This article was originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of VRMA’s Arrival magazine
Improving and defining ‘Guest Experience’ is a hot topic for the vacation rental industry right now and rightly so. Our industry has historically suffered from a poor reputation for providing inconsistent standards of customer experience – especially when guests are in-situ. This has been highlighted when compared to the ‘competition’ – hotels. However, the good news is that this issue is improving rapidly.
The somewhat ‘sketchy’ reputation has been in part due to the very nature of vacation rentals. There is an obvious lack of standardization across variables including property types, location, management and facilities which is one of the key drivers for differentiation as a lodging solution; but is also its Achilles heel.
I don’t have hard facts, but my experience suggests that for most guests looking to book a privately-owned accommodation over a hotel for the very first time, then their primary concern will be something along the lines of, “How can I trust that this property will actually meet, let alone exceed my expectations?” – With no universally recognisable brand name behind a property management company – this question will loom especially high for potential guests.
We have all heard tales of dirty cutlery put back in cupboards, unpleasant marks on linen, swimming pools that turn out to be more like paddling pools, broken down air conditioning units and promises of romantic beach-side locations that are more like glorified suburbs. Twenty, 10 and even 5 years ago it was almost impossible for a guest to know exactly what their stay was going to be like when they rocked up in front of their rental and turned the key….
As consumers in our ever-more digitally connected society and with the expectation of an ‘instant’ world where almost anything is available for delivery within hours, the standards of what we expect from our suppliers and the products we purchase is continuing to increase. A so-so guest experience just won’t cut it anymore.
Today for a vacation rental booking, there is still a huge element of trust required for a guest to hand the outcome of their (usually) much-anticipated vacation to a property manager. Unless of course they have prior experience and are either a repeat or referral booking. As such the property manager’s reputation is the key which can only be earned by delivering consistent standards of high expectations to create ‘customer delight’.
This need for reassurance and trust has a large part to play in the growth of the success of vacation rentals as a sales product for the OTAs. Many guests will happily pay more for their rental just to be safe in the knowledge that a large, well known global brand has endorsed ‘their rental’. This may, in fact, be an illusion (you know the OTAs don’t physically vet properties, right?) but for a nervous newbie guest – it’s an easier first step.
There are many successful property managers and vacation rental experts who have willingly shared with us many valuable insights on how to improve Guest Experience. So why do property managers still need to up their game, keep coming back to the basics and focus on Guest Experience?
Here are the three key business drivers for focussing on Guest Experience.
- Firstly, retention. The better the guest experience, the happier the guest. Retaining a guest costs far less than finding a new one, and happy guests who have experienced an exemplary product and service will come back. Minus the booking fee.
- Opportunity to upsell/cross-sell. If you have spent time building a relationship with your guest prior to their stay with you, then you have created a situation where you have a greater sale potential for tours, services, products and increasing stay length.
- Creating brand evangelists. A strong, positive guest experience creates brand ambassadors to willingly enhance your reputation. The better our overall customer experience, the more likely a customer will do unpaid marketing on our behalf as an evangelist, telling friends and colleagues about our products and services through reviews, word of mouth and social media.
All three of these benefits directly impact the bottom line for your business and can be directly attributed to an increased focus on Guest Experience. It’s no longer good enough to just provide a cleaning and turnover service and deliver keys. But you already knew that right?
About Jessica Gillingham
Jessica is the CEO of Abode Worldwide, a specialist PR and content marketing agency partnering with clients operating in the international vacation and short-term rental space. Abode Worldwide helps both ‘guest facing’ and B2B brands connect with new audiences by telling their story in the most compelling way and distributing that story through the most effective channels.