Vacation rental management requires fulfilling two main objectives: (1) protection and maintenance of the asset; and (2) generating rental income. As we all know, generating rental income in the vacation rental industry is a multi-disciplinary endeavor. Growing your rental business requires targeted marketing to attract guests, and organized operations to deliver an excellent rental experience. The job of property management is a series of operational tasks to ensure that these objectives are met: that the property is well-maintained, and that the needs of your guest are met.
These are not the guests of yesteryear who happily brought their own sheets and toiletries for the week. Rather, these guests view vacation rentals as interchangeable with hotels, and have high expectations for what the property looks like, its level of cleanliness, and the amenities included. Similarly, guests expect concierge service and speedy resolution for any issues that occur. Success is meeting this growing operational burden and effectively communicating a high level of service to guests and owners.
So how can vacation rental managers communicate effectively for smoother operations and fewer guest issues?
Internal Workflows and Communication
Optimizing workflow starts with clearly defining tasks and communicating assignments in advance. With many moving pieces and a staffing model that’s typically filled with a mix of seasonal and contracted service partners, communicating assignments is a challenge. This often means that the housekeeping schedule is not set until right before a busy weekend turnover, and in many cases, is communicated to the team the morning the work needs to get done. By scheduling in advance, team members can be prepared for their work, which is particularly important for service partner and contract cleaners. Leveraging a process for staff to accept or decline an assignment helps ensure that a cleaning doesn’t fall through the cracks, and positions the manager to communicate any last-minute adjustments.
With property care assignments scheduled, the manager now needs to communicate exactly what needs to be done. Sounds simple, right? Anyone that’s managed multiple properties is keenly aware that this isn’t a walk in the park. After training to the manager’s quality and brand standards, the manager needs to consider the context and urgency of the task. Is this a back-to-back where the unit needs to be prepped for an early check-in? Is an owner coming to the property that requires your team to rehang that off-brand painting that's usually kept in the basement? Did staff confirm that the remotes are placed next to the TVs? While these may seem like small details, they make all the difference – particularly as the vacation rental guest is more fluidly switching between rentals and hotels (these issues don’t arise in a hotel room).
Communicating exactly what needs to be done for each property becomes more complex when the requests become personalized. The uniqueness of each task exponentially increases as does the logistical risk. Vacation rental managers can create an environment for success by ensuring that every team member knows what needs to be done with every property task.
The reality of property management is that the best plans still need adjusting. Investing in the right property operations workflows allows you to get the work done right and will differentiates the best property managers in the industry.
Guest Communication Experience In-Property
We all know the importance of guest communication, from the reservation confirmation to pre-arrival messages and post-stay engagement. In-stay communication has typically been reactionary – leave the guest alone and be ready to respond as needed. This is no longer the case.
Proactive outreach to the guest during the stay is the new normal, and helps the property manager get in front of potential issues. This is particularly relevant for vacation rentals, where the guest is often surrounded by unfamiliar appliances, HVAC systems, entertainment and smart home devices. Even if there are no issues, chances are high that a simple question-and-answer conversation could improve the in-stay experience.
When there is a concierge or service request, communicating resolution time or task updates back to the guest helps manage expectations. Guests are not looking for a pen pal on vacation, and communication with the guest should be focused on actionable tasks, which is why it’s important that messages are tightly tied with operational activity.
A timely message the day after check-in will be standard operating procedure across all hospitality verticals by the end of 2019. Similarly, expect new systems to communicate automatic updates of each service request, making it easier to keep the client informed of the work’s progress. The predominate messaging method will be driven by machine-learning; which will lead to faster resolution times and happier guests.
Owner Relations - More than Money, it's about Work
Don’t overlook the changing dynamics that are coming to owner relations. Historically, managers have handled owner relations through monthly account statements and direct outreach. Many companies, such as InvitedHome, Exclusive Stays, and Coastal Home and Villa have put a significant premium on quality home care and asset protection services. Communicating with status reports and results from preventative maintenance adds an additional layer of professionalism and eliminates surprises. Establishing a pattern of detailed information sharing strengthens the relationship with the owner, and builds trust in the manager’s ability to care for the property.
In an industry with rising guest expectations and heavier pressure on property operations, it’s now more important to adopt better processes to communicate with staff and guests. So what can you do today to build better processes at your vacation rental company?
Rethink the way you facilitate your team communication. Communication goes well beyond the emails and messages you exchange with your team. Organized communication includes the flow of scheduling and assignments, each interaction of property care, and the constant stream of internal updates.
Proactively engage with your guests to better meet expectations. Guests will have a better experience at your property when you stay ahead of potential issues. Smart communication and service updates will help keep your guests happy, and drastically reduce the chance of negative reviews and refunds.