Technology in the vacation rental industry is rapidly evolving, providing operators with a number of solutions to help their property management business. Implementing technology allows managers to improve the performance of their team, eliminate guess work, and reduce internal communication challenges. I’ve learned a lot about the industry over the last 3 years, particularly the operational challenges vacation rental managers face on a daily basis. Between scheduling staff and vendors, property turnovers, and managing guest and owner expectations, there isn’t a lot of time left to spend improving processes.
My first job after graduating from college was working as a property manager for a large vacation rental company in the Northeast. I dove head-first into the company’s busy summer season – and was working around the clock. This left our small team with even less time to reflect on our processes and understand where we might be able to improve (communication, linen management, supply tracking, etc.). It wasn’t until things slowed down in late fall when we could reflect and begin to make strides towards improving efficiency.
Every Monday morning I would spend a few hours manipulating a spreadsheet; copying, deleting, moving, and highlighting columns to create a sheet that would ultimately be our staff’s lifeline for the week. All check-ins, checkouts, through-rentals, clean dates and staff would be on this document. By Thursday, most of the document had changed due to last minute bookings, early check-ins / late checkouts, and housekeeping staff adjustments. As we all jumped in our vehicles (most of us traveling 85 to 100 miles) sheet-in-hand, we all had our tasks outlined for us. Even scarier, there was the potential to leave the document behind.
We tried to implement other tech-based applications to move away from paper checklists and other ‘to-do’s, however, we often found ourselves reverting back to clunky processes like texting updates to the group. We faced frequent challenges; high turnover with housekeeping staff, over-reliance on our PMS system to provide us with the data we needed, and updating our technology to finally replace pen and paper.
Fast forward to present day. I now have the opportunity to work with property management companies across the globe to improve their operations with technology. Making the choice to purchase a new platform is only the beginning of the journey. The next part is figuring out how to derive the most value from it.
One of the first realizations is that the technology will not perfectly mold into your current processes, but that you may have processes that change as a result of implementation. Ultimately, this provides the opportunity to re-evaluate what you and your team are currently doing to identify areas that need improvement. When training with a client success or implementation team, it’s important that they understand the unique complexities to your business, and account for these to tailor your specific experience.
We understand that implementing technology can seem overwhelming, and that there can be resistance from team members, and potential roadblocks along the way. However, the rewards from implementing the right PMS system or property operations platform can lead to cost savings and efficiency gains. Based on my experience as a property manager, and now working with companies to implement our property operations platform, I have a few tips for companies wanting to make a change.
Introduce tech to your team early in the process. While you may not know how or when this will impact staff, it is important to let them know you are looking to make changes. This allows them to provide you with input or suggestions, which will lead to a more impactful, and company-wide rollout. Gaining buy-in from the start will improve expectations down the line.
Prioritize implementing tech correctly and completely. Most technologies trickle down to operations and directly affect field staff, but when implemented correctly, it can transform your entire business. While you may not take advantage of every feature from the beginning, understanding the full potential may allow you to plan for additional functionality down the road.
Lean on the platform’s on-boarding team. Use the resources available during, and after, the implementation program. The team you are working with acts as your knowledge base for the platform, but should also provide you with best practices and examples of how others use the system to their advantage.