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"Highly rated guests" and Instant Book

Airbnb offers an option for hosts to allow Instant Book only for highly rated guests. According to their definition, highly rated guests are recommended by hosts from past trips, and have never received a negative review on cleanliness, observance of house rules, or communication.

  1. If I do not have instant book on, how can I tell if someone is a highly rated guest? I mean I can read their reviews, but that does not always mean the reviewing host clicked thumbs up and recommended them. The host could’ve clicked thumbs down (do not recommend) and still left a 5-star rating for the guest’s cleanliness, observance of house rules, and communication.

  2. What does Airbnb mean by “a negative review on cleanliness, observance of house rules, or communication”? If I remember correctly, I believe hosts have to review guests for each and all of these 3 categories (cleanliness, observance of house rules, and communication) with a star rating. So does me giving a guest 3 stars for communication and 5 stars for the other 2 categories count as a negative review? I doubt it that to pass Instant Book a guest has to have 5 stars on all 3 categories for all of their stays. Maybe there is a cutoff guest rating above which a guest qualifies to instant book?

  3. What percent of Airbnb’s guests are eligible to Instant Book? Perhaps that metric was published or announced somewhere? Or even a gut feel would be helpful based on what you may have seen.

  4. It seems a bit strict to me for Airbnb to consider a guest “highly rated” by factoring in that guest’s reviews from the very beginning of their account… so just like with awarding superhost status, do they look only at the last 12 months of a guest’s reviews?

  5. What percent of hosts that a guest stayed with have to have recommended that guest for that guest to qualify to instant book? The language says just that guests must be recommended by hosts from past trips… but what does that mean? That each and every host from each and every past trip must have clicked thumbs up to recommend that guest? That’d be kind of stringent so what does Airbnb accept… perhaps there is a cutoff or minimum percent or number of hosts that must’ve recommended a guest for that guest to be able to instant book?

Hi @skylar,

At the risk of stating the obvious, I would not trust Airbnb to consistently apply any criteria to your listing whatever.

I had an exchange with them on Twitter where I asked them for assurances that they would not change the criteria for Instant Book from under me. They didn’t seem to understand the question, and responded with gibberish. Not reassuring.

If you use IB, assume that anyone can and will Instant Book your listing. Also bear in mind that the verification process that Airbnb uses is done by machine and means little or nothing.

Also remember that guest ratings are not visible to hosts. If you can’t see them, how do you know if they are being applied correctly?

Hey @faheem, I’m sorry but my experience and opinion of social media customer care, be it for Airbnb or another company, is that you cannot expect to get much of a specific or meaningful public answer to most questions you ask a company on Twitter. It’s just a channel to create initial and some sort of engagement and if you have a concrete issue, to hopefully get the company to direct message you and call you to look into a specific matter in more details. Or if tweeting publicly, to possibly share anything that they would want to publicize anyway for reputational purposes… such as success stories, statements promoting the company etc. But I don’t think Airbnb (or most companies for that matter) will blast out their product roadmap and future plans in a reply to a user’s tweet. Also, a social media customer service rep will not know or have a way of finding out what changes will be coming to their Instant Book to be able to answer your question.

With that said, they should’ve taken note of your feedback and rest assured, if they have a good product team, they do scan tweets and questions from hosts and hopefully will know hosts are worried about Instant Book and how Instant Book will affect them. If they do any sort of focus studies where they gather 10 random hosts in a room and ask them what they think about Instant Book, my gut feel is that 7 out of 10 will have the same concern you have. And tweets like yours validate it so it’s a good thing you reached out, but if I were you, I just wouldn’t expect much over Twitter. Maybe if you call, you may get lucky to get someone a bit more knowledgeable on the phone or someone that will research your question, but I doubt they will disclose much about what’s in the cards for us on the Instant Book front.

