While my “day job” is in Tech Sales, an unintended side hustle has shed so much light on the importance of earning 5 stars by delighting customers one at a time, no matter the business. Whether you apply these principals as an airbnb host or as a consumer tech hardware entrepreneur selling on Amazon, read on.
A few years ago, a friend suggested I turn my second home in the California Sierra Mountains into a vacation rental. While renting hadn’t been in my plan, the news alerts raving of airbnb’s hyper-growth had garnered my attention professionally. A repeat airbnb guest, becoming an airbnb host had me intrigued. So, to defray the mortgage and to quell my curiosity about the feasibility of the newish “sharing economy”, I went for it. 3 years and 55 5-star reviews later, here are 5 essential steps I learned to earn a 5-star airbnb or VRBO vacation rental business.
- A picture is worth a thousand renters. Appearance is everything to a vacation rental shopper. GREAT photos of your property not only attract customers, they instill a sense of value. DIY photos can work if you have a high res camera (or phone) and have a grasp on perspective – the most attractive angles from which to capture the essence of your “product”. Don’t be afraid to crawl on the ground or stand on a counter to get just the right shot. If you’re not up to the task, hire a professional photographer.
- Words have meaning. If you’re fortunate to have grown up around professional marketers or an English teacher (like I was), you could have an advantage here. Intriguing descriptions, particularly those that paint the picture of an amazing vacation experience, truly resonate when would-be renters compare your listing to others. Think about the last time you stayed at a hotel or airbnb. What did you love about it? How did it make you feel? Try to evoke that feeling in your description. Depending on your target guest profile and what your property has to offer, use words like “relaxing”, “serene”, “adventure”, “luxury”, “rustic” to relate your property to the traveler.
- Don’t skimp on the amenities. Ensure your guest’s experience upon arrival is frictionless. This is all about convenience. A well-stocked kitchen (spices, baking essentials, quality plates, cookware and knives) means they don’t have to spend precious vacation time and money shopping for and wasting items they won’t use beyond vacation. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash in each bathroom means they’re getting a hotel-like experience and saving stressful packing time. And never expect your renter to buy TP and paper towels. I’ve been surprised by a few homes I’ve rented that don’t offer linens or only low-quality linens. Spend the extra few bucks on high thread count sheets (hint: Overstock or Amazon). Your guests will sleep better and note it in their reviews. The more time you allow to enjoy your vacation home, versus set it up, the better their experience will be. I have found a basket of snacks, a bottle of local wine, and a bag of local coffee goes a long way in making your guests feel welcome.
- Set proper expectations ahead of the stay. A well-timed message with information about your vacation home, things to do in the area, and links to the local event calendar or visitors bureau, provides a bit of a concierge effect. Helping your guest to a short list of your favorite restaurants and local spots takes a lot of the work of travel planning out of their hands.
- Be accessible and eager to help. Whether sending info before their stay, touching bases to make sure check-in went smoothly, or responding quickly when the refrigerator or water heater stops working (yes, this happened to me!) gives the feeling of “white glove treatment”. Be sure your guest knows it’s OK to contact you even for the simplest question. With airbnb and VRBO apps, you can stay connected easily. This level of service will leave an impression that leads to a 5-star review, repeat stays, and referrals.
The most important reason to focus your efforts on delighting customers? 5-star reviews attract more views and customers. My vacation rental business took off once I crossed the threshold of 10 5-star reviews. People like a sure bet.
About the author:
Suzanne Oehler is an energetic, driven business leader with 15 years in consumer and enterprise tech Sales. Widely regarded for opening and expanding business in brick-and-mortar Retail and digital E-Commerce for consumer technology hardware start-ups, she designs and implements winning Sales strategies that navigate the complexities of Consumer markets.