By Koryn Okey
Last spring, I took my first trip in over a year—a novel concept considering the state of the world we live in today. Unsurprisingly, my vacation was different from those I’ve taken in previous years, and as a traveler emerging from the pandemic, I had different expectations and sets of criteria for my stay.
I was focused on making sure the property provided the necessary space and reliable Wi-Fi for me to set up my “remote office” and wanted to make sure it was properly sanitized and prepared between stays. After finding a property with incredible photos, I was excited for the outdoor space and opportunity to escape the brutal temperatures and snow of Boston’s winter season.
Expectations Versus Reality
My expectations and needs echoed what many individuals were looking for as they began to travel again and emerged from long-lasting quarantines. The industry we started with in early spring 2020 has drastically changed and adapted to meet the needs of the 2022 traveler. With vacation rentals offering privacy, access to interesting and adventurous destinations, and the ability to serve as one’s remote office, professional property managers had to make changes to their operations and communication strategies to appease the increase in reservations and new types of guests they were welcoming.
However, making these changes and reconfiguring how one runs their business is not always straightforward, as I was about to find out. When I finally arrived and checked in to my rental, I noticed the outdoor space I had been so excited about overlooked a busy and populated construction site, which made Zoom meetings and personal space difficult. The Wi-Fi wasn’t strong enough to stream video, so I powered my workday via my phone’s hotspot. The difference between my expectations and reality ended up negatively affecting my guest experience.
How Can Managers Elevate the Guest Experience?
Every day I talk to vacation rental managers who are committed to elevating the experience for their guests. Making this commitment to provide enhanced guest services doesn’t require a complete overhaul of business operations or even hiring more staff. It simply requires a sharper eye on your internal processes and creating an environment that builds accountability across your team. Doing so makes it much easier to take the appropriate actions before each and every guest arrival and to deliver on the expectations of those guests while they’re staying with you.
In the theme of a sharper eye on internal processes, one of the most effective additions to a company’s process is implementing a guest messaging tool. In today’s travel landscape, proactive communication is one of the best ways to ensure a positive guest experience. Circling back to last year’s trip, if a line of communication or messaging tool was in place, the property manager could have alerted me of the construction and shower situation, or I could have alerted them. These messages could then signal a maintenance request to resolve issues, or simply provide validation that they were aware of the issue.
While great for one’s brand, guest messaging isn’t just about solving maintenance issues and creating a personal connection with your guests. There are other valuable use cases that messaging automation can address for property managers like driving additional revenue by filling vacant nights directly before or after a guest’s upcoming stay, building additional traveler confidence and an increase in reservations by securing positive reviews, and reducing administrative tasks for operators while developing accountability across teams. The numbers speak for themselves: Our clients at Breezeway are using our automated texting service to generate upwards of $7,000 in additional revenue per month. Overall, automating one’s property operations and adding a messaging solution can give more control, visibility, and confidence around the business.
What's Next in 2022?
According to Breezeway’s Property Operations survey, which was conducted in early 2021, 74 percent of hospitality providers plan to communicate with guests throughout their stay. I have no doubt this will continue to grow and that communications will remain a huge part of the guest experience in 2022. For someone who has been in the vacation rental industry for some time, it feels obvious to me that we should be taking advantage of the technology we are now able to enjoy today if that’s going to help managers elevate their guest communication.
Koryn Okey is the vice president of client experience at Breezeway, a property care and operations platform for hospitality providers.