So, you’ve examined your booking curve, determined the appropriate pricing strategies, and promoted your inventory to your past guests and distribution network. Everything’s good, right? Not necessarily. Pricing is just the first part of the equation.
It doesn’t matter if a guest stays with you for free, or at a premium. If they aren’t delighted by the experience they have with you, they’re going to rent elsewhere next time.
The good news is that pleasing your guests and differentiating yourself from the competition doesn’t take a whole lot of time or money. Why? Because many companies are all about the bottom line these days. They sacrifice that personal touch that makes a big impression on customers, in favor of turning a profit. By prioritizing that personal touch and making just a little more of an effort to ensure their stay is a great one, you can pull ahead of the pack.
Here are some tips on how to help your guests have the kind of experience that they will want to tell others about and keep them coming back for years to come.
(Image Credit: Unsplash)
1. Think Like a Guest
Try thinking like a guest instead of the owner or rental manager. If you were going to stay in your house, what would you want the stay to be like? Which amenities or services would you care the most about? Would you want to know the best places to eat? The best place to buy groceries? The nearest hiking trails? Which features or details would you be most annoyed with? How quickly would you want issues addressed? Instead of focusing on incremental revenue or reducing your costs, focus instead on how to help your guests have the greatest stay that they can.
Kris Getzie of hospitality consulting firm Volo suggests owners spend a few days in a guest's shoes- literally. "It's important to get out and experience other vacation rentals in addition to thinking like a guest at your own. Not that an owner wants to copy what everyone else is doing exactly, but getting a genuine guest experience allows you to stay on top of new ideas and apply what makes sense for your experience."
2. Take the Guess Work Out of Their Stay
Don’t assume that the guest knows exactly what they want to do, where they want to eat, and how to get a hold of you, etc. Some guests will, but plenty of guests won’t. Having all of this information on your website is a great idea, but having it available in the rental in a binder or folder is even better. It’s also a good idea to have all of the contact information they could possibly need accessible in case of an issue or emergency.
Here are some helpful items to leave for guests: Bus schedules, attraction brochures, coupons to local restaurants and businesses, etc.
Make Community Partnerships: You might even be able to work out some kind of referral fee or revenue share relationship with local businesses as a way to capitalize on some of the activities and things your guests may want. It can also turn into a great source of prospects if they are referring people to you as well.
Chris De Busk, author of The Vacation Rental Goldmine, expands about the need for both digital and paper copies of key information. "As guests get increasingly digital it's important to bring those elements into the experience for those who value it. Not every one of course is a digital native, so [information on] paper is helpful and a good idea. For the digital crowd, an app like HomeAway Hospitality really puts everything at the guests' fingertips. A tap from the app takes you to a restaurant website or dials the phone number so you can make a reservation or tap to contact you on your cell phone - way better than paper."
3. Add a Personal Touch
(Image Credit: Condesign)
This is one of the easiest things that you can do that will make a big impression on your guests. Here are two ideas.
Greet Your Guests with a Handwritten Note
Show your guests you're considerate of their needs by letting them know you're available via a nice note. Something like “Thanks for staying with us. Let us know if there is anything that we can do to make your stay even better” is perfect. The fact that you took the time to write it by hand will make a great impression. This easy gesture conveys to the guests that they are a priority to you and that you want to make their stay as great as possible.
Matt Landau of Vacation Rental Marketing Blog concurs. "Today's travelers want to live like well-appointed locals. They value privileged access to local events, insider contacts, and the feeling that you (their host) is personally looking out for their best interest. Nothing says that better than a thoughtful hand-written welcome note."
Buy Them a Treat
Another thing that you can do is leave some goodies for your guests. This might be a couple of bottles of water, a couple boxes of candy, or a bottle of wine. Yes, this is going to cost you a little money, but it will make a big impression on your guests. What you make back in repeat business and referrals will more than compensate for the few bucks you spend on these items. Again, this is a just a couple, low cost extras. No need to stock your fridge for a week. In short, we all like getting a little something extra, and the small treat you buy could even persuade your guests to rent your property again!
4. Maintain the Relationship
Keep giving them reasons to come back by keeping them informed. Try to keep in touch and make sure that they know about events and attractions in your area. This is the one thing that I see owners and rental companies do a really poor overall job at time and again. The assumption seems to be that if the guest had a good time they will automatically come back. But in this age of social media, non-stop marketing, and discount websites, you have to keep earning their business. What can’t they miss? What do they need to plan for or take into consideration? What do they need to know to have the best vacation possible? What incentive (besides your stellar service) do they have to come back? Reward their loyalty on top of it in the form of discounts, extras, and special deals or savings.
Scott Shatford of vacation rental analytics firm Airdna explains his views on loyalty programs. "Guest loyalty programs are becoming increasingly important in the vacation rental industry. With more lodging options coming on the market each day differentiating your property with personalized communications to previous guests will go a long way in securing repeat customers for years to come."
My Final Thoughts:
Chances are you do a few of these things already. The most important aspect of maintaining a successful business is to put your customer first. Proactively anticipate their needs and desires, and make sure they know they are a priority. Everyone likes to feel like they're important, and if you can effectively communicate this to them, you will win their business again and again.
This famous quote sums this whole idea up nicely: “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel."
This article was written by James C. Sells, the Founder & Principal Consultant at VR Biz Consulting, a company that works with vacation rental businesses to maximize revenue and take their software from a cost center to a profit center.