Automating Airbnb’s message & booking system

Whether you manage a single property, or 60 (like HostKeep does), keeping on top of guest messaging is a critically important part of the gig. Guest expect near real-time communication, and Airbnb is happy to penalise Hosts who take too long to respond. With all this pressure it can often be an overwhelming and frustrating experience spending a lot of your time responding to the same generic questions time-after-time.

Our team found this to be one of the most frustrating parts of managing the guest management experience, until recently when we discovered Smartbnb, a magnificently designed messaging automation system, with a couple of secret features that even power users miss.

Here’s our quick overview and guide to making the most with some handy hints and tips.

Message automation

At the core of Smartbnb is a sophisticated message automation capability. This allows you to create messaging rules for events (booking enquiries, pre-approvals, requests to book etc.) triggering messages which are sent without intervention.

Take for example a new booking enquiry. You have got your availability settings all sorted, your listing is up to date, and your house rules proudly state “no discounts!!”, but you are still getting messages saying “Your property looks great. Could you please let me know if it is available for his weekend, and if you can drop the price to $100 per night?”. Message automation fixes all of this. You can set this up to trigger on a number of variables, and the system can be fully customised based on what your guest is asking (more about this in the AI responses below).

Reservation confirmation / check-in / check-out instructions

Another great challenge we had was ensuring our guests had the right check-in instructions prior to their arrival. This previously generated more than 50% our queries, and when guests got it wrong, 90% of our crises.

Smartbnb fixed this by allows us to stagger our messages across the length of the guest stay. There are the automatic message triggers Smartbnb set up for each stay:

  • At the time of booking: A simple “thanks for booking” message reconfirming arrival dates, number of guests, and the address of the property, providing the guest with the opportunity to fix any errors.
  • Five days before booking commencement: We provide URL that has all the details about the property, including check-in instructions, and location of keysafe.
  • One day before booking commencement: Reconfirming check-in time, and providing keysafe code
  • The day after check-in: Check-point to ensure they are settled in and don’t need anything
  • The night before check-out: Confirming latest possible check-out time and the tasks we require them to finalise upon check-out.
  • Three days after check-out: Review request message

AI responses

Smartbnb has a feature they describe as question flow. Hosts can use this to define automated responses to a range of questions.

For example, if you have a rule that late check-outs are never available you can define your response here and whenever a guest sends a message saying something like “Hey is it ok if I check-out at 1 pm”, or “Is there any chance of a late check-out” an automatic response will be sent.

You can set this up to be set-and-forget, or if you desire more control, you can review the message before Smartbnb sends.

Auto reviews

Airbnb is very keen on both hosts and guest providing reviews after each stay, but sometimes this can be a chore if you don’t have much more to say other than “great guest, no dramas”.

The review flow automation lets you set single, or multiple pre-determined reviews which will be sent just before the review deadline hit. This gives you ample time to stop a positive review being sent if you do end up having guest issues during the stay.

Reservation webhook feed

This has been a huge win for our team and fixes a big problem that Airbnb really needs to resolve: Providing Hosts access to their own booking and reservation data via an Open API.

We have used this to connect the Webhook to Airtable, via Zapier. This means that with every booking request we automatically get a record sent with all the booking details, which we use to track revenue, and check details. Super, super powerful stuff.

You can read more about Smartbnb’s integration of this here.

And the rest

These are some of the key features that matter to us, but the platform can do so much more. Just a couple of the additional features include:

Our score:

Smartbnb is a fantastic all-in-one solution to set your Airbnb on Autopilot, with a range of powerful features that will test the limits of even the most super of Superhosts.

  • Pros:
    • Next level functionality that works flawlessly every time
    • Exceptional customer support to help you get starting
    • Highly customisable
    • The smartest way to access the Airbnb Reservation Feed to take back control of your bookings
  • Cons:
    • Limited to Airbnb, but they are working on it.

Discover more and sign-up here

 

My original manual approach to Airbnb automation is below. This probably still works, but for the cost and convenience of Smartbnb you’d be crazy to do it!


As an Airbnb host, you probably know the drill:

  1. A booking confirmation comes in
  2. You log into Airbnb
  3. Check your inbox
  4. Find the recent booking
  5. Write the guest a nice welcome message introducing yourself, and asking what time they will be arriving
  6. Then wait for the next booking so you can rinse and repeat

Guest communication can be one of the time-consuming activities as a host. They are generally generic messages that start a conversation; rather than answering a specific guest query. So why do we spend so much time dealing with it?

Here at HostKeep, we are all about doing things smarter. And after spending the past few weeks looking for an elegant solution to automate our reservation confirmation message, we have finally cracked the code!

Getting the welcome message right

For many bookings, especially those with instant book enabled, the post-booking welcome message is the first opportunity hosts have to interact with their guests – so it’s important to get it right! This is also the time you want to start asking important questions like, “What time do you expect to be at the property” and “What flight will you be on”. It also helps set expectations around check-in time and late arrivals.

What you will probably discover is that you will almost always use the same welcome message for all guests. Our welcome message looks something like this:

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 12.06.31 AM

It’s all about automation!

Previously we would keep that message saved in a text file and upon a new booking we would copy it into the Airbnb messaging system and send it to the guest. This mostly worked, but there were a few issues:

  • Continually copying and pasting is a pain in the ass
  • If a booking came in overnight it might be eight hours before initial contact is made with the guest
  • There is a human risk that booking responses can be missed

We knew there was a better way, so we went into solution mode. And it wasn’t easy. Here are a few dead ends we ran into:

  • Airbnb has no open API’s
  • Spam filtering stops emails being sent to Reply-To addresses
  • Airbnb filters messages based on subject line

Luckily for you, we fixed all these issues and now have an automated approach! Here are our learnings and how we solved this issue.

Gmail sucks 🙁

Airbnb does issues booking email confirmations so we thought we might be able to just set up Gmail filter rules + a canned response to respond directly to a guest. We set up the rule to auto-respond to any emails with a subject starting with “Reservation Confirmed”, this worked in our testing but once we implemented the rule we discovered nothing was getting pushed to Airbnb.

After some sleuthing, we discovered the problem. Gmail canned responses only work with from addresses, not reply-to addressesAfter Googling the issue for a few hours it was established this was a feature (and not a bug) as it stops Gmail from being used a spam tool.

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 12.16.47 AM

After hitting a dead end with Gmail, we needed to get a bit smarter with our approach, so we started exploring cloud-based web app integration tools.

First tool we tested was IFTTT. This allowed us to create a fairly simple ‘recipe’ to send automatic replies, but alas, again we had the same issues with reply-to addresses. We tried another called Cloudpipes but this wasn’t much more help.

Zapier to the rescue

We then came across a tool named Zapier. This is essentially IFTTT for enterprise. Unlike IFTTT it’s not completely free, but for our purposes we can probably make do with the Free package which allows us to respond to 100 bookings per month:

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 4.45.10 PM

Setting up automation

To set up our automation we did the following:

  1. Created a Trigger and Action using Gmail for both:

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 4.47.40 PM

2. Selected our booking account as a ‘Trigger’.

Important to note here we have a totally separate Gmail account just for Airbnb emails. This helps us better manage our workflows, however you can certainly apply to set up if you are receiving Airbnb emails to your primary account

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 4.47.50 PM

3. Specify the same Gmail account as the ‘Action’ account.

By | 2018-05-16T05:53:24+00:00 October 13th, 2013|Uncategorized, What's happening in Airbnb|