Tech Stack – Engaging and Retaining Guests
July 7, 2022
I chatted with partners a bit this year at the conferences to find out services they provide for day-to-day client operations and find out ways we could work together. I’ve combined what appear to me to be the main service groupings in the chart below. While some partner services stay mostly in one grouping, others may crossover to different sections or integrate with property management systems. Most of our TruPlace clients already have a standard website, online marketing representatives, and in-house systems, so the recommendations we regularly give relate to efficiencies, obtaining an automated bird’s eye view of property care, and planning out guest communications and are the focus of this two part finale of our Listening and Learning series. (in blue below).
If you find something you are interested in, talk to several companies to see which best matches your end goals. They may offer demos or free trials to see how it works for your day-to-day operations. Sources I used that might also be helpful to you include the Rentals United “Who’s Who,” VRMA “Find a Vendor” Search, VR Tech Blog, and VRM Intel Magazines. Feel free to reach out if you are having trouble finding or connecting with anyone, and I’ll see what we can do to help!
Vacation Rental Property Management: Service Groupings
What can we do to make sure we get good reservations?
“Risky reservations can lead to parties, damage, noise complaints, liability issues, and even criminal activity, including human trafficking.”AutoHost
We all know you want to protect the homeowner, their property, your staff, and your business from anything that could be a monetary, safety, or legal risk. Verifying your guests and their ability to pay as soon as possible is critical to reducing risk. Several companies in the vacation rental industry can take this task, which without automation can be time-consuming, off your plate. As part of their services, they can check varying levels of guest ID, background, and credit screening in the blink of an eye. Some companies providing the services above may also be able to manage guest deposit and damage fee collection as well as provide insurance guarantees for the property owners. The benefits to you include increased revenue AND peace of mind resulting from reducing chargebacks/associated legal fees, property theft/damage, and loss of time on the market from fraudulent reservations. Performing these checks upfront also allows you to proactively begin communications with the guests about their stay and ensure a seamless check-in, whether with your staff or via a key safe or smart lock.
How do they do it? Information provided during the reservation and contract process is verified and authenticated by checking against multiple databases/systems such as the following:
- Background Checks-Court/Criminal Records
- Terrorism Watch Lists
- ID Verification (Driver’s License/Passport)
- Name, Email, Phone, Address Verification
- Visual Verification- Live Selfie/Video
- Credit Screening and Credit Card Verification
“Card Not Present (CNP) chargebacks are also on the rise, as are cases of friendly fraud (43% increase) and criminal fraud (21% increase), per a report from Chargebacks911.”Ascent Payment Solutions
What can we do to keep guests engaged once the reservation is confirmed?
There are many technological answers to this question- from welcome guides to automated email/text to post-stay surveys/reviews. Whether you take this on internally or work with a trusted industry partner, the main goal is to communicate with your guest often with valued information.
When done correctly, this communication process can positively add to your guest’s vacation experience- one they will ideally want to write about, share, AND repeat! I’ve provided a round-up of ideas for a guest communication plan below; however, keep in mind some may be dependent on seamless integration with your PMS for reservation data.
Marketing/Revenue Build- Guest Communications
- Reservation Information– Reservation, Balance, Payment, and Insurance Options
- Upsell Information– Gap-Night Offer, Early Check In, Late Check-Out, Mid-Stay Clean, Linens, etc.
- Pre-Arrival Planning– Local Area Info, Packing Lists, Equipment Rental, Packages, Ads/Coupons/Offers
- Arrival Coordination– Check In Time and Location, Smart Lock/Key Safe Code if applicable
- First Day Check-In- How was your arrival? Was the property clean and ready?
- Mid Stay Check In- You’ve been there a few days. Is everything going well?
- Notices/Emergency Alerts– Arrival Concerns, Road Closures, Weather Issue
- Help/Issue Reporting- Chat/AI with Auto replies. Quickly report issues for prompt response/resolution.
- Pre Departure List– Check Out Time, Clean Up, Auto Check-Out
- Post Departure- Check Out Survey/Review
“76% of property managers actively communicate with their guests, compared to only 40% in 2021. 25% of property managers are generating additional revenue from offering extended stays to their guests. 35% of property managers are reporting an increase in repeat bookings and owner referrals as a result of using a texting solution.”Travel Daily News- Breezeway
To add value and save your guests time you’ll want to provide an easily accessible branded (of course!) guide of local and property resources. Made even more popular during COVID, a web or app-based Welcome Guide allows your guests to plan and add options before and during their stay. An additional idea is to create a QR code to use in communications and display at the property on a stand, magnet, etc., for easy access.
Think about all the times dining info needs to be altered, a garbage day adjusted, or a local or company policy changed. By having it electronically, you can immediately update guide information from one central location to push to guests. One of the biggest benefits is time savings for your staff in answering frequent questions since the renters have readily available answers to frequently asked questions. If they need to know how to use the hot tub, they can go tithe guide to find the instructions. Hot tub not working? They can report it right from the app for your notification and response.
“You become more efficient – Are you inundated by the same questions again and again? Save time by directing guests to your home’s guidebook.”TouchStay
You can keep options and features of your guest communication and welcome guides simple or very robust and, in some cases, even integrated with your PMS for payments and check-in access. Try some options and see what works best for your business.
Hint: If you keep in-house binders, it’s still helpful to have electronic versions of everything so you can just update them once for printing/replacement in units. You can print out details of things that don’t change often and provide links or QR codes for those that do.