Unloading The Bias Dice: An Airbnb Review Strategy & Guide To Using Cialdini's Influence Principles | Cape Town Airbnb Management Agency
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Unloading The Bias Dice: An Airbnb Review Strategy & Guide to Using Cialdini’s Influence Principles

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The Game-Changing Airbnb Review Strategy: A Guide to Using Cialdini’s Influence Principles

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Airbnb Review Strategy: Case Study Showing Why Hosts Should Unfrustrate Guest Feedback

Have a look at this detailed review. 

This is his public review. He gave no indication of why he gave us a 4-star.

Airbnb review strategy guests public review

Here is his detailed category score. 

Airbnb review strategy details

Note: According to this article the most important subcategories are value, cleanliness and accuracy. And if they are low the chances are high that your overall score will be low. 

What is the frustration here? 

  1. At departure, the guest indicated he will give us a good review. But sitting back home the guest scored us 4 Overall and 4 for value, cleanliness and accuracy.
  2. Is it possible that the guests did know how critical 5-star reviews are?
  3. Nothing tells us why he scored us 4. 
  4. For accuracy, he gave us 4 but the description matched and it looked like the photos. 

This is a critique without substance and it is inconsistent.  How do you improve if you have no clue where to look? 

The Airbnb guest system is the best available but it is not perfect. And hosts either accept the status quo or do something about it. 

I suggest hosts implement a formal in-house feedback system today. And get guests to commit while they feel obliged. Let’s start with a summary of what I propose.


Guest reviews are essential for Airbnb rental success, but the current Airbnb category scoring system (under host Insights) is loaded with bias and can easily lead to negative ratings. For example, a 5 score is everything but a 4, 3, 2 and 1 score does not count. The category scoring is nothing but a Yes/No score. 5 or nothing. Airbnb talks only about the percentage of 5-star reviews. And if you don’t believe read this where hosts discuss it.

This is high risk if a guest decides to give you maybe a 4 instead of a 5. We don’t want a 4. But how do you change a 4 into a 5 after the guest has left weeks earlier? Impossible.

We want to suggest that Cialdini’s principles can influence the eventual Airbnb rating and swing 3 and four scores to five scores. Additionally, we want to create an opportunity to get more guest feedback while you have the guest face-to-face.

Robert Cialdini’s principles of commitment and reciprocity suggest that hosts should strive to build trust and social connections with guests in order to achieve consistent, high-scoring outcomes.

  • Reciprocity is an ancient feeling of being obliged. When we do good for someone they feel compelled to return the favour. And hosts should be ready to receive this favour in a public manner. This ties into the principle of commitment.
  • The consistency principle suggests that once guests make a public commitment, they are more likely to follow through and behave in a way that is consistent with that commitment. Therefore, give guests a way to commit their name to a public statement about their stay.

Our proposed Airbnb review strategy is based on using commitment and reciprocity as the platform to guide guests to give feedback while the iron is hot. To share the love today. And if done correctly guests will stay consistent and score your Airbnb as you would expect. word image 62426 2

The details and the practical implementation strategy are below.

Airbnb Review Strategy Introduction:

Guest reviews are crucial to the success of your Airbnb rental. If you have a lot of positive reviews, it goes without saying that more people are more likely to book your listing.

Sadly, hosts may become frustrated with the current Airbnb category scoring system.

Although it is typical for guests to provide feedback on a number of different factors, including cleanliness, value, and accuracy, the overall rating is not always what you want. And if it is fair it is loaded with bias. As you read on, you’ll see why I say this.

I’m discussing Airbnb Host Insights today. I am not looking at the actual view guests see when they look at reserving your accommodation.

Airbnb review strategy how airbnb rate hosts

The above is what guests see. This 4.94 is a fair (weighted) average. Here is an example of what we will look at; the 5 star biassed category ratings hosts find under insights:

Airbnb review strategy 5 star reviews or nothing.

The “Problems” with the Current Airbnb Host Insight Feedback System:

There are a few issues:

A guest might rate a host five out of five for every individual category but still, leave an overall rating of four out of five. It’s odd.

Additionally, written reviews can be helpful but are often not specific enough for hosts to address any issues that might have arisen during the stay.

But that’s nothing compared to the next issue.

Is A Small Negative Equal To A Big Negative?

Yes, assume a guest gives you a 4 out of 5 for cleanliness for a small spot of dust. This issue has the same negative weight as a big negative issue. Meaning, A 4 category score has the same weight as a 1 score. Nothing.

Therefore, the percentage of reviews with five stars carries 100% of the weight. The rest is zero. More later.

I believe Airbnb uses this negative category scoring to focus our attention on any hosting mistakes. Big or small mistakes are the same; the guests were not happy.

And remember that this negative scoring is used to qualify you as a Superhost. Superhosts must get 5-star ratings at least 80% of the time. Again, a 4-star rating does not count. This causes a bias; only 5 stars count.

If Airbnb used a weighted average, a 4 to one score would count depending on the number of 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 scores.

