We are judging animals. We have opinions about everything, and we like to share these opinions. For example, you may or may not love the sound of my voice. There are actually scientific studies about when to use a female or a male voice. You might love the name of my podcast, The Hosting Journey, or you wonder what I was thinking, choosing such a name. Originally, I used my own name and then changed it, just as an aside.
Judgment is all around us, and Airbnb is no exception. When I talk about judgment in connection with Airbnb, you know what I am referring to. The all-powerful Review, the ones we either love or love to hate. That’s today’s episode, “Reviews: Learning, Adapting, and When to Say, No, Thank You.”
A Review Can…
A review can make you into a Superhost, or it can stop your Airbnb completely, which is exactly what happened to host Jeannette Belliveau, listen to “Episode 66: How One Review Can Delist Your Airbnb”. You have to listen to that episode and learn how Jeannette took everyone to court. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone, including the guest and Airbnb.
This isn’t the first episode where we talk about reviews, check out “Episode 16: How to Master Your Guests Reviews: The Positive and Negative,” where I talk about when to answer a negative review and how to use the positive reviews to your benefit in your marketing. This was also a class I taught at both Airbnb Opens.
Today’s episode is about reading the signs of reviews; learning from the reviews so you can adjust your listing; adapting expectations; and also knowing when to say, “No, thank you.”
A Listener Said…
The idea for today’s show came from a listener, who sent me the following email…
I have tried to listen to several of your podcasts and given up and deleted you from my phone. Most podcasters realize that if they do not interest their listeners within the first few minutes they lose them, which is why you lost me.
I just listened for five minutes to you and someone you met in 2010 discuss how you met and other information that is BORING! I have two or three AirBnB podcasts I listen to and will continue to listen to. Yours is not one of them.
You need to start off with information that is of interest to Airbnb hosts and gives them information or tips about how to improve their business! Otherwise, no one will listen to you. Time to bore you: I have been a journalist for 40 years, recently retired and started my own B&B in Florida.
I'm Human… So
The person was speaking about a recent episode with Maria Costa, “Episode 73: From 1 to more than 20 listings: The Evolution of an Airbnb Host.” Maria is a very dear friend, and this person apparently did not appreciate how we chatted at the beginning.
I wanted to send an email and say I have all these other episodes where I’m not boring; where I get straight to the point. I wanted to ask them to tell me what information would be of interest to them? I also felt like responding, Well, great! I’m glad you’re a journalist. Can I tell you about living with guests for over nine years?
Of course, I wanted to defend myself. I’m human, and I was having a very human experience. Instead, I decided to remember all of the people who do find benefit from listening to this podcast. How can this become a better podcast episode for all of YOU, my people? Clearly, this person was not my listener anymore, wasn’t one of my tribe who finds value in what I have to say. Right? This person falls into the “No, thank you” category. So, let’s start there.
Thank you, but no, thank you
What do you do when a guest provides information that you can’t or don’t want to fix or writes a review that leaves you confused, wanting to say, Thanks, but no thanks?.
There are times you might get some feedback in a review that leaves you a bit perplexed and confused. A guest once stated, your bathroom is a bit dated. I was all, really? I’m not spending money on a remodel just because of one review. So, I didn’t.
When you get a review where a guest might provide a suggestion that feels outrageous, you have my permission to say: “No thank you.” At this moment we’re working on other projects.” Or “Thank you for your suggestion. We will take it into consideration,” and file it into the “That’s not going to happen…ever” folder.
In the reality of hosting, there are some suggestions that you as a host just cannot do anything about.
For example, my home has narrow stairs. There is nothing I can do about them. I have photos of them on the listing. I mention them in the description and even in the “things to note” section. Even still, every so often someone decides to talk about them. I like to see it as a forewarning to any future guests that might have a mobility issue.
When this happens, I take a deep breath and keep on keeping on because what else am I going to do? It’s not the end of the world. The big picture is key sometimes in The Hosting Journey.
Learning and adapting from a Review
I know for some of us our homes are our babies. Yes, as investors they’re also our business and we need to be detached to a degree. But don’t call my baby ugly! That’s just mean!
Seriously, I know that we put our sweat and tears into our listings, into being a host, if we do our own cleaning (in my case, sometimes on my hands and knees). When we get a non-stellar review, it can hurt to the core. But after the hurt, we have to figure out what we can learn from the experience.
Take a deep breath… maybe a few. Count to 10. Then, read the review again or maybe have someone who isn’t personally vested in it take a look.
There are questions you can consider to help you detach a bit from the feeling of personal attack so that you can take away something constructive.
Question #1: Is there any truth to the review?
