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Raising the Bar in Vacation Rental Management

by: Tim Blackwell

Creating “the ultimate guest experience" has been a key differentiator in vacation rental management lately. Property managers are taking cues from high-end hoteliers to provide an easy, seamless experience from reservation to check out.

The industry’s mantra is to ensure guests that they can experience new, exciting destinations with all the comforts of their homes. Just weave in a new adventure by day and a home that feels warm, secure, inviting and functional by night. Add personal service, and the stay should be memorable enough to rate a good review and a return visit.

The formula isn’t really complex. Over a Zoom call recently, a client said the right mix for the ultimate guest experience can be found if property managers simply put themselves in their guests’ shoes. There you’ll understand the true value of your property to the very people you depend on for a return on investment. And you discover that blend by spending a day or two at your property.

A few of us at Kigo took a much-needed respite from the pandemic and escaped to woodsy destinations.

In one respect, the experiences were confirmation that customer-centric vacation rental management is on the right path. In another, there are still some potholes to dodge.

Comfortable stays but room for improvement

Two homes were booked on channel manager and property management websites. Both were enveloped by the radiant fall color near national forests in the Midwest and within a few hours of driving from Kigo headquarters. A cabin tucked beneath towering pine trees was secluded and within walking distance of local attractions. A modest home was nestled on a hillside overlooking a beautiful lake.

Both were handsomely featured on websites with several interior and exterior photos, including pictures of amenities. The cabin was booked directly through the property management company; the home through a channel manager.

The woodsy one-bedroom cabin was comfortable, nicely finished and hinted of a boutique hotel. The gas fireplace opened into the bedroom and living area, offering warmth and evening light. The kitchen table was set and a welcome snack tray was on the counter by the sink, stocked with bags of popcorn, graham crackers and a complimentary picture frame to remember those memorable moments soon to be experienced.

The other property was an older home – a two-story probably built in the 70s – that was partially updated with wood floors. A long balcony with comfortable outdoor furniture overlooked a quiet lake. The remodeled upstairs had up-to-date features, and the neighborhood was safe and secure.

For the most part, each lived up to their billings but could have stood out with some vacation rental management basics and tools available to enhance the guest experience. Rain set in at the cabin and washed out some outdoor plans, affording us the chance to appreciate the amenities, which included a hot tub.

It also helped us understand where the property management team could raise the bar.

Better communication needed

Understandably, because of the pandemic, we were not welcomed personally at either property.

Only the front door of the cabin had an access lock, and the property management company had no way of knowing when we checked in and checked out.

At the lake property, we were able to chat via text directly with a responsive owner who resolved issues or answered questions without going through the channel manager. In the woods, our only call to the property manager, who lived 200 miles away, wasn’t returned for at least 12 hours: a big no-no.

Instructions at both places needed work.

Most of the cabin’s operational information arrived via email; the hard-bound guest book on the coffee table was attractive but out of date (instructions for using the television remotes applied to a previous cable provider).

TV setups were unfamiliar – the cabin had two remotes and we could figure out how to use only one. And, at the lake, it took a while to figure out how to play a video on the smart TV. Also, there were no guides for using the smart thermostat and Blue Tooth speakers.

And, the biggest vacation rental management foul: one roll of toilet paper to share between three ladies at the lake place.

Where technology would have helped

While they had modern conveniences, the properties could have improved the guest experience by employing some of the latest property management technology integrated with Kigo.

A property automation system like the one offered by our friends at Operto would have been a big help at the cabin. Operto, which integrates with Kigo, provides intelligent control of smart home locks and IOT devices. Also, property managers can track when guests check in and out.

Also, guests would have been more informed of area happenings and attractions, as well as instructions, at both properties with YourWelcome, the ultimate smart tablet for vacation rentals.

The device, available to guests at the property, acts as a transactional and informational portal providing listings for local services, like tickets for attractions, food delivery and property guides. Updated instructions for smart thermostats and TVs can be uploaded and quickly found rather than forcing guests to page through an old guest book.

While the picture frame was a nice gesture, it was dented and we had no desire to take it with us. The cleaning crew should have noticed the dented frame and informed the property manager that it needed to be replaced. Kigo’s operations management software enables onsite crews to report issues to property managers so they can be corrected.

While both homes had plenty to offer, we found shortcomings that could have been easily taken care of, leading to better reviews. Property managers can enhance the guest experience by identifying problem areas and addressing them with vacation rental property technology.

Ensure that your guests get the most out of your property. Kigo creates exceptional opportunities for vacation rental managers and guests with an innovative, all-in-one platform that streamlines the guest experience and helps you outperform the competition.

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