Why Welcome Books are Good for Business

When you walk through the front door of a Flatbook anywhere in the world, you’ll find a welcome book waiting on the coffee table. Inside is everything you need to know about the property and local recommendations for the neighborhood and city.

So why bother to invest in a custom book for every Flatbook in the world? After all, there are lots of other guide books out there — Frommer’s, Lonely Planet, Michelin, to name a few — and we could just as easily print off a text doc with the property info.

The short answer: it’s good business.

Peek Inside

Let’s back up and take a minute to look at what actually goes inside one of our welcome books. Each book is divided into three sections:

  • The City Section: This contains information on places to eat and sights in the city as a whole. Which of the 100 museums are really worth visiting? Which park is best for a picnic? Where’s a good place to watch the sunset?
  • The Neighborhood Section: This focuses on recommendations within walking distance of your Flatbook. This includes basics like where to buy wine, but also the grocery store around the corner that roasts its own coffee beans, the cafe that’s the perfect spot to work on a laptop, and the tiny French bistro that’s only open on the weekends.
  • The Flatbook Section: This section is the most important. One of the challenges of building a hospitality brand for the sharing economy is that inventory is scattered across neighborhoods, cities, even continents. And each Flatbook is different because each home is different. To provide a seamless guest experience, we want every guest who walks in the door to have all information they need right on hand: from the WiFi password to the best place to find parking.

We combine all this information in an easy-to-browse layout and portable size for maximum utility. Then we do it all over again for hundreds more Flatbooks.

Making it Scale

If challenge number one is creating content, then challenge two is making it scale for Flatbooks in cities around the world. Ultimately, creating the welcome books take a lot of dedicated research and writing hours. There’s no way around that. But there are ways to improve efficiency and cost effectiveness. This is how we do it:

  • We get organized. We started by creating a neighborhood classification system, so we’d know when Flatbooks are close and might be able to share content. Then we built a system of interchangeable templates, so we can assemble welcome books like building blocks. This made the work more scalable from a production point of view.
  • We front-load our research. When Flatbook expands to a new city, we immediately seek out the best food blogs and local content creators. Not only will these be great people to partner with later, it’s a good resource, so that when we expand into a new neighborhood within that city, we’ve already got lots of information to go on.
  • We keep things short and sweet. How many sections are there in a guidebook that you never read? This isn’t about producing massive amounts of content, but offering a few choice recommendations.
  • We focus on cost-effective printing. When it comes to printing, cheapest isn’t always cheapest. Not only does printing on thin paper make welcome books look flimsy, they’re actually less durable in the end, so they have to be replaced more often.
  • We’re going digital. We believe it’s an important part of the hospitality experience to have a physical copy of the welcome book in all Flatbooks, but we also send guests a digital copy before they check in. This way they can read up on the place before they come, brush up on parking and transit, make dinner reservations and get excited.

The next step in this timeline is an app that will be responsive, great for on-the-go recommendations and build off the information in the physical welcome book. More on that in the future!

So now back to our first question: why are the welcome books good for business?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Moving Up the Pyramid

Flatbook is building a global hospitality brand that creates amazing guest experiences on all levels. To reach this goal, we talk a lot about how our services fit into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: from the bottom levels which cover physical needs like food and security to the upper levels, which are about connection, discovery and self-actualization.

The welcome books are important because they fulfill multiple levels. A thorough introduction to the Flatbook fulfills the bottom levels of the pyramid. Guests know all the basics the moment they step in the door: where to find the extra towels, how to work the coffee machine and any tricks to locking the door. As an added bonus this also mean less calls to our Guest Experience Team.

Moving up the pyramid to belonging and esteem, local recommendations give guests a sense of integration into the neighborhood. For many travelers, the opportunity to experience a city like a local is the reason that short-term rentals win over hotels (or at least a bonus!). With enough googling and poring over food blogs or posting to message boards and cross referencing on Yelp, guests might find these local recommendations for themselves. But part of the Flatbook experience is that they shouldn’t have to.

The Flatbook Experience

We want Flatbook guests to leave under the glow cast by the top of the pyramid: to have a travel experience that fulfills needs they didn’t even know they had. Because that’s the kind of guest who connects with the Flatbook brand and books over and over again. That’s the guest who gives us a 10/10 when asked how likely they are to recommend Flatbook to a friend. That’s the kind of guest who has brought our Net Promoter Score up to 75 this quarter.

We think welcome books are worth it because they create a better guest experience and ultimately happy guests are what will make our business succeed.

To learn more about how Flatbook is building a next-generation hospitality company (and consuming a lot of Soylent along the way), visit our blog.