9 simple ways to scale up your Airbnb operations, from check-in to review | Smartbnb

9 simple ways to scale up your Airbnb operations, from check-in to review October 04, 2019

By Rowan Clifford

Author of Airbn'b'Smart and Smartbnb user

Who would have thought that that spare room would end up paying for your entire mortgage!

Didn’t see that one coming…

This is the same story echoed by thousands of savvy homeowners who’ve opened their doors to complete strangers and fully embraced the gig economy, and all that it offers.

However, what started as a side hustle can soon become a second job.  

Yes, your earning capacity has increased, but what was once your leisure time has now been eaten up entirely by your side hustle.

The more bookings you get, the less free time you have.

You’re stuck in the old ‘time-for-money’ paradigm…

...and it sucks.

Luckily however, there are ways (many in fact) that you can run a successful Airbnb business, and even scale it up to multiple listings, in a way that doesn’t impact your free time.

In fact, you might find that you’ll have more freedom than ever!

Intrigued?

Read on...

Why you should scale up your Airbnb operation

It’s your job as an Airbnb host to provide an exceptional experience for your guests.

With just one property this can be done manually fairly easily, albeit with a large amount of work.

However, if you have a portfolio of properties to manage, this can require an entire workforce.

To manage this efficiently and effectively you need to have good systems in place to provide the same exceptional experience to your guest at scale (without giving you a perma-headache).

For this you need systems...

Systems vs Processes

A system is a set of procedures that all work together as part of a complex mechanism.

A process is a series of actions or steps that you take in order to achieve a particular end.

So, why is this important?

And, how does it translate for hosting on Airbnb?

On a macro scale, the responsibilities of an Airbnb host and all of its complex, nuanced processes can be viewed as a system.  

This system has many moving parts, however, many of these processes can be systemised to help streamline and scale up your Airbnb operations.

Building the system

The Airbnb guest experience is a complex system, but, we can break down this guest journey into small parts and look for time saving, efficiency improving solutions to improve them.

The guest journey can be broken down into the following categories:

To find efficiency improvements and to leverage your resources as an Airbnb host we’re going to be using a coctail of hard system solutions and software to help us along.

A lot of nerd talk I know, but anyway, let's get started...

9 Simple ways to scale up your Airbnb operations

Guest check in

The guest check-in experience leaves an important first impression.  It’s also something that your guests will be reviewing you for once they leave.

The typical process for this would be to meet and greet your guests, show them around in person, build rapport and offer guidance.  

This is frickin' awesome, however, it’s a major glut on your time, and just doesn’t scale well.

Guest check-in the easy way...

There’s a very simple solution to this, and it’s done by the use of a secure key lock.

Not only does it remove the need for you to be present at the property during check-in, it also removes much of the friction eg. multiple guest messages coordinating arrival times.

It also adds value to the check in experience of your guests because they too are freed up from time restrictions and the ‘messaging ping-pong’ required to coordinate check-in.

There is a tradeoff however when using this system for guest check-ins because you aren’t able to build the same rapport. However, with a thoughtful guest messaging sequence your guests can feel nurtured, and rapport can still be built.

Guest Communication

How you communicate, the tone and voice of your messaging plays a vital role in building rapport with your guests.

These messages, are frequent and time consuming to create (especially when you have multiple guests at different stages within the booking journey.

The labour required to communicate effectively is considerable.  This is where an automation tool like Smartbnb can help.

Automate guest communication

Even though guest communication is one of the most nuanced, highly subjective, time sensitive processes of the entire Airbnb guest journey, it is possible to automate much of it.

In fact, by using Smartbnb it’s possible to automate upwards of 90% of all guest communication (maybe even 95%).

But how do you do it without sounding like a robot?

They use what’s called ‘short-codes’ to replace many of the variable components of your guest messages (short-codes start and end with the % sign).

Here’s an example:

Hey %guest_first_name%!

