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One of the most challenging and subsequently wonderful things an Airbnb host experiences is the review process. Honest reviews are what the whole Airbnb process relies on. As a host you read past host reviews of guests to make sure they are a good fit for your space, while guests read reviews of hosts and their spaces to determine if the listing is all it cracks up to be. But humans are humans, what happens when reviews are a bit off from the truth?
When I first joined Airbnb, and listed our space, I did a bit of research on how to create a strong listing. Every resource stressed how important reviews are; in which the first few reviews could really make or break your opportunity for success. If your first few reviews were below amazing, if felt like there you really had no future on Airbnb. What pressure! It felt as if, no matter how hard I worked, if my guests didn't leave the most sparkling review ever, I would be rouined. Maybe I over dramatized it... but I care and what my guests to have a comfortable and wonderful experience in my space.
I recall preparing our house for the first group of guests we would receive through Airbnb; I was very excited and nervous, although I was confident. Everything was squeaky clean, the grass was cut, the bed linens were beautifully arranged, and we were about to go on our first "mini holiday." I felt prepared! My first group would love the space, or just as much if not more (because they were on vacation) than we do! My house guidebook was lovingly created with all the information my guests would need to manage the house and navigate our neigborhood.
After their stay and a quick inventory of the space, I promptly wrote them a review. I was honest, but stressed how appreciative I was that they chose to stay with us. I felt I kissed a little butt in my review, but that was ok, I felt because I was a new host it was necessary. They were not even close to horrible guests, but at this point I wasn't quite sure how to leave a helpful review.
The review we received back was great. They raved about the space and how wonderful we were as hosts. They also gave us some wonderful pointers on things to add to the house and think about. The suggestions were well meaning and very helpful, it was obvious they actually took a moment to think about their review and suggestions that could improve our space for future guests. Everything a guest suggests we take very seriously.
The critical tidbits from a guest are sometimes hard to read, because they feel so personal, much like a mean personal attack. But I have come to realize, they are an extremely important tool. If you ignore these criticisms or completely brush them off as fluff, you would be missing out on something invaluable, that you could strongly benefit from. That being said, you may need to dig to find the actual nugget to information that is helpful, if the review is highly emotionally charged, it may be buried.
I feel if at least one guest feels that way, it's very possible other guests will feel the same as well. To ignore any of these suggestions, would be doing myself a huge disfavor. Although I feel it's important to separate yourself from the review.
I have received many wonderfully personal emails from guests after they have left, thanking us and raving about the experience they had. Unfortunately when they submitted their review through Airbnb it was impersonal and unextraordinary -- almost like it was written by a computer. It was my hope that their sentiments would cross over into the Airbnb site, but that's not what happened.
That being said, I feel such wonderful elation when we receive a five star and thoughtful review. I feel like the person appreciated our space and realized the hard work we do for them to have a wonderful holiday. I say thoughtful, because it's one thing for a guest to quickly complete the review and check off five stars for every prompt, and write a one sentence blurb.
When I receive a review that lists what they specifically enjoyed about the house and surrounding area, I'm so peachy-keen pleased. These moments (amongst others) are a large part of why I love doing this.
Even if guest doesn't rate us five stars, I would like to know why. I try to make it very clear in the good-bye email I send before they checkout, we are extremely interested in their imput. It is their prerogative to find fault -- I try to cut down any opportunity for that to happen -- but if they feel the shower grout was dirty, I want to know that and take actions.
In regards to star rating, guests are able to award zero to five stars for various factors regards their stay. This rather irritates me. Personally I feel three stars is middle of the road, average. It there was nothing wrong or if I was not blown away, I would give three or above. A five star rating is saved for things that are exceptionally specially and not often awarded -- that's what makes them special. Although I feel like five stars is now average. If you don't receive five stars on your Airbnb review it is viewed as sub-par and not as good. When in reality you may not have a fancy or luxurious space, but it's clean and comfortable. This is what your guest signed up for and they should not punish the host for delivering just that.
This article was inspired by a review I received last week. It was one of the most thoughtful reviews we have ever received from a guest. Honestly I wasn't sure they were even going to write us a review. Not because they had a horrible time, but because they seemed forgetful and busy, I also knew they were continuing to travel after staying with us. But their sweet words made me feel so proud, like my time was well spent.
Being on the receiving side of reviews makes me a better review peruser, I now know how petty and silly people can be while writing about their experince. I now realize how important it is to take it all with a grain of salt... there may be a grain of truth, but it may be buried.
Ashley Parent is an Airbnb host and instigates the magic at http://blissylife.com. She is having a hard time staying in her seat with the excitement of the release of her new eBook Portable Bed & Breakfast: Empower Your Freedom Lifestyle With Airbnb.
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