What if we told you improving the guest experience, streamlining processes, and driving incremental revenue all go hand-in-hand? And that you likely already have the tools in place to make an immediate impact?
Vacation rental operators large and small across mountain markets, beach regions, urban landscapes, and rural areas alike ask the same question to their operations teams day-in and day-out: What can we do today to improve the guest experience?
As travelers become more technologically savvy, the guest experience should continuously change and adapt to the current landscape. Operators for hotels, short-term rentals, and timeshares alike should be offering an experience that’s consistent with other arms of the hospitality industry to stay ahead of expectations. This means that even mom-and-pop vacation rental managers with small portfolios and limited resources are expected to keep up with the latest trends, too.
While it’s always a healthy exercise to examine the guest experience (or guest journey) from start to finish—analyzing how each touchpoint can be improved, workflows can be optimized, and messaging can be further tailored to the guest—it can be just as fruitful to act swiftly and implement proven methods now.
Read on to learn more about our top three steps to improve the guest experience today (and how to implement them).
Travelers are in peak planning mode just days before arrival, so why not tap into that excitement by providing helpful information that helps ensure their stay is unforgettable?
The intent of pre-arrival communication is (1) informational and (2) transactional, if appropriate.
Many travelers aren’t in planning mode until the very last minute, but there’s much to do! Help your guests get excited about their trip by offering up ideas for experiences they can book in advance, plus helpful information to ensure their trip goes off without a hitch.
In many markets, local establishments like attractions, restaurants, and activity rental providers require advanced reservations. Consider sending pre-arrival communication one to two weeks in advance to help ensure your guests are able to book each experience on their list.
Pro Tip #1: If you have a concierge or amenities program that allows you to receive a commission on referrals—ex: boat rentals or guided tour bookings—, make sure you include links and promo codes as applicable to ensure your business gets credit for those referrals.
Excitement for the trip is official at an all-time high just a few days prior to arrival. Why not tap into that excitement with helpful property information and a few reminders?
Travelers are best reached in one of two ways: via email or SMS text. If sending via email, it’s helpful to list high-level information within the body of the email, with links back to your website, or even better, a customized guest portal, for more information.
SMS texts must be short and sweet, as large blocks of text will fall into the TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) category. Include a simple teaser with a call to action, and a link back to a dedicated page on your website or guest portal/app that outlines all essential information.
Pro Tip #2: By using a unified operations platform like BeHome247, pre-arrival communication is a breeze with set-and-forget automations paired with a branded guest portal and app experience.
While it can be challenging for vacation rental operators to guarantee check-in times in advance for a variety of reasons, there’s no better way to surprise and delight your guests than by letting them know the moment their unit is available for check-in. Further, consider offering contactless check-in and providing check-in details along with your room-ready notification.
There are two ways to go about communicating “room-ready” notifications to your guests; (1) Through automated workflows or (2) through a manual process.
To set up automated room-ready notifications for contactless check-in, ensure the unit lock system is integrated with your operations platform. Set up a notification to deploy via SMS text and/or email when the room status is changed to “ready”. The notification should include check-in instructions along with the door code. If contactless check-in is not available, the room-ready notification should advise that their unit is ready and they can visit the front desk to complete check-in as soon as they’re ready.
If your business doesn’t currently use an operations platform like BeHome247 to manage housekeeping status, maintenance communication, and room-ready notifications, it’s still possible to implement this communication and improve the guest experience for select check-ins. Set a goal of surprising and delighting 5 guests per day with room-ready notifications in advance of standard check-in time, and work with your operations teams to review your current workflow and analyze how it can be adjusted.
Pro Tip #3: While automated processes are always preferred for busy operators, implementing goals and incentives for your front desk, housekeeping, and maintenance teams will help them to prioritize this important touch point in the guest experience.
A “perfectly packed” rental calendar (one with zero available nights between bookings) during peak and shoulder seasons alike is a dream come true for rental owners and property managers. While many operators aim to pack their calendars with minimum length of stay restrictions to maximize booking length, all is not lost if a few nights are still available at the last minute. Our favorite strategy for filling gap nights—the unbooked dates in between bookings—is by offering soon-to-be departing guests a simple “extend your stay” communication.
Just like the room-ready notifications discussed in the last section, there are two ways to go about setting up gap night communications; (1) automation or (2) manual process. Oftentimes, operators choose to offer a discount with their “extend your stay” communication as an incentive to book, as the unit may sit empty otherwise.
To set up automated gap night communication, the property management system must update the operations platform continually to ensure the latest information is being used to generate gap night information. Simply set up a workflow to notify guests via SMS text and/or email that their room is available for an extra night (and include the discount information, if applicable) one or two days prior to departure. The call to action should include either a booking link or instructions to call to confirm the extension.
Without an operations platform like BeHome247 to facilitate a set-and-forget gap night notification, front desk staff will be required to run a daily gap night report from the property management system and manually notify guests that their room is available for one or more extra nights should they be interested in extending their stay.
Pro Tip #4: We find that in drive markets, in particular, it’s surprisingly easy for guests to rearrange their schedules to stay an extra day or two if they’re receiving a competitive rate on the extra nights.
While leveraging the power of an end-to-end operations platform that integrates seamlessly with your existing property management system and other legacy systems is widely considered a best practice for managing the guest experience, all is not lost if your business has not yet implemented this technology. Reviewing and updating manual processes tend to reveal inefficiencies that may not otherwise have been exposed, and will help you streamline your business processes to the greatest extent possible without operations management technology.
By sending pre-arrival communication, surprising and delighting guests with room-ready notifications, and offering the opportunity for guests to extend their stay and fill your gap nights in the process, the guest experience improves instantly. Further, you’ll see the impact on your bottom line almost immediately.
Pro Tip #5: If you aren’t already, consider leveling up your guest experience with BeHome247.