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Archive for the ‘Guest Experience’ Category

Rental Reviews: Make Sure You’re Maximizing The Value of Each Guest Experience

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Vacation rental homeowners consistently rank increasing rental revenues as their number one objective. Rental reviews can be powerful fuel to supercharge your revenue.

Consumers naturally seek the input and advise of others when making major buying decisions such as selecting vacation rentals. Often this advice comes in the form of customer reviews, which provides third-party validation of the vacation rental. Enlisting your guests to comment on their experience may be your path to increased bookings.

Fortunately, many online listing services such as VRBO, Homeaway and Flipkey make it easy to obtain and display guest testimonials. The key is, first, to have a plan to collect reviews and second, to feature reviews in your online listing and in guest communications.

We recommend that you contact guests soon after their departure to thank them for choosing your property and request suggestions on how their stay could have been improved. This is also an opportunity to ask them to write a review. Including a link to your review page will make it easier for guests to comment. Most guests are happy to provide feedback if requested to do so.

Once you have gathered guest reviews, it is important that you direct prospective guests to your reviews. This can be accomplished by including statements such as “highly reviewed property,” “see property reviews…,” etc. in your listing description. Additionally, in communications with prospective guests, encourage them to read previous guests’ commentaries.

Be prepared for both good as well as bad reviews. Most consumers are savvy enough to discern the validity of a bad review, however, the number of positive versus negative reviews will be an important consideration. You may want to consider listing your property on Flipkey, a subsidiary of Tripadvisor, which allows homeowners to respond online to guest reviews. This interaction between you and your guests can be particularly effective.

Using customer feedback to drive revenues is a proven marketing technique. Like most effective marketing tools it must be actively managed and promoted in order to realize the full benefit.

At VRS we recognize the importance of guest testimonials, which is why we have incorporated them into our Rental Management Plan. As part of our quality control function, we contact guests soon after their departure to thank them for choosing the property, to request feedback on the property and to request that they provide a property review.

Fraud and Your Vacation Rental Property

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

In addition to attracting the attention of millions of travelers, the $23 billion vacation rental industry is unfortunately attracting a variety of scams. One need only perform a Google search to find story after story of how both travelers and vacation homeowners are becoming victims of fraud and phishing schemes. This is a trend that will no doubt continue to plague the industry. But what steps can you take to protect yourself and your guests from the impact of these scams?

  • We will take a look at the two most common scams:
  • •   Creation of Fake Rental Listings
    •   Phishing Schemes

  • Creation of Fake Rental Listing
  • In this scam fake rental listings are created to attract legitimate travelers. These listings are often created using pictures and information taken from legitimate listings. The unsuspecting traveler typically learns that they have been the victims of fraud only after they have paid out thousands of dollars for the rental.

    You can expect that as these stories are picked-up by national news sources, travelers will become increasing concerned and will no doubt make inquiries designed to assess the authenticity of your listing. Recent articles by ABC News and Forbes, among many others, suggest that travelers take a series of precautions to avoid fraud. The below chart reflects some recurring recommendations and steps you can take to ensure you are prepared to address traveler questions.

    vrs_phishing_recommendations_table

    Google offer a search service called Google Images that allows users to search the Web for image content. VRS recommends that you periodically search Google Images to determine if your property photos are being used for unauthorized purpose. To perform a search, simply copy the image address into Google Images and perform a search.

  • Phishing Scam
  • In a Phishing scam, someone masquerading as a legitimate guest contacts you, with the sole objective of obtaining sensitive information about your VRBO listing and/or the email address you use to manage your vacation rentals. Typically they want to obtain access to your email, which will allow them to hijack your rental inquiries and redirect rental deposits to themselves.

    Here are some steps that you can take to avoid being the victim of Phishing scams.
    •   Be suspicious of unusual rental inquiries. Vague travel dates, grammar or spelling errors, or requests that are inconsistent with your property can all be signs of a phishing scams
    •   Use a dedicated email address to manage your rentals. As much as we try, it is difficult to create a firewall around our personal email account.
    •   Subscribe to VRBO text notifications service. By receiving a text notification of all rental inquiries you can be sure that you are aware of all such inquiries.
    •   Use best practices to manage your email and VRBO passwords. This consists of longer passwords (minimum of 8 characters), do not use words, use a combination of numbers, upper and lower case letters, and use special characters. Periodically change your password.

    VRS is dedicated to providing safe and secure rental management services that highlights your property’s unique rental characteristics. Our ala carte menu of services are provided at a low fixed monthly fee.

    5 Things You Should Know About Rental Commissions

    Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

    The payment of rental commissions has been the accepted practice in the vacation rental industry for as long as owners have made their homes available for rental, but what are the unintended consequences of rental commissions? Below are 5 unintended consequences that you may have experienced with your rental manager.

    1. Do you ever feel like your rental manager is not working for you? High rental commissions may be the culprit. Like any businessperson, your rental manager may be tempted to give the most attention to the person who funds his income. With rental commissions this is the guest. Some rental managers may inadvertently work for the guest at the expense of the owner.

    2. Do you ever feel like your property is rented less than other similar properties? Often rental rotation policies are thrown-out when a rental manager is trying to find a property for a particular guest. This may result in your property not being actively marketed to a particular guest despite the fact that it is your turn in the rotation.

    3. Do you ever feel like your always discounting your rates to book rentals? Given the competitive vacation rental industry, often rental managers have limited motivation to maximize your rental revenues. Getting the rental, even at a discounted rate, is the primary objective of rental manager. In some instances the rate may be less than you feel is acceptable.

    4. Have you ever noticed excessive maintenance charges on your monthly rental statement? To keep guests happy while the guest is in occupancy, some rental manager consent to maintenance items that you may not approve. Some rental managers adopt the philosophy of “keep the guest happy at all cost.” This is of course an easy philosophy for them to adopt as the cost is passed on to the owner, while the rental manager cultivates a loyal guest.

    5. Do you ever feel pressure from your rental manager to limit your personal usage to non-peak period? If your property is not rented, the commissioned rental manager is not paid. This may lead some rental managers to attempt to influence your personal usage days by encouraging you to use non-peak days.

    To avoid the possible conflicts associated with rental commissions, VRS has adopted a low-fixed monthly fee billing structure. This ensures that VRS is working exclusively for you, the owner.

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