1. Be polite & address problems immediately

It is important to always be polite and keep your cool when responding to a problem, even if it is not your fault.  Always try to address the problem directly with the guest before involving Airbnb. 

Depending on the nature of the problem, try to go as far as you can to make things right for your guest.  It may mean refunding them a night, giving them a free night in the future, buying them dinner at a local restaurant, etc.

You can make a guest happy regardless of the problem if you didn’t cause it knowingly and are willing to fix it.

About two years into our booming Airbnb business, we had to put our dog to sleep.  It was one of the worst days of our lives.  We had a guest coming in to one of our apartments very late that night.  That afternoon, I reminded John to leave the keys in the lockbox, took a sleeping pill and turned in until the next morning.

I woke up about 5 am with my phone filled with missed calls, texts and messages from Airbnb.  We’d forgotten to leave keys for our guests, who arrived at 2 am in 30-degree weather, and nobody heard the phone blowing up all night.

 

I felt horrible.

Not only had I just put my best friend to sleep, I was going to lose the business I had worked so hard to build for the last two years.  I was going to lose my Superhost status for the first time since I started hosting and my ratings were going to take a plunge.

I called Airbnb immediately and was completely honest.  This had never happened to us.  At that point, we had hosted over 500 guests and had never had this kind of a problem, had never canceled a single reservation, had never even made a claim for damage.

This was where all the hard work paid off.  The Airbnb representative understood that, even though this wasn’t spelled out as an extenuating circumstance under Airbnb’s rules, it indeed was, and that our track record proved we were committed hosts and deserved a break. 

Our guests had already been refunded their stay, and I offered to pay for their entire hotel stay and offered to pay for a dinner and drinks while they were in town.  After telling the Airbnb rep how I was going to fix my mistake with the guest, I asked that I not be penalized.  I wasn’t.

I immediately contacted my guest (and copied Airbnb) and made my offer.  I called her hotel and gave them my credit card to pay for their stay.  I made reservations at one of the neighborhood’s nicest places and paid for everything.  My guest understood and left DC happy.

It cost us a lot, but it was completely our fault and the loss of Superhost status and the negative review would have cost us a lot more in future reservations.

 

It also taught me a valuable lesson about ALWAYS making sure someone is available for guests, especially if they are checking in late at night.

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