Airbnb For Dummies
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The secret to receiving consistent 5-star guest ratings from happy guests on Airbnb is simple. Set proper guest expectations and then exceed them during their actual stay. Yes, we realize the concept may be simple to understand but it’s sometimes challenging to execute with consistency.

Recognizing the factors that can affect guest satisfaction

Many factors can help guests form their expectations of your property and you as the host — from the moment when your Airbnb listing catches their eye in the search results all the way to when they confirm and pay to secure the booking with you.

The following factors help set guest expectations:

  • Listing photos: By far the photos are the most important factor in setting guest expectations. Many guests often make a reservation based purely on what they see in your photos. Show what you can deliver consistently.
  • Listing description: Even though not all guests will read your entire description, let alone remember the details, guests will refer to it if they feel anything isn’t meeting their expectations. “Well, you mentioned air conditioning in your description when you only have a large fan” or “You didn’t disclose the fact that your building had no elevators to get to your unit on the 20th floor.” Upset guests will look for ammunition in your listing description to support refund requests or scathing reviews.
  • Initial guest communications: Although more and more guests are booking their reservations sending no inquiries to Airbnb hosts as listings increasingly turn on Instant Book, any early interactions will set the tone in how guests expect to communicate with you. Being courteous and responsive encourages guests to be the same.

Being realistic

There is a fine line between showcasing your listing in the best light and exaggerating — you want your photos, description, and communication to encourage bookings but not set you up for failure by setting unrealistic guest expectations. Your listing and your initial communications with guests will set expectations that will be too low, too high, or just right.

After the guest makes a reservation, meeting or exceeding her expectations will require you to

  • Provide a painless check-in process: Nothing gets a stay off to a bad start more quickly than a frustrating check-in process. Making the guests wait on you for in-person check-ins, sending confusing or incomplete information, or sending them check-in details too late can all add additional stress to what is typically already a stressful part of traveling — just getting to and settling in to their booked property.
  • Create a seamless guest stay: From well before their painless check-in to well after their painless checkout, everything you provide and do in between determines the quality of the stay for your guests and whether you meet or exceed their expectations.
You can set guest expectations too low, just right, or too high, and then the actual guest stay could fall short, meet, or exceed those expectations. The following figure shows the different scenarios between how you can set and meet guest expectations.

The guest expectation matrix. The guest expectation matrix

Here we look at the combinations and why there’s only one place you should aim to be — setting just right guest expectations and exceeding them.

Sandbagging guest expectations — setting them too low

“Underpromise and overdeliver!” This common advice given as a sure-fire way to obtain happy customers misses on one very important point — underpromising your offer will also undersell your offer.

Taking this approach on Airbnb means not showcasing your listing in its best light. And with more listings coming online daily, your listing needs every advantage it must shine among the ever more intense competition. Underselling to sandbag guest expectations will result in fewer bookings for your listing than you deserve.

Overpromising guest expectations — setting them too high

The opposite of underselling is to overpromise, which can be just as bad but for a different reason. Taking this strategy could cause more initial bookings, but it raises guest expectations to levels that are unreasonable and unsustainable.

The outcome is that you either underdeliver against these unrealistically high expectations, leading to poor guest ratings and thus poor long-term performance for your listing, or you’ll have to keep going above and beyond just trying to meet these expectations. Feeling overworked and underappreciated is a great way to achieve hosting burnout.

Getting into the Goldilocks zone — setting them just right

To neither handicap your listings ability to win bookings nor set yourself up for burnout, you must set realistic guest expectations by only promising what you can deliver for all guests for all bookings.

Meeting guest expectations will be easy, but exceeding them will be possible and your efforts appreciated. Here you get the best outcome — receive glowing reviews from happy guests and all without unsustainable overworking on your part. Although setting unreasonably low or high guest expectations each has enticing incentives, both come with costs regardless of the actual guest stay you deliver. The best place to be is to set just right guest expectations and then exceed them.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Symon He, MBA, and James Svetec are the experts behind Symon is also a real estate investing instructor with Linkedin Learning, and Udemy, and James is the founder of BNB Mastery Program, the No. 1 expert in rapidly scaling an Airbnb business.

Symon He, MBA, and James Svetec are the experts behind Symon is also a real estate investing instructor with Linkedin Learning, and Udemy, and James is the founder of BNB Mastery Program, the No. 1 expert in rapidly scaling an Airbnb business.

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