Super happy you chose to stay at our place for your trip to %listing_city%.

If you have any questions whatsoever please don’t hesitate to hit me up.

I'm 100% here to help.

Otherwise, I'll be in touch with more detailed check-in instructions a day or so before you check-in.

%check_in%

Thanks again.

Speak soon.

%host_first_name%

The ‘short-codes’ communicate directly to your Airbnb account so that each message is personalised/dynamic and unique for each guest.

Using Smartbnb alongside their vast library of short-codes to create automated messaging templates (like the one above), that can be fired off to your guests at precisely the right time (every time) is handy to say the least.

Plus it’ll work seamlessly regardless of whether you’re a manage 1 listing or a 1000.

Cleaning service

The typical small time Airbnb host will handle all the cleaning on changeover day.  This is great as a way to save costs as a small time host, however, for obvious reasons it doesn’t scale well.

For that, you’ll need to hire a cleaning service.

Yes this eats into your profit margin, but it's a necessary evil if you’re looking to scale up and leverage your time.

Incentive structure to align interests with  your cleaning service

Mistakes do happen, and complaints will definitely happen over time (especially as you scale up).

To avoid/reduce these mistakes, it's important to create the correct incentive structure that aligns your cleaners interests with yours.

A system that has worked well for me in the past is as follows:

I also forward all positive and negative guest feedback directly to my cleaning team.

If your cleaner has a vested interest in the quality of your reviews, they’ll pay more attention to the details, complaints will be less frequent, and you’ll have less headaches to contend with and better reviews all-round.

House Manual

For the traditional host, a house manual is of little importance as they’re always on hand to answer questions and provide help when needed.

However, this simply doesn’t work at scale.

For many of the frequently asked questions (and the more obscure), a well crafted house manual should do the trick.

Crafting a killer house manual

First and foremost, your guest doesn’t want to read your house manual, that much we know.  

But, we need our guests to at least skim over the house manual, or at the very least know where to access it should any problems arise or questions need to be asked.

So, how can we maximise the chances of our guests reading our house manual?

There’s two ways to do this (and I recommend you do both):

  1. Print off a hard copy of your house manual, laminate it, and leave it in a prominent area of your home so that your guests can’t miss it.
  2. Actively send a copy of your house manual as a message to your guests just before they arrive (I use Smartbnb to schedule this message 4 hours before check-in).  The likelihood of your guests reading your house manual, and the timing of the message sent are directly correlated.  The closer to check-in the house manual is sent, the more likely it is to be read.  

Pro tip: It’s a little overkill but it is possible to create interactive, digital house manuals using a service like Touch Stay.

Guest Welcome Pack

Guests expect a little welcome pack.  It’s part of what makes Airbnb fun.

Guests look forward to a warm cuppa when they arrive, and they certainly don’t want the hassles of buying toilet rolls and soap for their single nights stay.

As a host, these things cost money, and they’re a time suck to replace.

Welcome pack time saving, cost cutting hack

Firstly, if you employ a cleaning service this is something that you’ll want to outsource to them (if possible).  Pay them a little extra to take care of this for you.

To improve your margins and make it cost effective, buy items for your guest packs in bulk, and block off an area of storage in your home for easy access.

Pro tip: Invest in a few fancy containers for your shampoo, soap, coffee, tea, etc. and simply refill for each new check-in.  Not only is this a sneaky thrifty little hack (as you can buy unbranded products in bulk), it also reduces waste too.

Win-Win.

Guest check out

The guest check-out procedure is a super important part of the puzzle.

Doing this manually is time consuming, requires coordination for key retrieval, and communication to ensure your guests leave on time.

A guest check-out system that scales

To achieve a smooth guest check-out experience every time (even at scale), you must address these 3 potential problems:

Each of these potential problems can be addressed, and I’ll show you how I do it below:

Guest not checking out on time.

When guests don’t check-out on time it can cause a catalogue of unwanted events that may impact the check-in experience for the next guests.

