VRS138 – Why We Need to Adapt to Stay Competitive in the Vacation Rental Market

Every business has to adapt to changing times and our vacation rental business is not immune. Customer expectations and perceptions can change rapidly due to media and peer influence and we have to keep up to stay competitive.

We find this constantly in our rental agency business as issues arise over the course of a busy summer.

No situation, question, complaint or issue gets dealt with and filed without being analyzed for what we can learn from it. We debrief constantly and examine every situation with the question in mind, “Could this have been avoided?”

And most times it could.

To be one step ahead of the changing nature of this business, we have to learn from every incident and adapt the way we equip our homes,

the way we operate, and the way we communicate with guests.

Because….every time your guests feel something negative about your property it will impact whether they come back to it as a repeat guest, how they review it online, and how they share it with their social networks and friends in the real world.

In this episode, I discuss some of the issues that are impacting the vacation rental market in our part of the world and how we adjust and adapt our business practices from what we operationally do, to how we perceive our rental guests, their needs and realities in today's market.

By sharing some of our experiences on a very practical level in three areas, I’ve teased out the adaptations we’ve had to make to accommodate the changing nature of the business.

 

Damage and Breakages

When incidences of collapsing beds, cracked toilet seats, and damaged patio chairs rise as they have over the past couple of years, we need to look at the causes, and ways to mitigate this type of issue.

It’s not through charging guests for damage, and arguing they should have been more careful with our furniture – it’s through reinforcing bed frames, looking carefully at weight limitations on the furniture we buy, and accepting a higher level of risk.

And having a couple of replacement toilet seats handy.

 

Cleanliness and order

When I hear an owner respond to a complaint with….

“My cleaner must have forgotten to check the BBQ.”

“She must have missed that there were some broken (therefore missing) glasses.”

“They didn’t have enough time to complete the laundry so they left some towels in the dryer.”

….it sounds like there isn’t a checklist to follow, and given our guests are less tolerant and forgiving than they used to be, getting a stricter cleaning structure in place is so important.

We should not need to adapt our methods in order to improve cleaning standards because these should be high anyway, but I am first to admit that occasionally things get missed. So, I’m trialing the app from Properly and would love to hear from anyone else who is using it and getting results.

 

Communication & Managing Expectations

In a recent email we received from a guest who was frustrated that the DVD player broke late at night and there was no-one available to fix it, she wrote:

“If this was a hotel we could just call down to the front desk and someone would be straight up to deal with it.”

Much as we’d just like to say “I am so sorry – this is not a hotel. It’s a rental cottage located 15km down a dirt road, and nearly 30km from the nearest town where the caretaker lives, and he was not able to come out at nearly midnight to replace a DVD player,” we simply apologized and made a mental (and physical note) to manage guest expectations better.

We’ve had midnight calls because the DVD player is not working, or they can’t figure out how to get the microwave to do popcorn, or someone is stuck in the shower!

So, we now have a section in our ‘Things You Need to Know Before You Go’ document that outlines what will happen if things go wrong.

There’s always been something like that, but it’s been a little vague as to what might go wrong, so we’ve adapted it to meet the higher demands of guests used to calling down to the front desk.

If you don’t have an on-site concierge or a Property Manager who can whip down to the place less than 30 minutes after the call to fix a blown light bulb, you need to set expectations.

 

Links mentioned in this episode:

Rainy Day Book post

US Cities Betting on a Pokemon Go Tourist Boom

Properly app

Judith Abraham

Interesting insights, Heather and it brings very much into the fore the importance of anticipating guests’ requirements, rather than managing guests’ expectations. As you allude to, the guest has an ongoing higher level of expectations, brought about with the growth in valued added services.

To be one step ahead it is a matter of being creative in providing something which the guest hasn’t even expected/anticipated – this is where the true wins occur. It certainly is a lot of hard work, in particular in countries/regions where there is not a service mentality and staff require intensive training. I spend a large amount of time when I overhaul my properties constantly working on staff manuals and training staff (Latvia). I also stay in the properties and test everything out. A very important piece of advice I received from Sally Shalam, Travel writer for the Guardian, UK when she wrote a feature on my property in London.

I am blessed to have guests who have not damaged anything of significance and the properties have very expensive home wares in them as well, which guests appreciate and look after. They can see the love, expense and passion which has been poured into the properties and really appreciate the details.

In terms of communicating before bookings I now have in place a five day in advance policy booking policy, with the likes of Booking.com.

Thank you for your podcast, from Judith, TheLuxPod

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