In any case, I’m not sure if this makes you feel any different about your question itself and your point is you have a need to be assured that Airbnb will not change the Instant Book criteria. I think you have a well founded and a valid concern we all share. You are fearful they will modify something that will affect you negatively. You can choose to trust them that they won’t or you can also know that they as a company will do whatever it takes to maximize revenue. And the question is at what cost will they do that? It’s up to them and what strategy they will go with. You can see how they handled past situations. For example, when hosts ended up with large home damages a few years ago, Airbnb did up their host guarantee/insurance home coverage to $1M… albeit it was done after the fact and a bit reactively mostly because of bad media publicity. I don’t know to what extent they’ll be willing to go in other situations and it also depends on the particular case that may trigger them to protect hosts further. How negative will the impact be? What is the worst that will or could happen if Airbnb changes the Instant Book criteria? In simpler terms, what are you afraid of? And what is the likelihood something bad will happen? Could it be that they may change Instant Book in a way that will help hosts too? Technically if Airbnb gets more business, it’s because hosts get more business. So the question is are you willing to get 10% more bookings (just an example percentage, not sure what the exact estimate would be) by taking a little or maybe not so little extra risk? That is a personal decision each host has to make based on their own risk tolerance and financial and/or real estate situation in life. Perhaps it would be cool if Airbnb lets us hosts select what is our risk tolerance level… sort of the way you do with retirement plans to choose how risky of financial investments you want to make. And if some hosts are not comfortable taking more risk, Airbnb could/should honor that and not “push” aggressive Instant Book criteria on them… if for no other reason than for ethical purposes out of respect for each of us having worked hard and long to purchase the homes we are now opening up the doors of to Airbnb guests. But at the end of the day, it will be their and your decision and they may be OK losing 5% of their hosts to gain a 30% revenue lift… for example. These are just some details to think about. We don’t and most likely will never gain access to the focus group records or the pricing and revenue models Airbnb has hopefully built to estimate the impact of any Instant Book changes. It’s all speculation and in lieu of hard data or solid info from Airbnb, you are right… it’s about trust and also learning to live with the unknown. So yes, no way you will get this level of insight from a 140-character tweet… or a call to their general customer service. Just my 2 cents…

@faheem their system is built a certain way (with criteria and ID verification) for a reason. I’m sure there is a small percent of exceptions - guests who are not instant book worthy but still are able to instant book. And out of them an even smaller percent will cause actual trouble. But are you saying that it’s all just smoke and mirrors and Airbnb put these criteria and verification processes in place only to make things sound better whereas in reality all bookings are more or less random? I don’t have access to their technology but do see that when a guest creates an account, they are being asked to submit documents, their social media is verified etc… It’s not a 100% proof process, but it has to work for a good percentage of all submissions. Like you and to the main point of my question, I am also suspicous of what star rating they consider a highly rated guest. But if it’s not visible then maybe we can ask Airbnb this question… perhaps via a tweet, ha! It’s not an unreasonable thing to know and I don’t see how it’d be super highly confidential to disclose. Maybe they have figured out how to do Instant Book well and filter out most of the problem guests while maintaining good volume and don’t want competitors to start doing Instant Book Unless the same way? I don’t know if HomeAway and other firms have interest in features like Instant Book but it is possible. In any case, it would be kind of bad if any guest above 2 stars is considered highly rated guest. But we need to at least know… And this is a factual sort of thing, why would they not want to share it… how do we find out?

Hi @skylar,

Wow, that’s a lot of words.

First, note that Airbnb’s Twitter channel is an official support channel. Weird but true. Second, you don’t send them tweets, but private messages. These aren’t limited in length and are, as the name suggests, private. This isn’t significantly different from sending emails, but it’s more awkward, and you are more limited in what attachments you can send. I think you can send image files. Some of the time the Twitter people (I don’t know who they are, but they are Airbnb employees) will pass you on a customer service rep (they tend to call it the something-or-other team). But the responses you get don’t vary in quality either way; they’re usually about the same. For a very good reason, you’re dealing with the same people, either way, regardless what hat they are wearing.

Case in point: I spent some time trying to find out exactly what date and time the possibility of leaving a review would expire. I tried people on Twitter, I tried the a customer care person that the Twitter people has directed me to. I tried asking the same question 7 or 8 times to two different people. I’m not kidding. I never did get an answer. This sort of behavior is reminiscent of Third World support channels. I deal with those every day here.

And IB is generally problematic for all the reasons people here have already discussed. If you don’t think it is, feel free to use it.

Yes, smoke and mirrors is a good summary. Machines aren’t any good at detecting forgeries, for example. Someone also mentioned that the people who set up their machinery for verification went bankrupt. I don’t know who they are and haven’t checked on whether that is true, though.

And feel free to ask Airbnb anything, including what star rating a guest has, and let us know how you get on. Good luck.

I think their definition of ‘well’ is whatever makes them as much money as possible. The hosts assume the risk. They don’t.

See also https://www.trustpilot.com/review/www.airbnb.com

This is pretty much in line with my experience, and others experiences.

@faheem thank you for sharing more about your experience using Airbnb’s Twitter direct message customer service channel. I will review some of the other posts here in this forum to learn more about the Instant Book problems hosts are running into. My verdict on IB is still out.

@faheem great idea… I called Airbnb with my original question and they will be researching a few examples to let me know how many stars premium Instant Book guests have. I’ll share what they reply with, if and when they get back to me. Hopefully, that’ll help base reactions and attitudes towards Instant Book on actual data.

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