Smartbnb gives hosts full control and customization on their guest messaging - to respond to guests FAST, at all times of the day, beliably and naturally.Take Me To SmartBnb
Short-term rentals, as a business model, has been around for ages. What has become different in the recent years is the advent of technology and tools that can make the operation more efficient. Some of these tools are so good and so helpful that I think they can charge 10x what they current do and they would still be well worth it.
This review will cover a tool called Smartbnb -- which in our view is a true gamechanger for running a short-term rental operation. In fact, when we started operating our own short-term rentals, Smartbnb was the first service we added to our “virtual toolbox” and we’ve been using it ever since.
In a nutshell, Smartbnb automates 90% of guest communication - ranging from sending regular check and check out instructions to even detecting specific keywords in guests’ questions (e.g. is there parking) and sending a pre-set response to those. The reality is that for a small operator, Smartbnb is the difference between working all the time or just spending 2-3 hours a week on their operation. And for a larger operator, it significantly reduces HR costs and makes it a more streamlined business as a whole.
In this review, we’ll cover some of Smartbnb features as well as discuss how we use it ourselves in our own operation.
First, let’s break down the things that you can accomplish with this tool that will make it easier for you to run your short-term rental operation and scale.
Let’s dive in deeper into each of these!
The first thing that most users will begin to interact with is a unified inbox screen when you login.
In our particular case, we manage properties in multiple cities between several accounts. Moreover, we’ve started to put our listings on VRBO/HomeAway. So if we have to manually toggle between accounts to see which guest sent what, it would be a hassle and not an efficient use of our time.
Fortunately, Smartbnb brings the communication from all of the accounts into the same place. You can easily see the status of each inquiry -- whether the guest is being pre-approved or already staying at your property.
Moreover, you have a lot of flexibility in terms of filtering. You can filter by property, by city, by platform or anything in between:
With this in mind, Smartbnb becomes the central hub for us to manage all of our interactions with guests.
Automation is really the meat and potatoes portion of Smartbnb where it begins to do the lions’ share of the work for you.
The automated messaging can typically be triggered around one of the following events:
Since there is so much that you can do and customize there, we’ll focus on how we’ve set it up ourselves as an example.
Essentially, we’ve set it up so that for every reservation, we have 5 points of contact that are entirely automated.
Moreover, these messages are all highly customized to the exact listing that is being booked, so they address most of the questions and issues new guests may encounter.
It’s slightly mind boggling to consider what it would look like if the same level of communication would have to be done manually if you have more than 10-20 listings and guests coming and going on a daily basis.
As the infamous infomercials would typically state in the middle of their presentation - “but wait, there’s more!”
Except that in this case, there really is more.
Part of handling the communication with the guests revolves around answering similar questions over and over. Typically, it’ll be oriented around parking, early check in, late check out, amenities, and so on.
Smartbnb addresses this with their “AI”-based Questions feature.
With this, the tool monitors all of the incoming question from guests, analyzes them, and - if it detects that this inquiry is about one of the pre-set issues, it will fire off a response that you’d have pre-written prior.
For example, if you look at the Parking question, you’ll see that the system would look for patterns that reflect something like this:
From your perspective, you can then customize a response and even have a different one for different listing or groups of listings.
When you host a lot of guests, you also typically need to consider how to address the review question. Doing it manually for every guest is an option, but it’s time consuming. Not leaving reviews isn’t great either because it will reduce the number of reviews that you receive.
Smartbnb addresses this issue by allowing you to create a pre-set one or multiple reviews that will automatically be sent to each guest after they check out.
If you create multiple pre-sets, it will rotate through them and publish them randomly. If it’s a single one, it would end up being the same for every guest -- although you can still customize it quite a bit using variables. For example, we set our reviews to be automatically published 3 days after a guest checks out and typically look like this:
The reason we set it to 3 days is because not every guest is going to be an angel who leaves the house perfectly clean and tidy. So, for those instances, if we get a report from a housekeeper about a specific issue, we can investigate and then modify the review for that particular guest.
Pro Tip: Typically, reviews for the guest and the host get published when either both parties submit their review or when one party submits it and 14 day passes. Sometimes a host can be nervous about leaving a negative review because they are afraid of retaliation where a guest also leaves a bad review (as the guest gets notified when a host leaves a review). Smartbnb solves that by having a “bad review” function that allows the host to write the review as is and then schedules it to be published on Day 14. This minimizes the risk of the guest posting something negative about the property.
One of the challenges we’ve had when first starting out was coming up with a system to reliably and easily let our housekeeping teams on the ground know when each turnover would be coming up.
Smartbnb offers a couple of options that effectively solved this question for us.
First, it has an ability to send an email or a text message to anyone based on specific reservation parameters. For example, we’ve set up an alert that sends a text message to the housekeeper 2 days before each check out.
The reminders are great because they prevent things from falling through the cracks. However, it’s not necessarily enough information for folks on the ground to plan their weekly schedules.
So, then there is another functionality that allows you to assign an individual team member to specific listings and then it gives you a GCal (Google Calendar) feed that can essentially create a real-time calendar of check outs.
Combined, every team member has a real-time Google Calendar link that they can pull up on their phone showing all of the turnovers into the future, along with a customized reminder email or text message 1-2 days in advance.
This system has worked remarkably well for us and certainly provides a peace of mind since it doesn’t require us to manually communicate each turnover. This alone is a massively useful feature.
Another big benefit of Smartbnb is that it also integrates with VRBO/HomeAway. For clarification, this is actually the same company although they currently operate two branded sites. For simplicity, we’ll just refer to them as VRBO moving forward.
In any case, if you list the same property on VRBO and Airbnb, you can use Smartbnb to sync calendars and all of the communication.
This is huge because the number #1 issue of doing multiple channels is keeping the calendar in sync to ensure you don’t get bookings from each platform for the same dates.
With Smartbnb functionality, if somebody books a particular date on Airbnb, it will get blocked off on VRBO and visa versa.
Moreover, all of the automated communication would also get synced between the two platforms. This means that you can manage the VRBO listings from the Unified Inbox in Smartbnb and benefit from the same message rules and automated you’ve already setup.
VRBO is a great platform for those who list entire homes in more traditional vacation areas, as it’s quite heavily focused on family and friends group travel.
Pro Tip: If you decide that you want to go to additional channels beyond just VRBO, check out our review on the property management service - Uplisting.
Smartbnb starts at $18 per month for the first 2 properties, then it goes up by $8/mo per listing between 3-9 listings, then it’s $7/mo per listing for 10-19, then it’s $6/mo for 20-49 listings and then it’s $5/mo per listing after that.
We are usually strong proponents of software services that charge a flat fee per listing vs. a % of the sales, as we believe that it is a much more fair payment structure for the hosts. The one little secret is that we would gladly pay 5x or more for this service, as is a true gamechanger for anyone who has a lot of listings and activity. Frankly, even if you only have a few, it’s also well worth the expense.
For full disclosure, we receive a small commission if you decide to sign up for Smartbnb using the link above. That said, the review itself is based 100% on our own experience with this tool and it’s something that we actively use in our own business.