Your time is precious and so is your holiday rental guests. Upfront, informative, helpful and most importantly friendly and sincere guest liaison is critical. Remember that your guests are doing you a favour by booking your accommodation. You want them to know you are grateful and that you value them. Maintain a positive relationship with them from the moment they make contact to the time you promote a special offer to them 12 months later. You know you will be doing this effectively when you see your mail subscriptions grow and receive positive guest reviews.
I've been on the receiving end of some less than professional and rather unfriendly holiday rental managers, when I've made an enquiry. It is unpleasant and will most likely spoil any chance of booking conversion, word of mouth or repeat business.
Do you ask your holiday rental guests where they heard about your property? Your guests hold valuable information that will shape the way you manage and market your holiday rental and this can be captured by drafting clever communications.
All communications need to be succinct and provide helpful information to save your guests time and to avoid them having to continually make contact to seek information that is not readily available to them – thus saving you time too.
This was the seven step communication process I followed when I managed my own holiday rental properties. It is a guide and I welcome any comment from other managers on how they effectively communicate with their guests.
1. Booking Enquiry/Quote
This is your time to shine. Your first communication must provide succinct, easy to find – and digest – property and location information, answer all questions and be friendly. If you don't want smokers or pets in your property, or you have a dangerous fall zone for children, this is the time to make that known.
You could subtly throw in a closing comment on how your property stands out from its competitors or mention something exciting that will add value. Eg “we are the only property with a pool bar” or “it's a great time to visit our region with the Food & Wine festival in town that week”.
2. Booking Confirmation
This is the communication I forward when the deposit is paid and booking is confirmed. If your guests book last minute you would skip to communication #3.
Keep this communication brief. One paragraph thanking the guest for their booking, providing a link (or attachment) to the confirmation, details about when the final payment is due and a note that additional information on the property, location and access will be provided after the final payment is made.
Add a note that links to local tourism experiences so you guests can start planning their activities. Visit the guest experience page on the Welcome In website for insight on what I am trialing with Mandurah Holiday Rental managers and grass roots tourism operators in the Peel region of Western Australia.
The last line in this communication is so very important. Ask your guest where they heard about you (and keep a record of it). If they don't answer the question make a note to ask again either over the phone or within another one of the emails below. The collective answers to this question from your guests will, in time, determine which marketing activity is most effective.
3. Final Payment
This communication is forwarded to confirm receipt of the guests final payment. Attach a receipt so that those who can claim the accommodation as a business expense don't have to chase you up at a later date. If you are planning to meet and greet in person now is the time to provide the details. Simply say you look forward to welcoming them and what the procedure is. Be friendly. Always be friendly.
Provide a link (or attach) to detailed information (house instructions, parking details, location, house rules etc). Your guests will want to know the who, what, when, how and why but do not, under any circumstances, provide key access information until a few days before. This of course only applies when you are not welcoming your guests on site and handing over the keys. Remember to keep copies of all information in a guest file in the property because many guests will forget to bring it with them.
Inform your guest that you will send access instructions the day before they are due to check in. Ask them to inform you if they prefer to receive this information by text and request the number.
4. Pre- Stay
This communication generally goes out day before, or of, check in. If you have a professional Property Management System (PMS) then you can set this up automatically. For others, you'll need to mark these reminders in your diary.
This communication is the final welcome with access information. You could add a brief note not to forget your toiletries, consumables or linen if they chose to BYO. And if you want to be super friendly say something like “don't forget your walking shoes. We have some amazing coastal paths in this region” for example. Something fun.
Most importantly provide the name and number of your caretaker, remind them to have the house instructions handy and make them aware of any rules including the process for call outs.
My rule was, don't bother guests during their stay unless absolutely necessary. Provide all the information they need at their finger tips in the lead up to their stay, in house instructions and within the guest file. They should only need to contact you to tell you the hot water system isn't working or the house is flooding. If you have a concierge service then, of course, make that known.
I like to send a text communication in the early evening of their arrival after they've had a chance to unpack, wash up and make a cuppa (see the guest experience page of the Welcome In website for information on what we're trialing with guest welcome packs). All that needs to be said is something like “we hope you're settled in and enjoying yourselves. Don't forget to refer to the house documents for information and links to amazing tourism experiences during your stay. Please send us a quick text once you have checked out so we can let our cleaners know – check out is 10am. Happy holidays, (insert name)”.
Then you are going to ask them a question which could be an absolute game changer if you are clever and have your holiday rental has a Facebook business page. This is where you are going to beg them to check in on Facebook and provide the exact name of the page or refer them to your email signature where there will be a Facebook page linked icon.
6. Post – Stay
This is another very important communication in terms of marketing. This is the communication that is sent a few days after the guest checks out. Thank the guest one last time for their booking and ask them if they can help you out with four things. The first, link to a short online survey asking them 3 – 5 questions, the second – invite them to subscribe (provide incentives), third – tell them that you would be so very grateful if they reviewed their stay (tell them how – provide links) and lastly invite them to follow your Facebook or other social media pages.
You might want to put a reminder in your diary or set up an automatic text to send to your guests a few months down the track. This is for those guests that didn't subscribe or follow your social media pages. One paragraph inviting them to do just that, so they can keep up to date with special offers, is all that is required in this communication.
After the last communication is sent I would say you have exhausted all opportunities to grab their long term attention. If you continue to communication to non subscribers past this point you could risk upsetting them and this is not good for business.
My closing note refers to the email signature. I would strongly advise you to create one. It puts your brand in front of all prospective and confirmed guests, provides contact information and links to your website and social media pages. It makes sense to end all communications with a professional email signature. A holiday rental is a micro business and so a professional image should be a high priority for all holiday rental managers.
If you have enjoyed this article maybe you'd like to subscribe (free) to the Welcome In e-news. I try to publish these every few months to a community of holiday rental managers in Australia. I encourage you to make contact with me if you have any queries about any aspect of your holiday rental management journey. If I cannot assist you I can certainly point you in the right direction. I am well connected with niche industry holiday rental stakeholders in Australia.