As a short-term property manager whose business heavily depends on repeat bookings as well as positive reviews and recommendations, providing excellent guest service is a top priority.
Together, advancements in technology and the rise of the vacation rental have vastly transformed the travel industry, and with those changes came new standards and expectations, standards – expectations every serious property manager needs to meet.
What Guests Want
Technological progress has made so many areas of our lives simpler and smoother, and guests expect the same when it comes to their getaways. They want a 24/7 line of communication with their hosts. They want their needs anticipated and any and all complications averted.
But more than that, Guests want something different. They no longer seek out generic, cookie-cutter vacations. They want unique and personalized vacations. As their host, it’s your job to provide.
We sat down with Guesty’s VP of Guest and Customer Experience, Reut Peer, to get her insights on how to give guests the kind of stay that will ensure they leave your rentals with nothing but praise for you and your business. Here’s what she told us.
The Three Pillars of Successful Guest Service
There are many facets to Guest Service, but after analyzing thousands of guest messages and reviews, Reut narrowed down the foundations to speed, accuracy, and service excellence and personalization.
The first two are relatively specific and straightforward.
Where speed is concerned, guests expect prompt responses to their inquiries and swift action when requests are made or problems encountered. Responsiveness is mentioned quite a lot in guest reviews, demonstrating just how significant it is to vacationers.
27% of guest messages are sent before the booking is made, a time at which haste is most critical as it will help secure the reservation.
“Perspective guests are not likely wait around for your reply when they could easily move on to other relevant properties,” says Reut.
Utilizing automated messages is a great way to address this expectation and guarantee guests receive speedy responses throughout the entire process, starting with that initial inquiry.
Accuracy concerns giving guests clear pictures of what to expect throughout their trip. This means posting authentic photographs that truly reflect the state of the rental and refraining from exaggerating in your listing descriptions. If one of your facilities, like a pool or hot tub, is not in working order, be careful to bring that to your guests’ attention in advance.
As Reut says, “Disappointment leads to negativity and less than desirable reviews.”
Accuracy also involves being very thorough in any instructions or information you give to your guests. The less they have to turn to you for clarification, the smoother the experience will be for everyone.
Service excellence and personalization is an aspect of management that is a bit more complex as it is made up of many different components. Here’s the breakdown.
How to Offer Guests Service Excellence and Personalization
1. Deliver the right experience to the right guest
Getting to know your guests before they arrive is crucial.
What is the purpose of their trip? Who will they be traveling with? A few simple facts are all you need to ensure the rental and recommendations will accommodate the specific kind of guests you are expecting, be they honeymooners, families, solo backpackers, or business travelers.
Reut says: “You don’t want to recommend romantic spas to families and you don’t want to suggest kid-friendly attractions to business travelers. Find out who you’re hosting and adjust your approaches accordingly.”
2. Note internally and remember special occasions
In Reut’s experience, guests commonly share a lot of information with their hosts, including the purposes of their visits.
“They aren’t taking the time to fill you in for no reason,” says Reut. “If your guest is telling you something, it’s because they want you to use that information.”
Whether a special occasion or a local event is what brought them to your door, show guests you’ve been paying attention. Tailor your recommendations to their plans and be sure to follow up after their stay, asking if they enjoyed whatever it is they came for.
3. Identify return guests and greet accordingly
Greeting return guests like they are complete strangers is a big no-no. You may not remember every single traveler who walked through your front door, but your guests don’t have to know that.
All of your previous booking information should be stored and used for reference so that when you communicate with returning guests, you can speak to them like old friends rather than entirely new acquaintances.
“Use previous information to create a sense of familiarity,” recommends Reut. “If you made recommendations for a specific restaurant during their last stay, you can ask if they’d like to dine there again or change it up.”
The more information you save, the better. You can use it to show guests they have found a home in your vacation rental.
4. Provide recommendations that are specific to the guest and based on personal experience
The rising demand for personalized experiences means that Googling a city’s top attractions will no longer cut it when guests are designing their trip itineraries. More than 56% of travelers rely most on recommendations from friends or acquaintances, people who know a bit more about them than just the name of their vacation destination.
As a local who should have some knowledge about your guests and the kind of trip they’re hoping for, your suggestions carry some weight. Make sure you do your due diligence and invest time and care into the places and activities you recommend to your guests. Show them you’ve taken their unique needs and wishes into account. Little details like, “the wait is long, but the stuffed chicken is worth it,” make it clear you’re not just recommending some internet search results.
5. Be personable and match the guest tone
All guests are different. Some prefer short, professional correspondence, while others tend to get a bit more friendly and casual. Your job is to follow their lead.
Reut advises to pretend you’re having the conversation in person. “You wouldn’t offer quick, formal replies to someone clearly interested in engaging further. You need to read the social cues and respond accordingly. The same should apply to written exchanges with your guests.”
6. Exceed expectations
Obviously, you’re going to want to put your best foot forward and do everything you can – within reason – to give your guests an enjoyable experience. What Reut also suggests is communicating to guests just how much you’ve gone out of your way to accommodate them.
“A guest has asked you for late checkout? Don’t simply approve the request. Let them know that due to their specific circumstances you will waive the usual fee and make the necessary arrangements.”
Guests will be all the more grateful if they see the efforts you’ve gone to meet their wishes.
7. Respond to guest reviews
Reviews possess a great deal of power. 72% of consumers will only make a purchase if they’ve read a positive review of the product and 88% see online reviews as just as reliable as personal recommendations.
People definitely read the reviews on your listings and so it is worth your while to respond to them, expressing appreciation for positive feedback and regret when faced with criticism.
“Visitors to your site or listing profile will see your acknowledgment of reviews as an indication that you are personally invested in your guests’ experiences,” explains Reut. “Even in the case of a less-than-satisfied customer, your reaction can sway potential guests in your favor.”
8. Add a personal touch
With so many guests coming through your rentals, it can be easy to fall into a polite, robotic kind of correspondence. This is something you want to avoid.
Travelers are choosing vacation rentals over hotels because they don’t want to be anonymous guests. A third of bookers are opting for the rental over the hotel because they are seeking “authentic experiences.” They are looking for genuine connections to the people and culture of the places they visit, both of which you, as the host, represent.
Utilizing automation tools for some guest interactions is a recommended time-saving tactic, but you should still take measures to prevent communication from getting dry and repetitive, especially when leaving guest reviews, as these are viewable to the public. Change it up by using multiple review templates and try to make each one friendly, personal and engaging.
Be effective and efficient, but don’t forget to be human.
Bring It All Together For the Ultimate Experience
With sites like Airbnb featuring over four million vacation homes for travelers to choose from, the competition is stiff and guests are holding their hosts to increasingly high standards.
They want the luxuries of a hotel combined with the freedom and intimacy of a home. It may seem like an impossible feat, but there are very specific measures you can take to achieve the ultimate blend of the two and give guests the personalized experiences they’re craving.