written on Dec 8, 2016
Can a company of that size and growth truly rely solely on individual hosts for reassuring guests that there will be no bad surprises?
Up to now, Airbnb has been offering a single product: a platform that connects property owners (hosts) with people who need a place to sleep (guests).
Apparently, that has worked well, so far. Both hosts and guests are becoming raving fans, and Airbnb’s growth has skyrocketed.
But, can a company of that size and growth truly rely solely on individual hosts for reassuring guests that there will be no bad surprises?
More than this, Airbnb’s pressure –coming mostly from the competition- on applying the “Instant booking” (i.e., when someone can book a space directly, without having to contact the host first) has changed the way Airbnb operates and plans for the future.
So, how has Airbnb adapted to these challenges?
STEP 01: SUPERHOSTS
The first step for Airbnb was to launch the Superhost program.
-read more here: https://www.airbnb.com/superhost–
According to Airbnb: “Superhosts are experienced hosts who provide a shining example for other hosts, and extraordinary experiences for their guests.
Once a host reaches Superhost status, a badge will automatically appear on their listing and profile to help you identify them.”
Now, from the guests’ point of view, it says “it’s better to stay at a superhost’s apartment. Better be sure, right?”
But what’s behind that statement? Insecurity.
Going on holiday is serious stuff and no one is joking about it. So, choosing to stay at any Airbnb apartment is often a risky business.
Will it be as advertised? Will the host wait for me there? Will everything work as it should be?
(In theory), a superhost badge assures you that everything will be in order.
Additionally, Airbnb did the following:
STEP 02: CO-HOST
Airbnb recently launched a pilot program (started from some cities around the globe) for “incentivizing real estate owners to list their spaces and let them be managed by experienced Airbnb Superhosts.”
Moreover: “To cater the needs of this category of potential users, Airbnb will soon allow property owners to become Airbnb hosts while letting to someone else to fulfil the hospitality duties on their behalf in exchange of a mutually agreed fee…”
-See more here: https://www.airbnb.com/co-hosting/start
Airbnb will allow Superhosts to become all-around hospitality professionals.
Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Is it enough, though?
THE ARGUMENT AND THE PROPOSAL
Practice and common sense say it’s a different thing to manage your apartment (or even up to 2–3 more) from having to manage several apartments located around a city. You need human power, 24/7 communication, trustworthy cleaning service, automations, and much more; you need to build a system as companies (should) do.
My guess is this will put Airbnb at some risk; a single person (superhost) –even if she’s called “all-around hospitality professional”- cannot handle the workload needed for this task, and eventually, this could cause lower quality of services she provides.
Clearly, there is a need to standardize what you get; there’s no way of staying at, let’s say Hilton, whether it’s in Manhattan or Mumbai, and expect anything but standard quality.
What’s important at this stage of Airbnb’s growth is to cooperate officially with property management companies specialized in short-term rentals that could guarantee high-quality services in the most professional manner.
Hide and seek is no longer an option. Companies are already out there, most using people’s names just to make sure guests will stay at someone’s apartment.
Surprisingly, this person might be the “owner” of hundreds of apartments on the same profile page. Oh, wealth!
Start-ups like Hostmaker, BNBsitter, Pillowhomes, and Eazybnb (to name a few) that improve –or even disrupt- the current property management system offering their services to property owners can guarantee standard-quality services all year round.
What’s Airbnb waiting for? Set several rules and conditions that a company must have and work closely with them to provide standard-quality services.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know, as a guest, that if you choose to stay at someone’s apartment, instead of a hotel room, you still will have five-star-hotel-like and standard quality services?
Or -just thinking out loud- should HomeAway do that to differentiate its (missing) Unique Value Proposition?