” or “If there’s anything I can improve, please let me know.” Remember, you must listen with an open heart because they might make a recommendation that you might not want to hear but that just might be beneficial and improve your listing.
Or you could say, “I really do hope you had a 5-star experience!” It gets them mentally ready for the 5-star rating. Some guests think 5 stars belong ONLY at the RITZ CARLTON, with gold door knobs and plumbing, but 5 stars can be a simple listing that’s nicely set up, clean, convenient, comfortable, and has value for the buck…PLUS an AMAZING host just like you! That’s a 5 star listing!
You can have a little suggestion note. I actually saw a graphic on an Uber car, which said: Don’t forget! Please rate me 5 stars if you enjoyed the ride! But I think this is still too blunt.
After Guest Check-Out:
I don’t send out emails after my guests have checked out, but some hosts do. They send out something a few days after with a, “I hope you enjoyed your stay” and a reminder to review them. Remember that Airbnb will be sending them emails about reviewing you, too.
If you love these guests and they are guests who might return to your home. For example they have family in your neighborhood or will be returning due to work. You might want to build a relationship for the future and send that after check-out email.
I have guests who return every year, and I love hosting them again and again. Hi Jodie and Bill! They always tune in. Regardless, your guests can recommend you to other people and might be future guests. Overall, building relationships with all guests is a always a positive thing.
You can also create a very simple template email that you personalize per guest.
Management Systems for Communications:
There are companies that can send out these type of emails to your guests. You don’t have to lift a finger. Yes, they’re automated management systems, and some are free, depending on the number of listings.
You manage all your guests communication from an external platform. Then you set up your template emails when you want your emails to go out, and voila. That’s it.
I personally haven’t used them…YET.
But who knows, I’m about to start getting all techy in 2018. Hosts loved my Episode 19 Technology Made Easy For Your Airbnb so I’m looking at a video doorbell and at Amazon’s Alexa. Maybe next is a management system, especially if I’m going to be in the booking.com waters. But I’m a small fish with only two listings. So, who knows.
Some of the companies out there are:
Aviva IQ – Where you can automate your Airbnb messages, and it’s free. You’ll need a google email account.
Airgms – They’re an Airbnb management vacation rental software company. Which does a lot more than messaging your guests. And it’s free for one listing.
Guesty – for short-term property management.
And yes, they all do a lot more than just communicate with your guests. You can manage your day-to-day operations of your business.
Something that I almost forgot to mention was that sometimes a guest receives an Airbnb text and doesn’t realize that there is more to the message. And they need to check their email or dashboard.
And they don’t respond to the email message. Or sometimes a guest might be traveling without wifi. Yes, it happens…. The horror! Or they’re simply busy and forget to communicate with us. Also keep in mind that our language might not be their first language… Things to think about.
I know we might be waiting for some information, like arrival details, etc. This is our business, our priority, and it’s hard to be forgiving when it comes to our business…But… take a deep breath and say, It’s ok….It’s…all…ok.
Maybe, send them another email, even to that fake email that Airbnb provides or a text if you haven’t heard from them. If you have their personal email, correspond with them that way.
Whenever a guest hasn’t been the best communicator, I try to ask myself, Do they have a good reason? Remember to be understanding. With communication, it will usually work itself out, even if you have to give them 3 stars on your review for their communication.