When social scientists want to test the validity of their information, they’ll triangulate their data. They’ll gather the same data utilizing different methods to see whether or not those independent techniques produce the same result. It’s such a basic idea, but if your an Airbnb host, the application of this strategy can provide more actionable information to enhance your Airbnb than any online course, consultation, or checklist.
Here’s how it works. Instead of relying on isolated guest reviews, you’ll actively gather data on your Airbnb’s weaknesses using three different methods. First, you’ll spend a week as a guest in your own Airbnb. Second, you’ll host a friend with a track-record for honesty. And third, you’ll gather up all of your written guest reviews for collective analysis. These three different perspectives will culminate in a laser-sharp understanding of where your Airbnb could use a little more love.
These three different perspectives will culminate in a laser-sharp understanding of where your Airbnb could use a little more love.
Before we dive into the details, remember that the linchpin of this strategy is constructive criticism. Embrace the data you dig up! Even the most spectacular Airbnbs we’ve found could use a tweak or two. The best hosts don’t just pour their heart and soul into setting up their Airbnb; they continuously look for opportunities to enhance their guests’ experience. These three steps will help any Airbnb host do just that.
1) Be a Guest in Your Own Airbnb
After countless stays as continuous guests, this is the single most important piece of advice we could give hosts looking to fine tune their Airbnb. If you really want to know what it’s like to be a guest in your home, become a guest yourself.
Start with the App
The most common Airbnb frustrations stem from a chasm between the guest’s expectations and the reality of your Airbnb. Prime your own stay with the same information your provide your guests before they walk through the door. Every guest you host starts with your Airbnb listing, and so should you. Swipe through the pictures, read the description, look over the amenities, scan the reviews. This will remind you of the benchmark your listing sets for guests, and during your own stay, you’ll be on the lookout for where your Airbnb might fall a bit short.
Set a One Week Minimum
Don’t undermine your data collection before you begin! Set a one week minimum, even if you have to use your own vacation days to carve out the time. Here’s why. A full week in your Airbnb simulates a much broader range of guest experiences. Unlike a weekend overnight, a full week means you will develop a routine in your Airbnb: you’ll cook, clean, work, and relax. Most importantly, the small annoyances like a subpar mattress or collection of dull knives can’t fly under the radar like they might with a 48-hour stint. Time will accentuate these pain points so that they’re properly noted and actually fixed.
The most common Airbnb frustrations stem from a chasm between the guest’s expectations and the reality of your Airbnb. Prime your own stay with the same information your provide your guests before they walk through the door.
Barring some crazy unforeseen circumstances, do not go home, even if home is literally upstairs! Oscillating between your daily environment and your Airbnb will warp your data collection. You’ll have a lukewarm understanding of what your guests actually experience because your stay will be padded by the comforts of your own home. Pack for a seven day trip just like you would if you were a week-long guests. If you find out that your Airbnb is missing something essential like cutting boards or laundry detergent, go out and buy it. You’ll get the most authentic guest experience while simultaneously sprucing up your place for the next round of folks you host.
Carry a Notebook
From the moment you start your experiment in the Airbnb app to the moment you check out (following your own check-out instructions, of course!), keep a notebook glued to your side. Jot down absolutely anything you could do to improve your Airbnb: the surprises, the necessary cleaning, the new furniture layout you’ve just cooked up. Challenge yourself to brainstorm as many potential ideas as possible. Instead of using your phone or computer to collect your ideas, we strongly recommend a physical notebook. It will create material reminder that you’re on the hunt for potential improvements since, unlike your daily devices, it’s only associated with this task.
2) Host an Honest Friend
After your own stay, block off another week from your booking availability and invite a friend to come experience your Airbnb.
All of the potential insight from a friend’s stay hinges on honesty. This second data collection method should yield a more objective viewpoint than you can muster up on your own and more frankness than your guests tend to provide. This means straight-shooting honesty is a must. As you narrow down the potential visitors to invite, ask yourself who could provide the most constructive criticism in this realm. Detail-oriented folks would be great. And of course, it should be someone whose opinion you respect and trust. This will make the debriefing at the end of their stay meaningful.
