Arrival recently spoke with Vrbo’s Senior Vice President, Peter Andrews. Peter was able to delve into the highlights from his 2019 VRMA Spring Forum session, “Building Customers for Life: Delighting Guests Every Step of the Way!” Read more on what Peter has been doing within the vacation rental ecosystem, get his great advice on getting started within the industry and learn how to ensure guest happiness is No. 1 priority.
Can you tell readers about what your session topic covered during the 2019 Spring Forum? What are the most important things you want people to take away? How was the experience for you?
Research shows that the most positive moments we experience share similar traits, such as being lifted out of the ordinary, gaining new perspectives and connecting with loved ones. Travel is the perfect opportunity for us to create those moments. This session was created to share new, fun and unique ways owners and property managers can create incredible traveler experiences and ultimately, customers for life.
I asked two industry experts (Dave Cafferty from Outer Banks Blue and Trisha Severs from 360 Blue) to join me and discuss ways to go above and beyond from the time a traveler books, all the way through their post-stay experience.
A couple topics from our discussion stood out. First and foremost, traveler expectations are changing and things like extra linens and a large TV are expected. The additional touches and destination expertise are some of the ways you can make a stay great. Asking someone why they’re traveling to your destination is a great way to open up lines of communication and determine their motivation for traveling. In fact, this is the most important question you could ever ask. Knowing a guest’s motivation for traveling can help you build an emotional connection and sense of trust before they even arrive at the door.
Once you’ve established trust and a connection with the traveler, it allows you to personalize their experience. Whether its hand-written notes or a welcome basket with all of their favorite snacks ─ the small, personal touches will make the traveler feel welcome, create positive memories and stay motivated to leave a positive review of their experience and your property.
Another important takeaway is quality content matters and how that can influence guest willingness to book. Our travelers need to feel confident in what is typically a large purchase for a vacation home they’ve likely never seen before, potentially in a destination they’ve never visited. Well-lit photos and a unique property description are table stakes and a virtual tour takes it to the next level. The search and booking experience are the first and potentially most important interaction with the traveler. It sets the tone for the rest of their experience.
Spring Forum was great! This was my first time attending. The breakout session content was unique and engaging. Most importantly, I am very appreciative of the time I was able to spend listening to and learning from our customers and other industry leaders.
Why is this an important topic for those within this industry?
Non-traditional lodging options like vacation rentals are gaining steam; this means there are more and more property options entering the market. That makes creating a unique guest experience that much more important. Owners and property managers have to find ways to make their properties stand out ─ the little things go a long way.
Great hospitality is built on personalization, responsiveness and attentiveness, and it’s the best way to build customers for life. Our ability to understand traveler needs and wants is incredibly important to growing business. If we understand what makes a moment memorable for our traveler, we can be much more intentional about the experience we create. Engaging in conversation around new, exciting surprise and delight tactics reminds us of our purpose ─ to connect people to the places they love and give them the space to be together.
How did you get started in the vacation rental industry?
I was originally introduced to the vacation rental industry through family vacations. Beach trips, typically involving multiple families, have been a staple vacation of ours for decades. It is hard to imagine a better way to create lasting memories with those you care most about.
From a professional perspective, although I have been in the broader travel industry for a while, my start in the vacation rental industry began over two years ago when I became the senior vice president of global customer experience and service at Vrbo. I have the pleasure of managing the teams that counsel and support our owners, property managers and travelers. I also oversee our trust, security and safety teams, responsible for building and maintaining trust in our two-sided marketplace.
I love this industry because we get to help people connect to the places they love through our owners and property managers and create lasting memories on vacation.
What advice would you give someone getting started in this business?
There are four things we always share with new home owners when they list on Vrbo:
- First, you have to create quality content that makes your home feel inviting and unique. Find ways to tell the home’s story through great, high resolution photos and an engaging description that shows off a property’s personality and amenities. Also, it is important to clearly lay out house rules and cancellation policies.
- Second, take the time to learn your market; set competitive rates and take advantage of the tools offered to owners for revenue and calendar management. Many travelers say price is one of the most important factors when deciding to book, but if you have an amazing property in a great location, don’t sell yourself short. Check other local listings similar to yours to see where they are priced.
- My third tip is to be responsive. Accept and honor bookings, follow up with travelers, communicate clearly and create an unforgettable experience from pre-booking to post-stay. Travelers are much more likely to leave a positive review if their experience working with you is unforgettable.
- Finally, learn from the community of vacation rental experts around you. Look at traveler experiences from properties similar to yours and determine the positive aspects travelers love. From keeping extra towels on hand to surprising guests with tickets to your local, highly-rated aquarium ─ small gestures can lead to amazing reviews and ultimately more bookings.
Is there anything else you would like to add or comment on?
The topic of customer centricity is incredibly important to me and the rest of the Vrbo team. We continue to invest in ways we can learn more about our travelers and understand what our owners and property managers need from us to help them create an amazing guest experience.