Innovation in the vacation rental industry continues to drive massive disruption and consolidation, yet one aspect remains elusive: the guest experience. And there’s a good reason for that. An optimal guest experience is hard to execute at scale.
At the same time, guest experience is a key success driver. Not only can it yield better ratings and reviews, but it also drives increase customer loyalty, referrals, and more revenue per listing. A well-constructed guest experience can even claim a higher price level.
It’s easy to learn what Airbnb is doing about the guest experience. But what are other vacation rental companies doing?
Here at Hostfully, we have the privilege of working and networking with thousands of Vacation Rental Management Companies (VRMCs) across the country, and the world. We asked 16 leaders of vacation rental companies one question. Their answers may hold the key to unlocking revenue potential in your business.
What is your #1 best practice for ensuring a positive guest experience and creating recurring customers?
From communications, to local recommendations, specialty foods to security, these leaders had great insights on providing an amazing guest experience that can be helpful as you think about your business.
1. Focus on the food
Heather Storm – Digital Marketing Manager, Lotus Garden Cottages
I am the digital marketing manager for Lotus Garden Cottages, a luxury B&B on the Big Island of Hawaii. Guests here most enjoy our personal breakfast service which is a beautiful presentation of fresh fruit, eggs, and local baked goods delivered each morning to the guest’s suite.
2. Respond quickly
Amanda Lombrana – Software Advice
We recently published a survey on vacation rental trends and found some interesting guest experience insights. When asked for comments in the survey, respondents said they wished managers had “returned calls in a timely manner,” provided a “faster response” and offered “more communication in general.”
3. Offer non-stop service
Isaac Diaz – Starmark Vacation Homes
Once a guest books with you it doesn’t mean you stop giving them service. We provide an in-person pre arrival correspondence to assist with a request or guest services. This phone call allows guests to ask last minute questions about the home or the area. This provides a real service that shows that you are an expert for the area.
All guest receive a welcome home kit. We are based in Orlando, so most guests are going to the theme parks. We provide items that they can use or entertain the kids while at the parks or in the home. A drawstring backpack with our logo and web address holds all of our stuff like sunglasses, sunscreen, water bottle, and theme park paraphernalia.
Take advantage of your past guests. Using your CRM to coordinate and send segmented, tailored emails to them, with offers to return.
4. Ensure Guest Safety
Valerie – Branson Vacation Rentals
Branson, Missouri, has some weather conditions that could create concerns for our guests. Under these severe weather conditions (i.e. tornado watches), one of our managers personally stays on the property and if needed will knock on the guest’s cabin and invite them to a secure and safe location in the event of severe weather condition. Guests have really appreciated that we keep their safety a priority.
5. 5-Star Communication
Erin Pederson – Founder and COO of Markett
The #1 thing a guest is looking for is a clean house, but that should be a given. What is really going to go the furthest once the guest is comfortable with the listing is communication.
Communication starts before the guest arrives, and makes them feel so good that they won’t have any issues once they show up. Then, since they do not have the security of a hotel staff for questions, being able to immediately answer any calls or texts during the stay will give guests the security that they need. The last thing guests want to think is that they’ve traveled to a deserted island without a lifeboat.
6. Supply personalized recommendations
Tim – Co-Founder of When In ROAM
Simply put, we work with many VRMCs who provide ultra-personalized local recommendations as an added feature for travelers.
7. Do little things that have a big impact
Gail – Montana Bear Properties
Our #1 recommendation for repeat clients and 5-star reviews is to OVER deliver on customer service.
Make certain that advertising and representation of your properties are accurate so that the guest knows what to expect.
Even before the guest arrives, we send brochures of things to do in the area so that our guests can get excited in advance. We also provide additional services, from advance grocery shopping, in-house catering, and gourmet dinners prepared on site, to a massage therapist. We want our guests to spend their limited holiday time relaxing and enjoying the experience, rather than doing the mundane things that can be provided by someone else.
Our gift basket has everything from s’mores for evenings at the outdoor fire pit, to stuffed teddy bears for the children and a coffee table book for the adults. And of course, a hot homemade huckleberry pie is always steaming in the oven when our guests arrive! [Yum!]
8. Help guests live like a local
Michael Shepherd – Paros Paradise
What has worked best over the years for both positive reviews and returning guests is to invite those who are interested into our lives as well as our accommodations.
Travelers who pay good money to vacation are naturally curious about the lifestyle of those who live in resort areas. As Americans on a Greek island it is probably easier for us to share our cultural adventures, but any visitor will be curious about how a host spends their days off—not that there are any during high season!
