What’s the best way to get 5-star reviews? You have to be a good host.
How do you do that? By making sure your guests are satisfied with their stay.
After all, happy guests make for a happy host.
If you look at the people who are traditionally in the hospitality industry (e.g. hoteliers), you’ll see many of them with hospitality and hotel management degrees. In fact, according to the University of the Potomac, you have to have some kind of background in hospitality or hotel management to find a job in the industry.
As Airbnb hosts, we’re not expected to have the same credentials. We get our feet wet in the hospitality industry by creating a listing and publishing it online. But that doesn’t mean that we can just do the bare minimum and expect our guests to be happy. There’s a lot more to being a good host than creating a listing and handing over our keys to guests.
When it comes to building a great guest experience, you have to make sure you’re doing all that you can to make a guest’s stay enjoyable.
I can’t stress how important cleanliness is. Without it, nothing else matters. Guests won’t care if you have an amazing indoor pool if it’s poorly maintained or if the living room is trashed. This is essential if you want to be a good Airbnb host.
But cleanliness isn’t just about making sure the property isn’t dirty. It’s about preparing the space for guests by making it as inviting as possible.
When people go on vacation, they expect to be able to connect to WiFi and watch TV. To be a good host on Airbnb, get the best WiFi you can. Make sure that it works throughout the entire house and outdoors (especially if you have outdoor areas). This is important not only for entertainment but also for business travelers who need to stay connected.
You can add TVs to common watching places such as living rooms and bedrooms. Make sure that the remotes and operating instructions are easy to find. There’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to watch TV and not finding the remote.
You can also add charging stations for iPads, iPhones, laptops, etc. It’s a lot more convenient for guests when they don’t have to look around for electrical outlets or their own charging cables. I know a few hosts who have even invested in USB charging stations.
If there are certain amenities you want to show off, you can do so in your listing photos (it's better to show than tell). For instance, if you have super-fast WiFi, you can include a picture of your WiFi speeds.
If you have a smart TV, you can take a picture of it after turning it on and highlighting what streaming service you have (e.g. Netflix, Hulu, YouTube). This is especially important for younger generations since they prefer streaming over cable TV.
Regardless of what amenities you offer, it’s important that you check that everything works. It’s better to not provide something at all to your guests than to have them deal with something that’s defective or broken.
At the bare minimum, you should have a coffee maker in your property. Guests love coffee!
To take that extra step to be a good host, you can invest in a Keurig or a traditional drip coffee maker (or both).
While a Keuring is super convenient, some guests may still prefer drip coffee makers. These are relatively inexpensive, so you might as well add it to your property if you don’t have one.
Airbnb hosting tip: Have multiple coffee makers so guests have an alternative in case one of them breaks. And, of course, don’t forget to supply K-Cups (if you have a Keurig), sweeteners, creamers, wood stirring sticks, and paper to-go cups (for the people who want to take their coffee with them).
You can also provide guests with water or soda in the fridge and tea (by including a tea kettle and tea bags).
If you want to go the extra mile, you can even ask your guests if they have a beverage preference.
For instance, if someone says they enjoy red wine, you can leave them a bottle as a welcome gift as long as you’re not violating any laws. In the United States, the drinking age is 21, so you may run the risk of serving a minor if you’re not careful. You can avoid this by making it a house rule that the primary guest has to be at least 25 years old and not renting out to younger groups.
By communicating with guests beforehand about their beverage preference, you not only get information on how to make their stay more enjoyable but also the opportunity to start building a relationship with them.
Imagine you’re a guest. You’re driving somewhere you’ve never been before and staying in a stranger’s home. As you pull up on the driveway, you see the house for the first time. How would you feel if all the lights were turned off? I’d probably feel a bit apprehensive, especially if I had never stayed in a vacation rental before.
That’s why having lighting inside and outside the house is so important. Lighting can play a huge part in making your property seem more inviting and lively. As a host, you don’t want your guest’s first experience with your house to be stumbling around trying to unlock the door or find the light switches.
This is especially relevant if your guests tend to check in during the evening when there’s not a lot of natural light.
To be a good host, I’d recommend installing LED lights (which tend to be brighter and more power-efficient than regular lights) and automatic lighting for outdoor areas.
You can even add lighting checks to your cleaning checklist. Before a guest arrives, you can manually turn on all the lights (e.g. small table lamps and overhead lights) and TVs inside the property. This not only allows you to check that everything is working fine but also helps make the house seem more lively and inviting for your guests when they arrive.
Be a good host. Wouldn’t you prefer to walk into a bright, lively space than a dark, shadowy room?
When guests book at a hotel, they know there’s going to be a receptionist or concierge. But when they book through Airbnb, they’re going to be dependent on the host. That’s why it’s so important that you show them you are trustworthy and reliable. The goal should be to make your guests feel as comfortable as possible.