Looking at how critical it is for hosts to get 5 Star scores, especially when they deserve it, hosts have an obligation to themselves; I believe hosts must find honest ways to tackle this “bias.” And we later learn how Cialdini suggests we do.

Let’s agree on one thing…

Airbnb Category “Scores” Are Just A Thumbs-up Thumbs-down.

Nothing more. Just that.

Airbnb review strategy for categories is nothing but thumbs up thumbs down

The dice are against the host. I accept it. But that does not mean we should not use it to our advantage. Let’s introduce Cialdini’s principles to assist.

The Psychology of Persuasion” To Ensure 5 Star Reviews And Limit This Bias

This is where Cialdini comes in. We need him for our Airbnb review strategy; Commitment and reciprocity, two psychology concepts advanced by Cialdini, contend that interactions with guests can help us achieve significant, high-scoring outcomes. How?

We Should Understand The Psychology Of Reciprocity And Commitment!

These principles are simply ways of building trust and social connections with others.

As you read the next two paragraphs you know that you have used it, instinctively, many times. We all do. It’s in our nature. Cialdini just formulated it.

After Experiencing An Exceptional Stay Guests Should Feel Obliged To Do Something in Return

  • Cialdini’s reciprocity principle refers to the idea that people (guests) feel compelled to repay others (Airbnb hosts) for what they have received. In other words, if someone (the host) does something for them (the guests), they feel obligated to do something in return.

If Guests Make a Public Commitment They Follow Through

  • Cialdini’s commitment principle, also known as the consistency principle, suggests that once people (guests) make a “public” commitment (while in your Airbnb) or take a stand on an issue, they are more likely to follow through (when they eventually write the actual Airbnb review) and behave in a way that is consistent with that commitment. This is because people generally feel compelled to maintain consistency in their actions.

To be a bit more practical let’s consider the following:

  • When you have done the guest a favour, be ready there and then to receive a 5-star review. They feel compelled (emotional and obliged). Don’t let the moment pass. Don’t wait until they are back home, facing the realities of life and using logic to give an Airbnb review divorced from happiness.
  • Guests are more ready to make a commitment while at the home. Give them a way to commit before they do the official Airbnb review. Not verbally. No. Let them put their name down. (Read why humans have a deep need to be seen as consistent).

Does this make sense or am I out of my mind?

The other benefit of getting in-person feedback is that you can ask for details if they were critical.

Now, I am sure you want to know how we (practically) implement this.

The Practicalities Of Encouraging And Getting Guests to Provide Feedback:

Guests appreciate it when you acknowledge them as the judge of value. They are the ones who experience every part of your Airbnb. They are committed. They use the bed, the glasses, and the toilet. Not you. As the host, you are just involved. (Remember breakfast, bacon and eggs. The chicken is involved, and the pig is committed.)

Tell them that you trust and respect them. Acknowledge them; they will know more about the house than you. You have done everything to ensure a 5-star stay but they must inform you, today if they are not happy. And you want to ask them to give you feedback before they depart. You are eager to learn and improve your offering.

Airbnb Review Strategy: Be “Ready To Receive Good News”.

AIrbnb review strategy I respect you

Remember, guests feel obliged to return the favour. Be ready to receive. And ask the person who made the reservation for sharing the love. Now. But give them a reason why you are asking; “I want you to assist me to improve my offer to future guests. Tell me!”

Not any guest, the one who made the reservation, the one who will do the Airbnb review is the one you want to commit. Use something like this. Print it. Black and white. And have it ready.

NB: I am looking for a few volunteers who want to show this can work. Let me know. Whatsapp me.

Practical form to the Airbnb review strategy to employ Cialdini's principles of commitment and reciprocity and get consistent review scores.

Good and Bad:

It’s simple. It’s the same 7 categories Airbnb uses. But instead of a range between 5 and 1, it’s only a choice between good and bad, exactly as Airbnb measures hosts on categories. It also shows that 5 is good, anything else is not.

How Can We Improve?

The more feedback you get the better. Encourage them. The more they share the more we can improve.


Putting their name down, on a piece of paper, is (Cialdini’s) public commitment. Remember that we want to be seen as consistent.


In summary, this article highlighted a new Airbnb review strategy. It starts by showing the bias of the current Airbnb category scoring system. The negative scoring forces the host to focus on absolute quality; Yes or No. Thumbs-up Thumbs-down. There is no scale of error. Just good or bad. But hosts must load the dice towards 5 stars – guiding guests to 5 stars. And if it’s less get feedback there and then.

By using Cialdini’s commitment and reciprocity, we want to be ready to receive the guests’ ancient need to return a favour. Get it. Get them to commit in public. Then we have excellent feedback and can be confident that the actual Airbnb review scores will be similar.

“A well-known principle of human behaviour says that when we ask someone to do us a favour we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.” Robert Cialdini.

Note: When you ask a guest to give you a review you have to give them a reason.

Now let me know if you want to see if this will work. WhatsApp Me if you are an Airbnb host and want to volunteer.

Johan Horak






1 Comment

  1. […] and hosts expect 5-star reviews. (You can read more here. Basically, a 5-star is Yes (👍). Anything less means No (👎). The article also explains how we […]

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