As a solution to this I send a simple reminder to each guest on the morning of departure kindly stating the check-out time and the appropriate procedure.

Guests losing/misplacing keys

Lost keys are costly to replace and a headache.

To reduce the risk of lost keys I impose a slightly excessive lost key fee to adequately discourage the problem of lost keys (I’ve never had one misplaced yet…).

Excessive time spent communicating

Organising all of the above can be a headache to say the least, and it can actually become pretty hard to remember when to send the appropriate message.

I get around this issue by sending a pre-scheduled automated checkout message using Smartbnb.

Laundry

Washing laundry takes time.  

And, when you have a same day changeover, washing and drying within the changeover window isn’t very effective.

Laundry at scale

To ensure that your cleaner never has to wait for fresh linen from the laundry service, have multiple laundry sets on rotation.  Whilst one set is in use, the other is getting cleaned.

Rinse and repeat! (pardon the pun…)

Team reminders

Co-ordinating everyone in your team manually is a complicated and time consuming process.

Much of the communication is time sensitive, and it gets to a whole new level of complexity and stress as you scale up from one listing to many.

Team reminders that scale

Team reminders are only effective if they’re sent at the appropriate time.

Too early and your team will forget it, too late and it’s well, too late :(

So, for reminders to work effectively, they must be sent at the right time, every time.

Doing this manually will likely drive you nuts, and give you sleepless nights.  Plus, let's be fair here, there’s a high chance you’ll forget (I know I have).

Thankfully, this entire process can be automated..  

Once again this is something that Smartbnb can take care of.  And, not only can it send automated email reminders, but also SMS reminders too.

Reviews

Reviewing guests is a pretty straightforward process.  It only takes a few minutes for each one, and it really isn’t that much hassle at all.

So, why is it that every single time I ignore every single Airbnb review reminder up until the last possible moment before finally mustering up the effort to complete the review process!

Maybe I’m just lazy or maybe it’s because I’ve already been bombarded by another 100 reminders from the different apps on my phone.

Either way, leaving reviews is as headache and as you scale things up it can take up more of your time (and mental resources) than you might first think.

Reviews, automated.

The good news is that it is possible to automate the entire review process.

Ans, it’s actually pretty easy.

Once you’re set up with Smartbnb you can create multiple different generic reviews (with the use of those handy short-codes we touched on earlier to enter dynamic content into each review) which get rotated for each new review.

You can also schedule and pre-set the delay before your review gets posted.

You’ll never have to write another review again!

Pricing

The number 1 factor that has the biggest impact on your booking rate and you’re visibility within Airbnb’s search results is price.

Like it or loathe it, this is the reality.

Pricing your listing competitively to reflect demand and seasonal variations can be a confusing process at best, whatsmore, it’s a constantly changing landscape that changes daily.

Optimising your pricing is a very time consuming process, even more so when you’re managing multiple listings.

Automated pricing at scale

Luckily there’s some data driven geeks out there that have built elaborate algorithms that crunch all the data that impacts the prices you should be charging for each of your listings.

They process multiple data points which include:

They take the time and stress out of pricing you’re listings competitively, and they also boast increases to your revenue of 10-40%

A time saving solution, that puts money in your pocket.  That’s what I like to see.

To learn more about Airbnb pricing tools click here.

Conclusion

After re-reading this post I’m beginning to realise that I’m a bit obsessed with systems (I wish my life operated as smoothly as my Airbnb business did…).

However, after having real life experience of operating a system like this I can attest to the time saving, cost cutting, scaling abilities a system like this can bring.

So, if you want to scale up your operations and reduce your workload, try implementing some (if not all) of the above examples.  

I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Peace out.
Rowan.

P.S. I think I need to get out more...

Rowan Clifford is a serial solopreneur and founder of Airbn’b’Smart where he writes tips, tricks and hacks for savvy Airbnb hosts looking to maximise their earning potential with minimum effort.