During slow times or bad weather, many guests have found themselves in our parlor playing board games or cards. Our best new friends were made over sharing recipes at the barbeque.
9. Provide 24-7 customer service
Andrea Lamond – Marketing Director, Owner Direct Vacation Rentals
Our #1 best practice for ensuring a positive guest experience and creating recurring customers is giving excellent customer service. Our friendly and responsive customer service staff are available every day of the year to answer all questions quickly.
We help guests save time and spare them headaches. Other sites have you wasting time dealing with multiple property owners all at once. You wait for replies from busy home owners that don’t reply in a timely manner with the information you really need to make a decision.
We offer a 24 hour grace period for both parties to communicate and confirm all details of a booking before any money is paid.
10. Make it all-inclusive
Stef – Villa I Due Padroni
Our best guest experience tip is to always accommodate any request of the guests without additional cost. Extra towels, change of bed linen, special kitchenware, use of washing machine, etc. No problem!
Our philosophy is that once you pay the rent, we do everything to keep the guest satisfied. As they are not used to this, it always results in very positive reviews.
11. Include a one-stop reference for recommendations
Denise Supplee – Operations Director, SparkRental
Renting vacation properties is much different than renting for long term tenancies. I find providing information regarding the rental property and location in an easy-to-find and conspicuous location is priceless. Include restaurant, entertainment and shopping information. Don’t forget to outline how the heater is turned on and off, same with air conditioning.
12. Highlight local culture
Zetta – Anema Residence
We are a family run hotel, and our concept is to create a complex of villas with private pools, and a free car rental for the duration of their stay. We welcome our guests as family, to experience the real Greek hospitality that we have inherited from our families.
Upon arrival, we greet guests with a warm welcome and a complimentary drink. We show them around our property, and give them our in-depth knowledge of the island.
In our gardens they can find fruit and olive trees, fresh herbs, Santorinian tomato plants, white eggplants, local cucumbers, and other seasonal vegetables. All of these are available to them to use to cook.
We also introduce them to other local products, including wine, “chloro” goat cheese, fava beans, cherry tomatoes and homemade sweets. We suggest sites and villages to visit, great restaurants and taverns serving local food, interesting walks and much more depending on our guest’s interests.
13. Top class training
Julia Woehrer – Assistant Marketing Manager, Vacation Myrtle Beach
Our “Friendliest Place on the Beach” initiative includes ongoing training with all employees, guest surveys, and contests.
Training and development for the program at these family-friendly resorts include daily departmental meetings featuring various categories of focus including how to impress even the smallest guests – children. Beyond the ongoing training, we have launched a social media contest, encouraging guests to share their positive experiences with #HappyGuest included in their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram posts.
14. Do the basics really well
TJ Clark – CEO and Co-Founder, TurnKey Vacation Rentals
Make researching and booking a vacation rental as frictionless as possible with these 10 tips:
- Make sure you have complete and accurate listings and photos.
- Take reservations online or offline securely with a credit card.
- Make sure your property is instantly bookable.
- Keep your availability calendars up to date.
- Respond quickly to questions and inquiries.
- Make sure the directions to find your property are clear. Have someone try and find your property using the directions before you send them out to guests.
- Install a digital lock with long battery life.
- Give guests, vendors, and anyone else entering your property their own unique code. Also, make sure the codes only work when the guests and vendors need access to the home.
- The number one thing guests want is a clean home. Make sure you hire great cleaners and pay them fairly. Even great cleaners miss things occasionally. Inspect the cleaning jobs.
- Make sure all the supplies are restocked and that the property is ready for your guests to have a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
15. Make critical information accessible
David Jacoby – President and Co-Founder, Hostfully
Often, hosts will send their guests tons of information via email, which the guest never reads, and winds up asking a million questions of the host or manager. This can be frustrating for both parties, and leads to a sub-par guest experience. And, we know that guest communication is important to VRMCs.
In Hostfully’s recent report on the hospitality industry, we found that 87% of survey respondents said they want to improve their communication with guests. It’s important to make information accessible when guests want it, and that it’s in a format that works for them. Having a digital guidebook that looks good on a laptop before their trip, on their mobile phone when they arrive at the airport, and in print when they are at the listing, are all critical factors to provide the best guest experience possible.
Final Thoughts on Guest Experience
When it comes to the vacation rental industry, providing optimal guest experience is king. Using the tools available to you will not only increase guest satisfaction, but your bottom line as well. Whether it’s digital guidebooks, providing local recommendations, or being accessible 24/7 for guest communications, the experience you provide your guests immediately impacts your business and reputation as a vacation rental professional.