Ever wonder why a property listing could look absolutely amazing but still have bad reviews and low occupancy? The reason most likely comes down to a poor guest experience.
Providing an exceptional guest experience is often overlooked by vacation rental hosts, but it is one of the most crucial investments you can make into the future of your short-term rental business.
Guest experience is a general term used throughout the hospitality industry but also applies to vacation rental businesses. It describes all the events and interactions that leave an impression on the guest during their stay.
This could be anything from their communication with staff, check-in and checkout experiences, and overall enjoyment while staying at your property.
The experience a guest has at your vacation rental business has countless repercussions for your business. It’s the difference between a bad review and a good one and the difference between whether a guest recommends you to their friends or warns them to stay away. Ultimately, it’s also the difference between whether your business is successful or not.
There are more than enough vacation rental properties to go around, so it’s crucial that your guest feels like they were treated well and that you provided excellent service and value for the money they spent. Otherwise, they may decide to look elsewhere instead of returning for their next vacation.
An exceptional guest experience may seem abstract at first, but, luckily, there are a few practical steps you can take to get the basics right.
Different types of guests will have different needs that they will expect the vacation rental experience to deliver on. So, it’s important to know the type of guests you are targeting to provide memorable guest experiences.
For example, if you are aiming for a family-friendly holiday house, adding small touches like movies or toys for children, enough extra bedding for all the guests, and suggestions for family-friendly activities to do in the area will impress your guests.
Likewise, if your vacation rental caters to businesspeople, guests’ expectations will include a working area and a strong internet connection.
The best way to guarantee guest satisfaction is to put yourself in your guests’ shoes. This creates a picture of what every interaction with your vacation rental will look like.
From how you create your listing for the booking stage, to what will happen from the time your guest arrives until they depart, you’ll need to think about your guests’ perspective.
Even ongoing communication after checkout, like how they receive marketing communications, will need to be well thought out. You want to make sure your guests do not get annoyed with spam emails and messages but still come off as attentive.
One of the greatest advantages that vacation rental accommodation has over most hotels is greater flexibility. While many hotels have very strict policies for hotel guests’ cancellations, late arrivals or departures, and changing bookings, short-term rentals are able to show a bit more flexibility.
If your guest communicates any issue with you that might affect their booking, trying to accommodate them as much as possible will go a long way. It is usually these types of experiences guests will rave about in online reviews.
Let’s face it, managing a vacation rental business without any help is tough. And when you’re juggling multiple bookings on top of all the background admin tasks, it is difficult to pay attention to the finer details of providing great guest experiences.
That’s why it’s crucial to simplify and automate as many property management tasks as possible. Then you’ll have time to focus on what really matters. By taking advantage of vacation rental software, you will be able to automate and streamline your business, allowing enough time to focus on providing exceptional guest experiences.
iGMS, for example, is a leading vacation rental software that enables you to:
Everyone loves options. Giving your guests the freedom to choose between what they would and would not like to be included in their stay will add to guest satisfaction.
For example, you could give them the option for different kinds of room upgrades, like extra beds added, or the option to choose which room views they prefer if there are different views to choose from.
The moment your guest arrives at your vacation rental is the time to start showing off. It’s the time to make them feel special and set the tone for the rest of their stay.
Besides ensuring your property is absolutely spotless before your guests arrive, you’ll need to plan out their check-in process. Are you going to meet them in person when they arrive, or will it be a contactless check-in? If it’s a contactless check-in, will you be using a lockbox to store the house keys or will you use a smart lock with mobile check-in? Whichever method you choose, you’ll need to make sure the key handover process is as simple and easy as possible for your guests.
You’ll also need to think about how you’d like to communicate important information that your guests will need when they arrive. The best way to do this is to send the most important information, like check-in instructions, in a welcome letter via email. Then, for all the finer details of the property and their stay, you could create a welcome book that could remain on the premises of your vacation rental.
To take it one step further, you could also try giving your guests a welcome basket or gift. This will take your guest’s experience from good to great and make your guest welcome something to brag about.
One of the hidden secrets used to increase customer loyalty and win more bookings is to focus on the convenience you provide. Guests’ experiences of a vacation are rooted in how easy and convenient things are made for them.
The best way to introduce convenience into your vacation rental is through new technology that will improve your hospitality services. This could be smart lighting that can be adjusted to customer preference or smart locks that eliminates the need for a key. You could also offer fast fiber internet and a smart TV that is able to accommodate popular streaming services like Netflix.
Effective communication is a crucial element of the experience guests receive. Poor communication and a hard-to-reach host can be frustrating if guests urgently need assistance.
