If you're like most successful vacation rental hosts, you're probably very responsive to guest feedback.
Guests complain about a loud air-conditioning unit in the master bathroom?
You either fix it or get a new one.
Hear enough guests say the towels are kinda cheap?
You go buy nicer towels.
We do this because as owners and managers we take great pride in creating spectacular guest experiences and we see constructive criticism as an opportunity to grow. We do it for survival too: receive a few too many of these complaints and our business begins to suffer.
This being said, it's always a bit confusing to me why the major listing sites in our industry -- the supposed vehicles of our values -- don't adopt that same style of responsiveness and adaptability when it comes to criticism and critique. It should be no surprise that an emerging industry will be pockmarked with growing pains and learning curves...
But the sheer anger that one picks up from most user feedback about these sites is strangely palpable. If you were to put it in vacation terms, it's as if the host isn't listening to their guests complaints, yet the guests kinda have nowhere else to stay.
It's been this way for years.
Last week, I received a call from Shaun Stewart, Airbnb's Global Head of Vacation Rentals.
Noticing the great potential of our emerging industry, Airbnb hired Shaun about 1 year ago to head a department catering exclusively to us: the vacation rental owners and managers.
Shaun explained how (1) vacation rentals are inherently different from traditional Airbnb properties (less urban and more vacation destination-based, for instance). And how (2) our differences simultaneously present a great compliment to Airbnb's existing brand portfolio.
This may be pretty obvious to a lot of people.
But what I found remarkable and shareworthy was the style with which Shaun and his team went about entering the vacation rental market. I say style because it's more than just a process or a sequence of actions. It's this conscious way of thought that sets one apart from others. And upon revealing that he would be willing to let me share this previously-unpublished information, I began taking copious notes!
I could envision a large company like Airbnb seeing an opportunity with vacation rentals, stabbing at the industry blindly, and succeeding perfectly well in the short-run. But as you may have guessed, Shaun's team at Airbnb was a bit more thoughtful than that.
Upon hearing the way they were going about this process, I humbly asked if I could share the steps with the world and Shaun and his team agreed to lend me the exclusive, which is to say, the following is "hot off the press":
Airbnb was savvy enough to realize that vacation rental owners/managers are unique. And while Airbnb is the world's hottest hospitality brand, the company wasn't versed in the nuances of vacation rentals (compared to their traditional Airbnb hosts). So the first step was to interview a large group of vacation rental owners and managers and ask them very simply:
"What are some reasons you don't use Airbnb?"
Matt's VRMB Takeaway
This is a tremendous way for owners or managers to enter any new vacation rental market. Begin polling potential guests, invite existing players out to coffee and pick their brain, understand the pain points. Know how you can offer a better USP and you're standing on solid ground.
Us vacation rental hosts are a complicated bunch, so I'm sure Shaun's team spent plenty of restless hours going through all the responses. And to deal with so much data, in the end they went with a statistical approach and created a priority list of the 16 most critical "reasons you don't use Airbnb," ten of which Shaun walked me through during the call and I have featured below (the remaining six I will publish in the coming weeks):
It would have been very easy for the Airbnb team to deem some of these items too complicated, too costly or simply impossible. But with some autonomy (remember, Shaun is now running "the vacation rental department") they made a clear decision to begin fulfilling every single one of these requests, checking items off the list, and eliminating friction points.
To date, Shaun has resolved 14 of 16 of the most requested items.
I will feature the remaining 6 fixes in the coming weeks.
And apart from a lot of the other useful information about their entrance to the world of vacation rentals, which I have shared in this Inner Circle thread introducing new member (and Airbnb team member) Brent Boone, I felt it was worth sharing Airbnb's methodical process with you not because it's rocket science...
But rather, because it's a simple yet oft-forgotten reverse engineering process that successful hosts can use to make our vacation rentals even more spectacular:
We do so because we are after long-term success.
And we know it's not easy work, but we're willing to put forth the effort to "do it right."
It is what makes us different from our competitors down the street.
@Airbnb Reveals 3-Step Plan To Enter The VR Market | Things Get Iiiiinteresting For @HomeAway @bookmorenights
I have often asked myself, "If I was the CEO of a major listing site, how would I handle all this chaos?" Except I never really have a good answer.
But now I see in Airbnb's entrance process: unrivaled commitment to giving clients what they want, strong adherence to statistics, and consistency. This is gonna be my new motto. And whether you use Airbnb or not, hopefully your own business can benefit from learning their entrance to the vacation rental industry as well.
Matt Landau is the Founder of the VRMB and the Inner Circle, two online resources dedicated to helping vacation rental owners and managers generate more bookings.
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