I know my guests sometimes have problems with my front door lock, and I even got this message on a private note… “We had a little trouble with the lock on the front door, which was stiff and hard to open and close.”
Which meant my check-in stars were getting lowered… AHHH… I know. And the guest was right. What did I do? I oiled the lock, I tried different keys. It worked for a while and then went back to being difficult and guests having issues.
You don’t want to be telling guests, you have to turn the key 45 degrees left and then quickly turn it right and place three fingers for it to open. Then click your heels three times and think, “There’s no place like home…” Guests are tired, and you know they don’t read.
For me, I had to recognize that there was truth to the review and for those guests lowering my typically 5-star rating. The horror! The guests were right.
Making it better for… Everyone
This was one of the many reasons I decided to change the lock to a smart lock. You want the check-in process to be smooth and painless. Ohh, and I’m so loving my new smart lock. There is going to be an entire episode all about smart locks and why I decided on the Schlage Encode Wifi. I’m waiting to have it for a couple of months so I know all the pros and cons before my review. Just like I did with the Ring video doorbell on “Episode 72: Ring Video Doorbell Pros and Cons.”
I learned from those reviews and made adjustments that actually made things better for my guests and myself.
Here’s another not great review that I learned from:
“The only small negative (which others have highlighted) is that the living room sofa is not particularly comfy.” I have hated this sofa, but the living room was small and didn’t fit anything bigger. Then this winter I also got this other review.
“Everything was nice; however, the building had slight wear and tear for the price of the stay – though I appreciate it’s an expensive area!” And another set of guests gave me 5 stars on everything except on value… where I got 4 stars… boo.
Mind you, all of these guests were paying the lower off-season prices. It made me start to wonder if this is the response I am getting from off-season guests, what will happen to my reviews and ratings this summer with guests paying my higher prices? I knew I had to make some changes.
An EXPENSIVE lesson
I decided to do a very extensive and expensive renovation this year. I renovated the floors a few years back. I have done other renovations like the roof last year and the windows three years before. But normally guests don’t view or care about those improvements unless the roof is leaking on them (which did actually happen at my place).
Guests care about the repairs and renovations that make their own experience better like a better bathroom, a more complete kitchen, and that comfortable sofa, of course. This is my private home, and any renovations and improvements are great. Dear hosts, you have to remember I have been hosting since 2010. That’s nine years of guests coming and going; nine years of wear and tear. There is a lot of wear and tear!
My neighborhood is in transition, they’re knocking down small houses like mine and building luxury housing. There are tons of new buildings; it feels like there is a new one going up everywhere you look. Now I am noticing more expensive cars parked on my street. Change is here, whether we want it or not.
My market tends to be families who visit the people who live in my neighborhood. I also get tourists and people who stay for work, but a lot of them are families, I love my grandparents. Because a lot of my guests are my neighbors’ family members, I knew that their expectations would be different than the usual guests from out of town.
My humble, older style apartment was outdated, so I decided to go and upgrade the apartment, including the “not comfy” sofa… If you are part of the Facebook Group, The Hosting Journey, you lived the renovation with me. Trust me when I say it was a long, action-packed 10 days
I will have a more detailed episode about the renovation in the future, but a big part of my decision to do it in the first place was because of the reviews. It was an expensive lesson, and one I know will pay off well into the future. I also know I’m very happy with the design and renovation, and so are my guests. That’s a renovation win-win!
Question #2: What should you do if you get a 4-star review in one area and you’re still perplexed? Do you ask your guest about it?
For example, you get 5 stars on everything but 4 stars on location. You want to know why, but you don’t ask your guest. Believe me, this is a recurring post in the Facebook Group. Or in my case, I just had a cleaning person do a deep cleaning and then I got 4 stars on cleaning… I was livid, and I wanted to know why, of course.
I asked the guest because so far I don’t read minds. I used gentle, non-accusatory language, and they told me. Unfortunately, the guest had babies who were crawling, and the cleaning person hadn’t done a great job on the floors. She did a good job on the windows though.
My recommendation: If you are confused or want some clarity on a review, ask your guest. For the most part, they will let you know. Or you can let them know, gently and respectfully, that they might have misunderstood something. Either way, following up also helps you to let go of the tendency to fixate on something. It can be hard to let go of criticism.
I actually had a guest who thought she was sharing my space with other guests when that wasn’t the case. She was only sharing with me. I realized that I needed to be clearer in my explanation and description.
There are times when a guest might not provide a reason for their 4 stars, and you’ll have to live with that. It happens.
But sometimes they do, and in those cases, we get to learn, adapt, or say, “No thank you. I don’t need to do anything about your opinion.”