Your company’s property operations team performs a wide variety of tasks that must be completed on a regular basis, whether those tasks be daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. But if you don’t have the details of those tasks well-documented, you are wasting time and money on your staff making guesses and assumptions. In addition, you may be creating an inconsistent guest experience and hurting your brand.
Standardization increases quality and consistency by eliminating inefficiency and ambiguity and by minimizing the chances for crucial details to be overlooked. Having a documented set of guidelines that describes how a property should be cleaned, set up for guests and owners, and maintained will help ensure that your vacation rental operations will run smoothly. Standards help set expectations and get everyone on a path toward the same goal. They can also take the drama out of “right” or “wrong.”
If you already have documented property standards but have not updated them in some time, you may wish to revisit them, especially if you made changes to any operational procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is always room for improvement, whether that be through clarifying the language used or adding more detail.
Below are several types of property standards that can provide a clear set of instructions for your staff and your owners to follow.
Standard Property Appearance
Your Standard Property Appearance is both your quality control and your brand guidelines, defining each element of the “product” that is your vacation rental property. The SPA tells your team how properties are set up for guests (or owners), spelling out details such as:
- How blinds and curtains should be set
- How beds should be made
- Placement of towels, toilet paper, amenities, and remotes
- Whether toilet seats should be down or up
- Thermostat settings
Everyone in your company should be wellversed in the details of your SPA. For instance, reservationists or front desk staff need to be able to answer guest questions, and owner reps and acquisition teams need to be able to articulate this kind of information to owners. A shared understanding of your standards also makes it easier for your different teams to work together. You may also wish to review your Standard Property Appearance with your owners so that know how each unit is left for an arrival and they will be aware of what types of things may be added, removed or thrown away, as needed.
If you have ever let an owner clean a property before a guest arrival, you’ll know firsthand that “clean” means different things to different people. To ensure consistency and quality in your cleanings, you need to define how a property needs to be cleaned (and by whom), just as you documented the Standard Property Appearance. Don’t take it for granted that your cleaners know (or remember) to clean inside the oven or to vacuum under the beds. Put this type of information in your Departure Cleaning standards, your Deep Cleaning standards, and your Refresh Cleaning standards.
As you document your cleaning standards, keep in mind that that the guests’ perception of cleanliness is not limited to the cleaning itself, but also depends on other factors. Excess clutter and jumbled cabinets and closets can be seen as a failure in cleaning and can negatively impact the guest experience. Visible signs of poor maintenance such as ripped bedding or upholstery, chipped dishware, peeling paint or wallpaper, or broken furniture will also enhance a guest’s feeling that their property is not as clean as it should be.
Owners also appreciate having documented guidelines for the amenities that they need to provide and for the maintenance or other responsibilities that your company requires. A New Owner Checklist or other onboarding document(s) will set a course for a positive partnership experience with your owners. To ensure that consistent guest experience, you’ll want to be clear about not just the need to have a toaster in the property, but if there is a specific type of toaster required. Is a two-slice toaster “good enough?” What about toaster ovens?
You can document your required amenities as a baseline and then take it a step further and define a ratings system in which a property meets the standards, exceeds it, or is below the standard and thus needs to be upgraded. This will allow you to hold your owners, as well as your team members, accountable for the quality of the property.
Your maintenance team will also benefit from documented standards. Your Maintenance Standards document may contain information such as:
- A schedule of preventative maintenance
- Safety standards and protocols
- Types of tools and equipment that should be used
- Procedures for documenting and addressing damage
- Classifications of various repair types (billable vs non-billable, etc.)
- Protocols for behavior when in the property, including when guests are present
Use Technology to Distribute Your Property Standards Creatively
Your guidelines don’t have to just live in a Word document. If you are using software to help manage your operations, you may be able to create templates or checklists that deliver your standards to your team members’ smartphones. They could also be shared with your employees as a video or as an audio file accessible via a smart home device such as Amazon Echo or Google Home (“Alexa, how many rolls of toilet paper should I leave for the guest?”). Don’t forget that there are also translation tools available (such as Google translate) that can help you generate documentation in multiple languages.
However you choose to convey your standards, make sure that they are thorough and clear. Then, keep your team accountable for meeting or exceeding those standards. When your employees understand exactly what needs to be done, and they are able to accomplish their tasks in a productive and efficient manner, morale increases, which is yet another benefit of having solid property standards.
Michelle Williams is a VRMA director and chair of the VRHP, and is general manager of Atlantic Vacation Homes in Gloucester, Mass.