The guest experience starts once the guest has finished booking, not when the guest checks in. That’s why you should try to build relationships with your guests before they arrive at your property. This can be as simple as asking them what their plans are during their stay right after they book. You can then offer suggestions and recommendations based on what they tell you.
By communicating with your guests beforehand, you can start building a relationship with them right away and show them that you care.
Learn how to create a 5-star guest communication strategy.
Nowadays, it’s very rare for someone to receive a handwritten note. They can make a guest feel very welcome, especially if they address the guest by name. You'd really be a good host in their eyes with this trick.
If you decide to try this, I’d recommend writing the note every single time. This will come off as more authentic and thoughtful than writing it once and making copies.
If you've already talked before, mention a point from that conversation. It will make it more personal. You can also include your contact information on the note if guests want to reach you during their stay. This will really help seem like a great host.
If you manage your property remotely, you can always ask your housekeepers to write the note for you. It doesn’t have to be your handwriting just as long as it’s handwritten.
You should respond to every single review because it gives you one more opportunity to thank the guest for booking.
I’ve noticed that a lot of hosts only respond to reviews that mention problems or issues. Don’t do that. When someone looks at your reviews and you’ve only responded to the negative ones, they will focus more on the ones that had issues. If you reply to all your reviews, it makes the negative reviews stand out less.
When responding to reviews, keep in mind that you’re not only writing for past guests but also future ones.
When receiving any kind of inquiry, booking, or question, you should try to respond as quickly as possible. This will not only help boost your search ranking on Airbnb but also your guests' trust in you.
Sometimes, you’re in a rush and can’t answer all of a guest's questions. In that case, thank them for reaching out and tell them that you’re currently occupied but will get back to them fully and completely.
This tells guests that they’ll be able to get a response back quickly and won’t have to wait half a day or a full day to hear back. A fast response also indicates to guests that you’ll respond quickly if anything happens during their stay.
If you’re managing a lot of properties and know that you won’t be able to stay on top of this, you can try automated messaging.
As a host, you’re no stranger to having people come in and out of your property. Everyone’s trying to have a good time, so the occasional wine glass might get broken or the occasional towel might get stained. Be a good host, and don't make a big deal.
These are all small issues, and it’s not worth chasing down guests for an extra $20 to replace that wine glass or towel. Guests have usually paid a lot to travel and stay in an Airbnb for vacation. I like to think of these occasional mishaps as the cost of doing business. No guest wants to return home from their vacation and receive a call asking them to pay compensation for a broken wine glass.
In fact, I’ve even had guests that left money on the table (or even bought replacements) and messaged me about how they broke a plate or something small. I always tell them not to worry about it.
In the past, John has had several guests who were watching TV and wanted to do pay-per-view. When they messaged him asking if they could leave money on the table or PayPal him, he told them not to worry about it. He was just glad that they were having a good time.
By not charging them extra for pay-per-view, he was able to build up goodwill. This can be useful if something does go wrong during a guest’s stay. By building up enough goodwill and addressing the problem right away, he can make sure a guest’s experience isn’t ruined.
As a host, you’ve probably dealt with a few difficult guests and realized that there’s always going to be that one person who complains. If it’s a guest’s first time at a vacation rental, there might be a mismatch between their expectations and experience. Sometimes, it might not even be related to your property. Maybe the guest had a fight with their spouse or there was bad weather during their stay.
When it comes to dealing with unreasonable guests, you just have to let it go. The occasional bad review won’t hurt your reputation or destroy your business. As you scale your Airbnb business, you'll get more bad reviews. As long as you always do your best to give your guests the best experience, you'll be fine.
If you look at the top-rated properties on Airbnb, you’ll notice that none of them have a perfect 5-star rating. They’ve all had a few bad reviews here and there.
This translates to other platforms as well. You’ll generally see that a good rating is considered to be an 8.5/10 or above. You’ll almost never see a 10/10 rating. That’s why having the rare negative review can make your property seem more real. When I browse through Airbnb listings and see one with only five-star reviews, I start doubting it unconsciously.
A bad review gives you the opportunity to respond to it and show others that you are professional and willing to improve (since you are also writing for future guests). When dealing with a negative review, don't be defensive. Approach each one with the aim to resolve issues and improve.
It’s also important to note that ratings are subjective. People will write very positive reviews and compliment your property but then give you 3 stars. To them, a tent in the middle of nowhere would be 1 star and the Ritz-Carlton would be 5 stars. And because you’re somewhere between those two, you get 3 stars.
If you want to go the extra mile, you can even call guests after their stay to ask them about their experience and if they had any suggestions for improvement.
In the end, it’s less about knowing everything about hospitality and more about having your guests’ best interests at heart and delivering an experience that will hopefully be celebrated and remembered.