Making the Vacation Rental Process Effortless

Effortless_ExperienceWhen I first got into the vacation rental industry in the 1990’s it was markedly different to what we see today.  I remember going to rental cottages in the UK and being completely tolerant of the thin sheets, dust bunnies under the beds and the long lists of rules and instructions.  As a family, we’d been campers for many years but too many holidays spent in a dripping wet tent looking out over cloud covered Welsh mountains prompted the move to a solid roof.  It was bliss and as long as the rain wasn’t coming in, we were as happy as we could be.

I probably adopted the same principles in my first rental property and freely admit it was the place that stuff from my house I had no more use for, went to die.  I’m not much of a hoarder but have always hated throwing things out, so what better final resting place for unwanted ornaments, old mattresses and linens, and an assortment of unmatched mugs, plates and casserole dishes.  And yes, there was probably a rusty cheese grater and a complete set of useless unsharpened knives.  As Dr Phil might say, ‘What were you thinking’?

It was easy then.  High demand and not a lot of choice created a market that didn’t require a great deal of attention or work.  Even in an era before on-line marketing, where all advertsing was done in print in classified ads, there was no shortage of people who wanted to rent, and were willing to pay a decent amount for the privelige of private space in beautiful surroundings.  There was no Home Away or Airbnb offering a multitude of choices and the concept of social media sharing was but a glimmer in a nerdy eye.

Moving on fifteen or so years, the change is not so much dramatic as steady and consistent, and successful owners know they must compete on a much larger playing field to attract an increasingly demanding market.  Today’s guests want a lot more and they want the whole process to be effortless.

I’m reading “The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty” by Matthew Dixon , Nick TomanRick DeLisi. It turns the whole concept of customer service on its head by saying

Loyalty is driven by how well a company delivers on its basic promises and solves day-to-day problems, not on how spectacular its service experience might be. Most customers don’t want to be “wowed”; they want an effortless experience. And they are far more likely to punish you for bad service than to reward you for good service.

In our terms, it means that no amount of gift baskets, gas cards, or vouchers for a future stay to apologise for a problem will make up for bad service.  Spending time on making the whole process and experience easy on guests will create more loyalty.  I’m still deep in this book and a more complete review will follow, but here’s some quick learning points I’ve translated to suit our market.

Information easy to find – don’t make it difficult for prospective guests to find a rate or availability.  They don’t want to spend time calculating what it will cost for a 4 night stay in November or add up extras and booking fees.

They want it mobile – we know that more and more people are accessing information on phones and tablets.  If they can’t find yours, they’ll move on to another property.

Comprehensive and accurate list of amenities and facilities – guests love it when everything they are looking for is right at their fingertips – they don’t want to spend time asking if your place has a blender or a baby gate.  Provide an inventory or list of frequently asked questions.

Quick response to enquiries – getting back to guests within 24 hours is no longer acceptable;  instant response is an expectation we need to meet.

Easy booking system – faxing, scanning, snail mail….these are a #fail in todays technological environment.  We are in a one-click culture so invest in a booking system that makes booking an effortless process.

Arrival –  should be seamless and completely stress-free.  GPS driving directions, keyless entry systems, easy access to heating and cooling controls are essential.  Consider how guests travel – if by air, will they be in time to buy groceries and most importantly, have a cold beer or glass of wine on their first night?  The only thing you don’t have control over is the traffic – everything else can be orchestrated to create the best experience.

They want the whole experience to be without issues – we know that’s not always possible, but given guests are generally less resourceful and self-reliant than we oldies were in our post camping days, issues must be easily resolvable.  Contact numbers should be clearly displayed and a troubleshooting guide included in the property book to tackle all the problems that might arise.

At the end of the vacation – guests want to leave with happy memories of their vacation, not a lasting image of the garbage they had to haul back home, or the toilet cleaning they were asked to do.  Yes, that’s extreme but still asked for in many locations.   I don’t mind stripping off a bed, or making sure the dishwasher is loaded, but ask me to mop the floors and clean the windows and you’ve lost a guest for life……….

Old attitudes still hang on in many locations, but we are on the move folks to a new era of hospitality.  Make your guests’ vacation effortless – it’s the new mantra of customer service.

Kevin Riedel

All good points, Heather.  Something I thought of… In our efforts to help automate and keep things effortless, we can’t lose sight of simply being human. Most large organizations these days are scrambling to give their brands a personality. Social media is forcing this. Call centers with robotic humans on the other end are a thing of the past…. scripts are being thrown away and reps are being trained to be more casual with customers. 

That said, we need to learn from what is going on in big business and keep our small businesses human. Don’t over automate! Having cordial conversations and sharing a laugh with renters goes a long way.

Heather Bayer

That’s where we will win out as individuals Kevin – the relationship is what matters to most people since they don’t get that connection much anymore.

Cottages Muskoka

Hi thanks for sharing this great information with us, Keep it up!

    Heather Bayer

    No problem. We love to share all this information and make the Vacation Rental Industry that much stronger.

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