We reached out to our partner, property operations and services platform Breezeway, to get answers regarding the key operational challenges that property management companies are facing at this time, from cleaning and guest safety to managing owner expectations. Here’s what they had to say:
What are the new operational challenges that property management companies are facing amid COVID-19?
Preliminary responses from our industry-wide “PropOps” survey indicate that 96% of vacation rental managers feel guests will be more focused on cleanliness and safety when bookings resume. The expectation for heightened guest sensitivity has challenged many companies to reposition their property operations. Specifically, leading property managers are auditing operational processes to better coordinate remote work, enhance housekeeping programs with guidance from leading authorities like the CDC, WHO, and EPA, streamline communication methods to build more trust with guests and owners, and organize systems for record-keeping and preventative maintenance.
How can property management companies overcome these challenges?
There are many steps managers can take to overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19 and best prepare for when markets reopen. The first step is investing in employee training, and making sure staff know the right products and processes to thoroughly clean and disinfect properties. Minimizing in-person interactions will be critical moving forward, whether it be to greet guests or to give/receive keys. Investing in keyless entry and task management tools will help keep employees and guests safe as travel resumes. Managers who consider how remote work management will impact their operations will be well-positioned to meet the even pickiest guests of 2020.
What are the best practices for ensuring health and safety for both staff and guests?
Professional rental managers share a responsibility to keep their employees healthy and safe during COVID-19. Reviewing guidance from OSHA and over-communicating operational changes helps keep management and field workers on the same page. Efficient remote work coordination plays a part in this as well — relaying assignments from a distance and making sure teams don’t overlap at properties.
The best way to ensure guest safety is running air-tight housekeeping programs and communicating with guests before, after and during each stay. Customer service is a core competency in the vacation rental business, and the expectation for proactive client communication is heightened amidst COVID-19. Property management companies can highlight the efforts they’re putting into ensuring guest safety through listings on their website, blog posts, social media channels, email marketing, text messages, guest portals and other channels. Sharing the additional safeguards and procedures being taken builds confidence in the safety and quality of your product, as well as reassures guests that they are in good hands.
How are guest expectations changing due to coronavirus? How can property managers keep up?
When bookings return, many feel they will come with an altered guest psyche. The assumption that a vacation rental property is prepared and cleaned will likely be tested and scrutinized upon arrival. Safety is top of mind in today’s climate, and guests will examine the extent to which the property was disinfected before arrival, and how the space was altered to accommodate their new cleanliness standards.
These expectations add to the existing demands for ‘quality space’ and amenities (e.g. artwork, décor, and thoughtfully arranged furniture and lighting), and further blur the lines between safety, cleanliness, and quality. The onus lies with the manager to meet these presumptions and help guests feel relaxed and confident in their stay. Executing on this challenge hinges on implementing many of the best practices mentioned above: maintaining clean and safe properties, proactively communicating with guests, providing VIP-level service, etc.
What about owner expectations? How can property management companies keep owners calm?
While satisfying guests has become a focal point for managers these days, the coming years should see more attention shift towards the owner experience. These times of uncertainty likely bring an increase in owner inquiries, presenting an opportunity for managers to build rapport and demonstrate the value of comprehensive management service (doing so should also boost retention, referrals and overall earning potential). For managers that are actively working with local governments to amend vacation rental guidelines, communicating these efforts to owners not only shows the devotion to maintain their rentals, but also the value you bring to the community at large. Fostering stronger owner relations can take many forms, including messages through software applications, website updates, social media, email, and phone calls, and Zoom.
Where do you think property managers should be focusing their efforts right now? What will have the most impact as business picks up again?
The leading managers we work with are preparing their operations to hit the ground running when it’s time to welcome back guests. This means remaining productive even when bookings aren’t at full pace; tackling maintenance issues, training staff on enhanced protocols, and strategizing branding efforts to bring safety and cleanliness to the forefront. Doing so will help meet the demands of the new traveler persona, drive a wedge between their product and the ‘hobby vacation rental owner’ and restart their gains in market share.
Breezeway’s property care and operations platform solves the challenge of ensuring clean, safe and high-quality properties in the wake of COVID-19. Combining deep learning technology with mobile-first task management, Breezeway automates your operations and gives you confidence that every property is ready for the next stay. Created by the founder of FlipKey, Breezeway is helping over 400 vacation rental managers transform the way they care for property and best respond to COVID-19. Visit breezeway.io to learn more.