Hosts & Hotels: What We Can Learn from the Hotel Industry
When I stay in high-end hotels, I know that I can always count on two things: having a bar in the lobby and being able to access a concierge at any time of the day. Hotels pride themselves on impeccable customer service (whether at the bar OR the front desk), and providing an experience of luxury and comfort. Each detail is carefully crafted and well-executed in order to strike the perfect balance between a “home away from home” with a little extra pampering. Although AirBnb hosts provide living environments with more permanence than that of a high-end resort, you can still give your guests an unforgettable experience. Here are 5 ideas you can consider now to help your guests feel a little more pampered and appreciated when staying in your home.
I know you’re a host and not a concierge but…
My last hotel stay was an absolute pleasure, and the room was immaculate. Because I’m an AirBnb blogging nerd, I decided to test the concierge service to see if it was up to par with the rest of my experience. I called down to the desk to request a sewing kit (I purposefully chose a lesser-requested item to see if they carried it) and then proceeded to time the response of the concierge. My call was answered within one ring, and a sewing kit was brought up to my room within two minutes! For hotel guests, help and service is always just a phone call away; and the same should be true for your guests. Yes, I realize that you are not a customer service representative; however, you are a host and responsible for all that transpires during a reservation under your roof. Remote hosts may find hospitality and personalization to be more of a challenge than local hosts, but it still can be accomplished through careful planning and communication. Stay connected with your guests by phone or assign someone to act as an emergency contact in your absence. Property managers can be extremely valuable for hosts who are unable to devote the time and/or resources to their rentals. They can conduct thorough walk-throughs after each reservation in order to assess for damage or theft, and their community connections and relationships with handymen/plumbers/HVAC can be useful in emergencies. Obviously the downside of employing a property manager is the cost associated with adding a third party to your operation-some companies charge up to 20% per listing.
Double the freshness, double the fun
Providing amenities for your guests is a great way to go the extra mile to say “thank you” and set your rental apart from the others. If you’re unsure what basic amenities and restockables you should offer, then refresh your memory on my previous blog post. But why stop there? Hotels are known for their amazing discounts and added “extras” that enhance your trip and make life a little easier while you’re on the road. Try offering a discount to the local gym or spa, providing transportation to/from the airport, or cooking breakfast like a true B&B. If your budget is a little tight for these services, then consider forming partnerships with local businesses. You can offer to highlight their business and contact info in your guestbook (also a must-have in your rental) in exchange for a small discount for services. Don’t think you have the time for these recommendations? No need to worry-everyone loves mints on the pillow.
Come in and prop your feet up (without your shoes, of course)
Think about the first thing you want to do after a long flight or car ride home. Chances are, you head straight for the bathroom to freshen up or sprawl out on the couch. As a host, you should be considerate of your guests’ needs and make sure these areas are well-stocked and easily accessible. Bathrooms should be spotless and odor-free, and communal spaces should encourage relaxation and peacefulness. Picture a hotel lobby and try to replicate that environment in your home: plenty of seating options, lighting that isn’t too harsh or dim, and an open but safe layout.
Avoid that two letter word
There isn’t a hotel representative on this planet who will tell you “no” when you have a question or request. Instead, he or she will offer alternative solutions or lend a sympathetic ear to your rants. You can apply the same concepts to your guests. Unless the guest is requesting something dangerous or impossible, try to accommodate his or her requests (within reason). For example, I recently had a reservation request from a woman and her husband who were coming to Pittsburgh for a bodybuilding competition. I typically do not accept reservations from competitors due to the spray tans that can stain bedsheets and towels; however, the wife was extremely complimentary of my home and assured me that she would provide her own sheets and towels for her husband to use. In the end, they were two of the best guests I’ve ever hosted, and the linens were in perfect condition when they left. Even if you can’t give your guests exactly what they want, do your best to ensure the experience remains positive and the guests walks away happy, whether it's simply done with a smile or a different solution than expected.
I can’t emphasize this enough-download the AirBnb app to stay connected with your guests, answer incoming inquiries, and manage your calendar. Guests cannot contact you until their reservation is accepted and finalized; therefore, you may miss out on potential earnings if you neglect messages from inquiring guests. Take advantage of some of the amazing apps and services that aim to streamline and to automate tasks for hosts. If you use several platforms to advertise your listing, then make sure you sync all calendars to avoid double-booking (the ultimate no-no). Even if you are unable to stay connected 24/7(and who is?), prepare a few automated messages that you can send to give yourself some time to respond. My favorite is this one: “Thank you for your message, and I see that you are looking for X, Y, Z. Let me look into this and get back to you within an hour.” It’s all about the acknowledge + action.
Trying these five ideas is a great way to utilize tried and true methods that hotels have been utilizing for years. Hotels are a long withstanding industry because they employ tactics that work but are constantly trying to evolve and update their standards. How can you update your standards in order to enhance your guests' experience?