This is why it is important for you or your front desk staff to be available to answer any phone calls or messages from current and potential guests. This way, you can answer questions and assist with any issues efficiently. You can use unified communications systems that unite all channels and third-party software integrations within one unified platform to prevent miscommunications. This way, you can answer immediately on any communication channel your customers prefer.
Then, to remind your guests you are always available to help, it’s a smart idea to send them a quick message or email halfway through their stay. This enables you to check in on them, without pestering them too much.
Every guest appreciates a personalized experience. It shows that you are paying attention to them and care about their enjoyment. An easy way to personalize the experience is to customize your email communication to include their name. You could also try to find out more about their preferences in order to suggest vacation activities or send them personal special offers that will appeal to them.
Even though your guests will be well aware that the vacation rental experience is not exactly the same as a hotel experience, there are still ways to go the extra mile to impress them with your hospitality.
For example, you could offer a room service menu or add-on experiences like spa services, or guided hikes and tours. You could also provide other practical services like organizing transport to or from the airport if needed.
This is the last step in your guest experience offering, and possibly the most important. After your guests have enjoyed their stay, it’s ideal to get feedback from them as soon as possible.
This feedback should at least include their opinions on what they enjoyed and what can be improved. While it might sting to hear some criticism about your vacation rental property, taking on this feedback is the fastest way to improve moving forward.
Feedback is usually given by the guest through online reviews, or the host could send a private feedback form via email for past guests to complete.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of a memorable guest experience, it’s time to take a closer look at current trends in the hospitality industry. These trends impact how well you provide exceptional guest experiences in the current state of the industry.
The Covid-19 Pandemic is not quite out of mind yet. Its effects have significantly changed the hospitality industry and how travelers judge their guest experience.
Because of the pandemic, greater emphasis has been added to health and safety practices within vacation rental and hotel stays. This includes stricter sanitation standards, requirements, and expectations.
A side effect of the pandemic was a mass realization that work does not need to be chained to an office building. This boosted the popularity of the digital nomad lifestyle. As part of this trend, the global workforce has started to shift towards traveling while working remotely.
For vacation rentals, this trend has meant that no matter what type of property you have, basic workstations and a decent internet connection are the bare minimum for travelers booking long vacation rentals or hotel stays.
Recent insights by AirDNA show travelers are booking more last-minute stays. This means fewer travelers are planning vacations months in advance.
Hosts always need to be ready for a last-minute booking. But this trend also shows that hosts can have further opportunities to show off their flexibility by accommodating bookings at the last minute.
When it comes down to it, guests already know what they’re getting when they book your vacation rental property. Because of this, it’s no longer only the property that determines whether or not you’ve provided a good guest experience.
Now, travelers are looking for the entire package. They look at the overall experience of their stay. From the people they meet, to the places they visit, all of this determines whether you’re providing a positive or negative guest experience.
Considering this trend, it’s important for each host to think about the guests’ experiences as a whole. Which restaurants would they love to eat at? What activities would they love to experience? Which amenities elevates their enjoyment? In the end, this all adds up.
Customers of any industry are shifting to a more environmentally conscious mindset, and the same goes for the hospitality industry. Showcasing any efforts you make towards going green and benefiting the environment is a big plus in the eyes of a lot of travelers.
Sometimes referred to as “partnership marketing” or the “partnership economy”, a new trend within businesses is to form mutually beneficial relationships that, in turn, will also provide greater value to customers.
When looking at the vacation rental industry, this could mean short-term rental businesses forming a partnership with a restaurant, spa, sports center, etc. in the surrounding area.
This partnership means that you could offer discounts for your guest to enjoy. At the same time, it will send new customers to your business as well as your business partners. It is a win-win situation for all involved and a great way to elevate the guest experience.
If you are able to provide the same quality as a hotel guest experience, then you’ve hit the jackpot.
A hotel guest experience typically provides ultimate luxury and convenience. The downside, though, is that it requires a full hotel staff to be able to provide this level of service. So, while it’s not an expectation, being able to mimic aspects of a hotel guest experience, like room service or spa treatments, will go a long way for the guest experience and customer loyalty.
Hands down, one of the best things you can do to grow your business is to invest time and planning into the guest experience you provide.
Start with the basics, such as communication, understanding the guest journey, and implementing feedback. If there is not enough time in the day, consider automating your daily hosting tasks with vacation rental software to free up time to focus on your guests. Then, once you nail the basics, you can start thinking about the next steps and current industry trends.
About the Author
Callan Riddles is the Content and Social Media Specialist at iGMS. Callan has a passion for finding new ways to help vacation rental businesses thrive. In her free time, she loves to travel, read, and experience all the new things that life has to offer.
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