AirBnB: Host With The Most
With nearly 17 million guest stays this summer, AirBnB is creating an industry out of thin air but can it overcome political and social hurdles to continue disrupting the travel industry?
Are you an AirBnB host? I am. There’s nothing like your first time, the trepidation: which valuables to lock up? will they trash our place? or even worse: will they not love our home? give us low ratings?
AirBnB, there’s so much to discuss, let’s unpack the product over a few blogs, starting with how AirBnB should address the backlash while refreshing their mobile app for hosts.
My wife and I decided to give it a try: set up profile; arrange professional photographer; book first stay; check, check, check. So, remind me again why we’re letting complete strangers have our home for a weekend? sleep in our beds, wash their naked bodies in our showers, co-habitate our space with our precious little beta fish! why? We want to be part of the sharing economy. We put great care in making our home a stylish, comfortable space and love opening it up to others; oh yeah, and they’re paying us.
While my AirBnB experience, so far has been good; the mobile app missed my expectations and there’s room for improving it for hosts, like me.
Also, if AirBnB is going to extend their stay atop the industry, they must address political and social concerns: Trust, Safety, and Regulations and it makes sense to do this while sprucing up their mobile app. For now, let’s focus on Trust and Safety, we’ll get to Regulations later.
I like the aesthetic of AirBnb’s mobile app. It offers a clean design: crisp, intuitive iconography; snappy pics; without excessive lines or superfluous UI elements. Other standouts:
- Help Center is well organized and full of useful information
- Host/Guest toggle for context switching between hosting and traveling, great!
- Edit Listing is clearly presented with obvious anchors and a handy preview
- Groups are easy to find and follow
OPPORTUNITY FOR IMPROVEMENT
Quick Rant: The AirBnB app should be situationally aware. What do I mean?
Without reservation requests, the landing page, the entryway into the app is a bland, colorless, dull message screen: “No Reservation Requests.” This from a team that prides itself on design? it’s the oatmeal of landing pages.
Also, my wife and I share Google Calendar, Google Drive, iTunes Library, bank accounts, Amex Cards, but I have to log into her AirBnB account to help manage our listing. Be situationally aware.
The AirBnB app was pitched as the “Host Home” for managing listings; and since launch the world has changed, hosts need more tools to feel at home.
Tools to help them address concerns related to: Trust, Safety, Regulations.
Trust is built on verification of reputation; and the AirBnB App must support use cases which build Trust.
Guest Star Ratings
AirBnB guests should be rated, just like Uber and Lyft passengers. Guest reviews are good, but a Guest Star Rating is more concise:
Verified ID links your AirBnB profile to your online identities, like Facebook. It’s great, but AirBnB should take the next step and perform background checks on participating hosts. Background checks of hosts would help alleviate Trust issues and even prevent those with a spotty past from becoming hosts.
Matching goes beyond the room; AirBnB should be matching hosts and guests, creating harmony by pairing lifestyles. Familiarity builds Trust. And, yes, there’s even a host out there for the 22 year olds in town for Outside Lands, Coachella, whatever festival (that host most likely doesn’t have light colored rugs).
The matching algorithm should include attributes for both hosts and guests:
- Star rating
- Number of identity verifications
- Background checks
- Safety features
- Lifestyle details
Host/guest matchmaking would further differentiate AirBnB from hotels; and enhance their unique experience.
Hosts have 24 hours to respond to guest queries and make a booking decision, or approval ratings will suffer. Even if waiting for guests to... ah, let’s say prove they’re not a serial killer! This is stressful and would be streamlined with conditional approvals. If the only thing preventing me approving a booking is the guest missing reviews or Verified IDs, let me add these as conditionals for approval, turn it back on them, 24 hours to book.
Hosts have 24 hours to respond…. Even if waiting for guests to... um, let’s say prove they’re not a serial killer!
Instabook is removing approvals from your listing, so anyone can book it. Yeah, right! “No, we ain’t do’in that.” While we’re not about to let just anyone stay in our home, I would entertain the idea under certain conditions, like:
- Limit four guests
- Five star guest
- Background check
- No smoking
- No children
- No parties
Otherwise, Instabook is a nonstarter.
Safety is assured with adequate precautions and a plan, in case of emergency.
The landing page would be better suited as a Message Center to help communications between hosts and guest and timely, safety reminders. The app should know when, say I have active guests, their messages go to the Message Center, the rest can still go to the email Inbox. Be situationally aware.
If I were the manager of a hotel this would keep me dialed into my VIP guests. Some examples:
- Messages from active guest
- Reminder safety checklist before guests arrive
- Important alerts on local regulations where I have listings
- Breaking news near listings with my active guests
Host Tips are great, but they’re buried in a one-and-done wizard. To address Safety concerns the app needs to be more dynamic and, situationally aware.
Life is uncertain, and when things go wrong in a hotel the staff has your back; at an AirBnB, not so much.
AirBnB has an emergency contact, listed in the account profile, quite simply they should use it. My emergency contact should be able to find out from AirBnB where I’m staying.
Also, the AirBnB app should have location based Police and Fire contacts to contact local authorities. Do you know how to call the fire department in, say, Beijing?
The future is now, well at least we have a glimpse. Between writing and posting this blog, AirBnB announced their Apple Watch App which could act like the Message Center I defined above. Good to see we’re on the same page. This could be a good start, but if it’s not situationally aware and focused on core use cases, it’ll be a miss.
The AirBnB app is clean, snappy, and well designed. But if AirBnB is is going to overcome recent backlash it should address Trust, Safety, and Regulations and be a link between hosts and their guests. With well appointed additions, the app could be a Message Center for specific alerts and timely checklist reminders while supporting features to address Trust and Safety. Otherwise, the PR nightmares will continue to mount, which would burst their bubble.
It’s no secret AirBnB wants to go from managing one part of travel, the room, to the entire experience. Next time, we’ll take a closer look at how adding basic hospitality services can help AirBnB go beyond the room and hold the customers they grab. As well as digging into app features which can help with Regulations. Oh, and maybe take a closer look at the Apple Watch App.