Startup Spotlight: The ‘HostBuddy’ System

AI Virtual assistant chatbot helping with customer service for short-term vacation rentals --ar 3:2
via Midjourney

The Artificial Intelligence wave has proved to be an exciting movement within the Tech Industry. Innovative startups emerge every day, promising ways to help with personal lives, business ventures, or helping in their own, unique way. Last week, I sat down with the Co-Founder of HostBuddy AI, Samuel Mayes, to discuss his customer service AI product.

Select Stays and Solving the Problem

Before arriving at a solution, that is HostBuddy, Mayes talked about his background in his short-term rental venture, Select Stays, which partners with property owners and converts their listings into short-term rentals that are listed on platforms, such as Airbnb, Vrbo, and Mayes and his team achieved outstanding growth over their three years in business, amassing 38 total short-term rental properties to their portfolio. 

However, with this incredible growth, the Select Stays team realized a major obstacle, in which they were stretching themselves thin when it came to customer service communication, regarding guests having issues with “asking for help troubleshooting issues like TV, Wi-Fi, the thermostat, and checking-in to the property”. 

Their first solution was bringing on Virtual Assistants to help with the influx of inquiries, so Mayes and his business partner could focus on “fixing [other] issues, expand[ing], and do[ing] all these different things within [their] business.” As they kept growing, so did their problems around customer support, where they “found [them]selves… continuously hiring people, training them, and letting people go that we’re not a good fit.. for what we required.”

Introducing HostBuddy

With the rising guest communication issues, Mayes started researching to see what could be the best way to solve their problem. “I was doing a lot of research into ChatGPT and I had this idea where… maybe there was a way for us to implement AI into our business to help answer those questions that are coming in to support our team… when it comes to the guest communication.” With the help of a friend, they built out a minimal AI chatbot, stored the necessary information within it, and were ready to test out their product. 

“Every single night at 9 pm, we’d send our guests… a message that said ‘Hey, these are our off-hours. We may not be as readily available to communicate with you for your needs. If you have a serious question, or you have trouble checking in, please click on this link and you can chat with our chatbot.’”, Mayes recalled. And this test run worked very well, seeing a 60% reduction in off-hour messages. After a month-long trial run, Mayes approached his friend to see if they could connect it to Airbnb, Vrbo, and directly and offer their product service to other short-term rental hosts. 

“Six months later, we’re about to go live in the next couple of weeks. We were able to build out the application. We have it connected to Airbnb and Vrbo. We’ve built out a robust platform [where] users can create an account, connect their HostBuddy account with their Airbnb account or the other platforms that they’re listed on, and can build out the property information that the chatbot can respond to.”

HostBuddy Homepage

What Makes HostBuddy a Desirable Product?

After learning about HostBuddy’s creation, Mayes shared what he thinks are the most promising aspects that his AI service can provide for short-term rental management teams. The following three items were the first things that came to mind:

  1. Communication: “Being able to have software perform [the customer support] function, it eliminates the need for maybe bringing on additional VA’s or property managers who are doing strictly communication tasks for you. And when you teach it something, it remembers that information. So it’s always able to provide the same information consistently across the board.”
  2. Scalability: “Being able to grow your business and trust that your communication is gonna be handled, whether you have five properties or 500 properties. Being able to have a software that you can rely on to develop that out is super helpful.”
  3. Work-Life Balance: “Personally, as a short-term rental host, I struggle when it comes to having ‘on-’ and ‘off-time’. I think that’s something that I’ve seen for the last couple of years in this space. You’re never really off the clock. You might get a call at 2 AM, and someone has a serious issue. If you don’t have anybody to rely on to help them with that issue, it’s got to be you that’s has to take care of it. I’ve had to shut my phone off for a couple of hours because it’s hard for me to be present when I’m getting pinged every minute… I can turn on the application and trust that my communication is being taken care of.”

Conclusion and Future for HostBuddy

After listening to how Mayes and his team have leveraged AI to solve a seemingly, overlooked area and turned that into HostBuddy, my only question remaining was “What does the future look like?” Mayes shared his vision wanting their service to be the go-to property management tool, where “you can step back and the system [can] troubleshoot [smaller] issues and reach out to the correct people it needs to for issues that require on-th-ground support, in order to get taken care of.” Mayes hopes that he and his team can become leading figures in  AI tools for the short-term rental industry. To learn more about HostBuddy AI, visit their website and follow their LinkedIn page.

AI Chatbot assists Airbnb guests during their vacation --ar 3:2
via Midjourney