The vacation rental industry is about people and guest service. Aside from constant attention to the details of your vacation home, effective guest communication before, during and after your guests stay is the easiest way to exceed expectations and gain loyalty. The success of any vacation rental business is up to each owner to ensure the entire process is worry free, fun and that guests leave excited to recommend your home to others.

According a J.D. Power study on guest satisfaction, the number of interactions guests have significantly impacts their satisfaction and loyalty. In hotels, the overall satisfaction among guests is the highest when they interact with four or more types of staff after check-in. Vacation rentals are not hotels and certainly don't have “staff" but I think we can discern from this study that guest communication should not end after check-in. Guests want more than a key, so pay attention to how and when you interact.

Guest Communication Tips

  1. Be Genuine: Your experience offered will distinguish you from your competitors. Don't be afraid to engage the real you into your business, albeit professionally.
  2. Be Prompt: Guest inquiries, questions and requests need to be handled with a sense of urgency every single time.
  3. Smile! As cheesy as it sounds, it's easy to hear a smile in some one's tone. Your pronunciation will be more clear and your guests (current or potential) will be more engaged in your experience even if you are not speaking with them in person.

Prior to Guests Arriving

  1. Listen: Don't just listen to the actual words guests are verbalizing, ask additional questions to get to know them. Read between the lines and make attempts to personalize their vacation rental stay. As a single mom of two young kids, nothing is more helpful than arriving to Frozen in the DVD player, milk in the fridge and banana's on the counter for a snack (next to a shot of local whiskey for me). My kids travel often and are ridiculously well behaved, but these small gestures help immensely and allow us to settle quickly.
  2. Help: Even if the guest hasn't booked your home, help them with the details of their vacation if it's possible. By making their trip better, more memorable and more authentic, you will likely remain a piece of their experience. Chances are that they will book with you next time, or refer a friend!
  3. Eliminate Concerns: Independent vacation rentals don't have the brand recognition hotel chains do (in terms of what to expect), so owners have to be diligent about anticipating potential concerns with effective guest communication

A stress free process will not only distinguish your vacation rental from competitors, it will make your guests happy.

Top concerns, in my experience, have involved uncertainty of the homes quality, location and what will happen if disaster strikes. Disaster, to some, may be a malfunctioning dishwasher. To others, where they will stay if the entire house burns down (I've been asked about house fire contingency plans before).

Provide clear and updated images, video tours and information on your emergency contacts and procedures. Hopefully you have stayed in vacation rentals prior to starting your business, so put yourself in their shoes and provide any information that will give them peace of mind.

During a Guests Stay

  1. Warm and welcoming: You never get a second chance at a first impression. Your door should open with a sense of 'welcome home' and the transition in should be seamless and comforting.
  2. Check in: I call my guests within 24-hours to be sure they are settled, have everything they need and gain insight into their plans. I like to followup after 12 hours, but under 24, as it gives them time to acquaint themselves. I look for ways to personalize their trip during this call.
  3. Give guests space: Let them enjoy their trip but always be willing to engage further, should they like.

After a Guests Stay

  1. Say thank you: I'm still surprised at the number of vacation rental owners that don't thank their guests for staying. It's simple and an easy way to build repeat guests.
  2. Feedback: Ask for feedback in your thank you note. Their input is the best way to continually enhance your homes experience. Also provide a link so they can easily review their stay.
  3. Engage: Ask for a picture during their vacation and permission to use it for marketing or offer a discount for their next stay. Don't end your relationship when they walk out the door.

This guest post was written by Kris Getzie, Founder & Principal Consultant at Volo. She is a vacation rental expert and author of the recently published Vacation Rentals For Newbies.