Your Ideal Guest
Next, consider which potential friends or relatives most closely align with the guests your listing strives to attract. Whether your Airbnb is pet-friendly, family-ready, or ideal for the remote worker, you’ll get the most actionable information from folks who have similar needs to your most common guests. Still have multiple candidates in mind? Pick the person who differs from your lifestyle the most, especially when it comes to how they’ve put together their physical home. That contrast will produce much more information than the doppelgänger who will parrot the data you collected during your own stay.
This sort of stream-of-consciousness record of guest-inspired tweaks is priceless.
Out of Town
Almost all of your Airbnb guests will be from other places. If it’s at all possible, control for this variable in your data collection by inviting a friend from out of town. Their unfamiliarity with the neighborhood will put your local guide to the test, and strengthen your understanding of how to help guests get the most out of your location. Just be careful not to skew their insights with your constant presence. The closer their experience is to that of a real guest, the more helpful their data will be.
Pass on the Notebook
Most importantly, pass along a notebook for them to write down all of their suggestions. The notebook demonstrates your eagerness to improve and your seriousness about this experiment. It will also provide that tangible reminder for your friends of the task at hand, encouraging them to remain vigilant and record as many suggestions as possible. This written collection of potential improvements will be much richer than any summarizing conversation you’ll have at the end of their stay. This sort of stream-of-consciousness record of guest-inspired tweaks is priceless.
3) Analyze Your Reviews Collectively
Reviews that trickle in stay by stay look different when considered holistically. Round out the data you collected in the first two steps by aggregating your written guest reviews.
Put on Your Researcher Cap
Before you dive into the sea of reviews, swap out any emotional lens for that of a curious researcher. If you can keep any inkling of defensiveness at arm’s length, you’ll squeeze a whole new level of usefulness out of the written reviews your guests have left. Objectivity is the backbone to identifying patterns in this third step. If it’s difficult to maintain, ask a friend or family member to analyze your reviews along with you. Better yet, if you know another Airbnb host, team up and maximize the insight you have for both properties.
Quantify Your Reviews
Since Airbnb reviews are consistently inflated, there’s usually there’s an enormous amount of variability sitting between that fourth and fifth star. Aggregating the written reviews can help you identify what your guests actually think. To see the big picture, quantify your written comments to reveal the overarching patterns that are indistinguishable when you consider one review at a time. Scour each review for any possible criticisms and cluster these critiques into broader categories such as cleanliness, under-furnished kitchen, etc. With this taxonomy established, run through each written comment you’ve received and add a tally for any category where there’s a critique. The most urgent fixes will jump out like a sore thumb.
To see the big picture, quantify your written comments to reveal the overarching patterns that are indistinguishable when you consider one review at a time.
Fill in the Blanks
What guests haven’t said is often as informative as what they have. Once you’ve categorized your comments, scan them once more, this time keeping an eye out for what’s missing. When you come across more agitated reviews, flex your empathy muscles and imagine the different contexts that could have underpinned that reaction. Is there any type of preparation that could have altered that guest’s experience? Boilerplate reviews also deserve a second glance. “Decent place. Good water pressure,” is usually guest-speak for “I wouldn’t stay here again.” And as you look through the reviews you do have, consider the ones you don’t. Often uncomfortable guests won’t leave a review. Are there any commonalities that connect the guests who haven’t said a thing?
Fix ‘er Up!
Finally, it’s time to see where the data from these three collection methods overlap. What commonalities do you find between your stay, your friend’s stay, and your aggregated guest reviews? This intersection will throw into sharp relief the most common pain points your guests experience during their stay. Now that you’ve identified these weaknesses, go fix them! Tackle the top three problems immediately. The 80/20 rule is applicable here too. Of all the potential changes you might have in mind at the end of this three step process, 80% of your guests’ critiques will likely be alleviated by just 20% of your tweaks. Hop to it and make the most impactful changes right away. Your next guests will thank you!
Thanks so much for reading this week’s post! We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. If you’re an Airbnb host, tell us the most effective strategies you’ve found for fine-tuning your Airbnb. Any other data collection methods out there? Can’t wait to hear your thoughts. Until next time, happy hosting!