Get 5 Stars When Nothing Goes Right

Sometimes things just don’t go right. But often you can still have a happy guest and get a 5-star review. I have to admit, there has been more than one occasion when everything just went wrong. Here is a recent example:

A guest from Germany makes a booking in August for four nights in December in my apartment in Fort Lauderdale. He tells me that he will have his 22-month baby with him. That’s okay, because I have a crib in every unit, and this unit has a high chair.

The evening of his arrival I get this message:

Hallo Matthew we successfully checked in but there was no 2nd key on the kitchen table so we only have one key able to return. We found an empty child seat box but no seat for little child.

So we have two problems: no high chair, and no second key. Plus, it is late at night. I’m reluctant to call the cleaning lady or the property manager for non-emergency issues. But the key is to be proactive and respond quickly. Within minutes I respond with this:

The key is probably on the instruction book. I know there was a high chair somewhere, I bought it myself. Let me investigate. Did you look in the two closets and under the bed?

He quickly finds the key, but reports back that the high chair is nowhere to be found. So I contact the cleaning lady and find out that she put it in the locked storage room.

Kimberly says it is in the storage room. Is it okay if she gets it out tomorrow, or do you need it tonight?

He is okay with tomorrow. So everything seems okay. But then, on the third night of his stay, he sends this:

Hallo Matthew sorry to write you so late or early in Europa but It seems like we are not alone in the apparent here…. i have to say you that I just killed two cockroaches in the apartment… one fully grown on the stove and one in the bathroom. I am very angry at the moment not knowing what else to say…

And he attaches a picture of a smashed bug on the stove top! Well, what can I say? We keep the units as clean as we can, but we can’t control what food guests leave out during their stays. We also exterminate monthly. We literally drench the apartments in insecticide. But we’re in Florida, and this is an older building just two steps up from ground level.

Again, it’s late at night, and I’m reluctant to call out the cavalry for bugs that are already dead. But I respond immediately, and this conversation ensues:

Me: I am very sorry to hear this. Would you like me to send the exterminator in the morning?

Guest: Hallo we cannot stay here with child after extermination that’s no option with little child. Poison, treated surfaces… kids will be in contact with the chemicals

Me: What do you recommend?

Guest: Hallo we think about changing to hotel and refund apartment

This is not good! This is an unhappy guest, and I know a bad review is coming. The best I can hope for is that he won’t leave a review. Often when a guest threatens to leave, the best option is to call their bluff:

What you saw are almost certainly Palmetto Bugs. I’m sorry you saw them. Florida is a semi-tropical environment, and you are right at ground level. So there are inevitably some bugs.

If you want to move to a hotel, I will refund the remainder of your stay.

And then I didn’t hear anything more from him. Imagine my surprise when he left this review with five stars in all categories!

Nice apartment in a central location, Matthew answered us quickly and competently and questions / suggestions were all answered immediately or the next morning and implemented. (Translated from German)

I think the keys are:

  • Respond very quickly. I manage to respond to almost all emails within minutes. It takes a certain kind of personality to be always on and always responsive. Airbnb isn’t for everyone, but for me this comes very naturally.
  • Actually fix problems. Guests are paying for a service, and they expect quality. They are very understanding when there are problems, but only so long as you respond quicky.
  • Simple, direct communication. I don’t think guests care about lengthy (and frankly phony) apologies and polite phrases. You’ll notice above that I only apologized once. That’s not because I’m stingy with apologies or can’t admit that something went wrong. It’s simply because I was focused on the solution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *