Vacationers have a lot of options to choose from when it comes time to choose where they want to go and where they want to stay. Their are literally hundreds of thousands of destinations world-wide and millions of places to stay within those destinations. With today’s technology customers have so many choices right at their fingertips. What differentiates you from the next property manager? Is it your selection of available units? Are you in a highly desirable location? Is your company have an impeccable reputation for outstanding customer service that goes above and beyond? Have you been in business for so long that “everyone knows you”?
Regardless of the size of your company, your location, or your reputation in order to compete with the big boys that dominate the marketplace creating a memorable experience throughout the entire vacation process is essential to your success. Not just cheap prices or a lot of properties to choose from or good customer service, but the entire experience from the customer dreaming about where they want to go, to returning home and reflecting on their vacation experience. It is up to you to maximize each step of the process. Lets take a look at each step of their vacation process and how we a property managers can maximize each one.
Step 1: Dreaming of the perfect vacation
During the beginning they usually don’t know where they want to go. Maybe it’s in the middle of the summer, their air conditioning isn’t working and they just want to escape the heat. Or they just can’t take another snow storm and need to retreat to someplace warm and put their toes in the sand. In this phase it’s a good idea to try and connect with them directly. Try these steps:
- Highlight activities in your area. Guests look for things to do to keep themselves entertained. Create meaningful content that highlights some of the areas most popular attractions. It could be entertainment, restaurants, museums etc. They want to experience things they can’t do at home so think in those terms.
- Post pictures and video on social media of people having a good time in your area. Everyone likes to see others having fun. It’ in our nature to be inquisitive.
- Don’t worry about the sale. This is not the stage to push promotions or sales, just connect with them on a personal level by finding their hot buttons.
- Try sending out surveys and incentivize it. Try this, put together an email with about 3-4 questions related to vacation planning. Choose 4 places they might want to go to and include one of yours to see if they choose it. Also ask them when they plan on traveling, how long they plan on staying and the last question would ask them about what their reason is for vacationing. Are they looking to just relax and unwind, do they have kids and want an action packed 5-day stay? I would A/B test this by splitting your email list and incentivizing half of it and the other with out. The incentive could be something like a free gift card to a local establishment. Some people will do anything for a free giveaway. If you get good feedback without incentives then you just saved yourself some money!
- Get your past guests to post their experiences and tag your company on social media. Again, consider incentivizing here. You don’t want to buy shares and likes but offering a free drink coupon or something to your guests for posting never hurts.
Step 2: Vacation Planning
At this stage the customer has already picked their destination now it’s time to help them plan their trip. They are looking for helpful information that will meet their needs during their stay. is it a good place to go to during that time of year, is their anything going on that might inhibit their plans? What is their to do with the kids locally? If the weather is bad what can we do indoors? Can I find a place to stay that suits my needs? How easy is it to get too and from the airport? Here are some things to consider:
- Continue to highlight activities and new experiences in there area
- Differentiate yourself from the rest of the crowd. Show them why you are different yet better. Mention local favorites your area is known for not big chains every town has.
- Send them useful info such as alternative airports in the area that may be less expensive or busy. Free local transportation if available, special promotions available exclusively to your guests etc.
- Send them a video testimonial(s) of recent guests enjoying their stay or how simple the booking process was.
- Put Call to Action buttons in any emails you send them at this stage. Things like “Book Now, Redeem Your Coupon, Read what others are saying” etc.
Step 3: Booking Process
This stage is the most important yet the hardest phase in the vacation cycle. The travel industry as a whole has a very high cart abandonment rate of over 80%. That means that 8 out of 10 people will leave the page without booking. When potential customers are looking for rentals they expect to see a high quality website. It is vital to your company’s success to include the following:
- Create a smooth and seamless booking process. Make sure their are no obstacles that will cause the customer stress. I always like purchasing from websites that tell me how many steps there are until my sale is complete. It may seem trivial but if I know that I only have two more steps to complete the transaction it gives me a sense of completion.
- Make sure your pictures are high quality, clear and include all important features of the property and amenities. Your feature image should be bright, colorful and grabs your attention.
- Make sure your property calendars are up to date.
- The property descriptions should be thorough and not leave any questions or confusion. Include new technology like Alexa, Smart TV, Netflix, Nest Thermostats, Smart Locks etc.
- 3D video technology is still fairly new in the property management sector. It is another tool that can help set you apart from your competition.
- Don’t forget to include any free amenities or perks that either your business or the individual units offer. It helps build value in both.
- It is very important that there is clear and consistent communication during this process. Respond to all booking inquiries quickly and don’t forget to follow up if they have not booked. Once they’ve booked, keep following up. Make sure they are sent their confirmation email. Send them info about things to do in the area. Suggest things to do in the area, a great local restaurant they may enjoy, or an upcoming event. Also include in your communication a copy of their payment, directions to your office, door code and directions to their unit if they don’t need to come to office etc.
- Focus on your strengths. Many OTA’s have extra fee’s that come with the booking. Sometimes as much as 12%. Advertise your lower cost by including phrases like “No booking fees.”
- Make sure your site is mobile friendly and design the site with mobile viewing first and foremost.
Step 4: The Experience
Now that the guest has booked and they have arrived for their vacation don’t forget to include personal touches. Their first impression of your company and your staff only happen once so make sure to get it right.
- When they arrive greet them enthusiastically and have all their check in material ready before they arrive.
- Have a local travel guide or brochures handy.
- Make sure they fully understand the rules for their rental including check-in and out times, quite hours, pool hours, trash disposal, key return etc.
- Prior to there arrival make sure their unit is properly stocked with basic essentials like dish soap, paper towels, toilet paper, linens, laundry and dish washer pods.
- During their stay, a friendly text or email asking them how their stay is going makes a big difference. Also try sending them a suggestion to a local restaurant with a coupon attached. These little things go a long way.
- Suggest that they share their experiences on their social media and tag your company as well.
Step 5: Post Vacation
When the guest is leaving is great time to get feedback on their experience. Take this time to listen to their feedback and learn how you can improve the overall experience.
- If they have time, get a quick testimonial when they check out.
- Find out what activities they liked or restaurants they went to and places they visited and find out what they liked and what they did not. You can use this info when making future recommendations and for marketing purposes.
- If your guests enjoyed themselves, suggest to the customer to place a deposit for the following year.
- Follow up the day after they leave thanking them for their stay. You can also use this opportunity to get a testimonials and feedback.
Even though your company doesn’t have the budget or resources of the big companies doesn’t mean you can’t compete. Your exceptional service is where you can really shine. Remember it’s the personal touches, the personal calls, the valuable suggestions that only locals can give and the ability to connect with you and your staff one-on-one is what will separate you from the pack.