I recently returned from my first trip in over a year -- a novel concept considering the state of the world we live in today. Unsurprisingly, my vacation was different than those I've taken in previous years and longer given the newfound trend of remote work.
These changes resulted in different selection criteria when booking my vacation rental. I was much more focused on making sure the accommodation would provide the necessary space and reliable WiFi for me to set up my “remote office.” After finding a property with incredible photos, I was excited for the outdoor space and to escape the brutal temperatures and snow of Boston’s winter season.
But when I arrived and checked in, I noticed the outdoor space I had been so excited about overlooked a construction site, which made Zoom meetings difficult. Instead, I took my calls inside forced to admire the sunshine from a distance.
The WiFi wasn't strong enough to stream video, so I powered my workday via my phone's hotspot. As a vacation rental veteran, who spent eight years helping managers draft responses to negative guest reviews, I should have known to report these issues and give the manager an opportunity to address the issue while I was in-house. But alas, I didn't. This isn’t a story of a scorned guest, though (I'm grateful for being able to travel and work remotely amidst the pandemic), but rather one of how property operations can impact a guest’s experience and ultimately dictate whether they become a repeat guest.
A few days later, the faucet handle in the shower fell off. After reporting the issue to the manager and explaining I would be out of the property for the day, I hit the beach. I returned later that afternoon only to see that the shower handle was still on the vanity where I’d left it. Frustrated, I reached back out to the manager. He quickly came by to resolve the issue and acknowledged this was a recurring issue as the part was on backorder (details I wish he’d shared when I initially reported the issue!). Thankfully, the manager was able to MacGyver the handle and I was able to keep my evening plans.
I’ve been in this industry long enough to recognize that things happen (and many of which are outside of the manager's control). Despite the last-minute save, my heightened frustration that the property wasn’t what I’d expected and that my maintenance issue wasn't resolved, had me thinking about how service can change the trajectory of the guest experience.
Had he forgotten about the issue I reported? Had a more time-sensitive issue come up that had de-prioritized my maintenance issue? It also got me thinking more about the WiFi -- had someone inspected the property before I arrived to ensure it was operational? I’m guessing not.
Every day I talk to vacation rental managers who are committed to elevating the experience for their guests. Making this commitment to provide enhanced guest services doesn’t require a complete overhaul to business operations, or even hiring more staff. It simply requires a sharper eye on your internal processes and creating an environment that builds accountability across your team (some might even suggest it requires automating property operations for more control, visibility and confidence around scheduling work, coordinating issues and messaging guests). Doing so makes it so much easier to take the appropriate actions before each and every guest arrival and to deliver on the expectations of those guests while they're staying with you.
Shortly after returning home to Boston, I began planning a return visit this summer with my family. While the initial plan had been to rebook the same villa I had stayed in, my recent experience led me to recommend and book a new property.