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Moments of Engagement

Last week we talked about the actives that generate the most profit for vacation rental entrepreneurs. If you haven’t checked back recently, this thread has become filled with some really brilliant new perspectives.

And this week we turn focus to guests in asking, “how do we cultivate moments of engagement?”

"Moments of engagement” is one way of thinking about those special interactions in which you win over guests, turning them from stranger to friend (and reviewer/repeat/referral booker). Moments of engagement are interactions that connect us: the openings for lines of communication and meaningful relationships (that generate dollaz).

You likely seek moments of engagement with your friends and loved ones -- going for long car drives (I recently heard) are wonderful for this because you're not looking at each other and you have nowhere else to go (ha!).

So how can we seek these moments with our guests?

Part 1. How to Create Moments of Engagement?​

Moments of engagement require effort, that’s for sure. They rarely happen automatically (unless you’re physically on-site). And they rarely happen regularly if you don’t have a standard operating procedure in place.
  • Take the time to call (or FaceTime) a guest upon arrival: say hello, talk about their trip, reveal any special details about the home.
  • Custom-write a longer-than-necessary inquiry response including a personal detail or two to showcase your family business nature.
  • Physically show up (with warning) can mean in-person check-ins, stopping by to say hello or bring extra coffee filters or just an excuse adjust/fix something
  • Underdog blog the challenges you're experiencing (as a family business) along with victories on a company website — a great hands-off way to open up and create these moments “at scale.” (We elaborate on the Underdog storyline as part of the Force Field here)
  • Send a handwritten note is probably the easiest and least executed moment of all.
  • Cooking challenges/kits that give a group an excuse to do something together and create their OWN moments of engagement
  • Boardgames or throwback toys (" ")

Part 2. What Technology Can Help Create Moments of Engagement?​

We often talk about technology in ways that removes the need for human interactions. As a tool to free up time for activities that matter — the ones that Jeremiah Gall of Breezeway likes to say “will get you credit” (see Part 1 above).

But sometimes technology itself can cultivate moments of engagement. No, not life-size robots that behave like humans. But companies that are designed to personalize automation and deliver feelings of connection. Some examples:
  • Send a digital handshake (aka. Will Franco's invention of a personal video intro) upon inquiry, booking, or arrival with a short anecdote that conveys your personality (ex. We just got back from skiing, I just took my daughter to the movies, we’re getting ready for the big upcoming XYZ.)
  • Magic writer machine like @DEaton uses at Seattle Oasis:
  • Trigger a gift/action (@BrookeP would you mind sharing the tool you use to pull off @AngelaL and the pineapple delivery in Hawaii?
  • Automated SMS campaigns that drop little friendly hello's or goodbyes or "how's everything in the home"?

How Do Your Create Moments of Engagement?​

I am very much looking forward to the wonderful ideas from our creative community members...
 
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JStevens

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Yellow Jersey
ANSWER AND RETURN EVERY CALL
When I was new in the business in 2005 I answered and returned every phone call. I am sure it was a contributing factor to building our current business. In our early days I would take the time to refer guests to other properties that would satisfy the guest's needs. And, like a Nordstrom shoe salesperson, if a guest requested occupied dates I would give them alternative dates (shoes) to chose from.

I probably should not be admitting this but, as the result of our abundant occupancy, learned experience and my desire to manage my time ............. after 15 years, I no longer answer every phone call. I let my answering machine screen my calls. If the potential guest leaves a message explaining the reasonable details (not asking for an exception), I will then call them back. Of course, if it is a currently booked guest with a question, I will call them back asap. Although I have learned through my experience that the majority of these phone calls are calling about an "exception" of some sort:
  • can we have 6 people instead of the max of 4. "We'll bring our sleeping bags."
  • can we stay 1 night when we have a 2 or 3 night minimum.
  • a last minute reservation for tonight at 9 pm. This isn't enough time for a guest to familiarize themselves with the complexity of staying at our rentals.
  • And then, if we can't accept their reservation for whatever reason they ask, can if I recommend another property?
Today, when I do talk with a guest personally on the phone, it really highlights the power of that voice connection and how it makes a lasting impression with myself and the guest. I am then reminded that using email only for communication isn't the answer to everything.

FRIENDLY VERSUS FORMAL EMAIL
The majority of my communication is via email. I always change a few lines in my standard email template, adding personalization for that particular guest. In addition (this might seem like a small thing) I will change the salutation from "Dear Sam" to "Hi Sam" to establish a friendlier tone.

TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO REPLY WITH ANOTHER EMAIL THAT GETS MORE PERSONAL
The bulk of our communication are auto emails personalized with the guest's name and property name. One of the auto emails asks the guest to confirm that they have received our Welcome Guide. This particular email is all plain text with no links, to hopefully guarantee landing in the guests inbox. When the guest sends us a quick confirmation that they did indeed receive our Welcome Guide I reply with
  1. a thank you for confirming receipt
  2. reaffirm that we hope they enjoy their stay at the Lazy Bowen Hideaway (or one of our other properties).
  3. take the opportunity to personalize another line or two
  4. This email includes a "PS" with the link to Bowen's Vacation Rental Show. Of course it features Matt and myself plus others. The guests that have watched the show do get a stronger connection to Bowen and myself. "PS: Have you seen The Vacation Rental Show with Matt Landau featuring Bowen Island and the Lazy Bowen Hideaway?"
MEETING GUESTS PERSONALLY HAS REAPED REWARDS
Living 1200 miles away from Bowen Island does not allow me to personally interact with guests.......unless I am on island at the time. For the few times that I have had dinner or a glass of wine with a guest, I can say 100%, they become repeat guests. This is all guest initiated as I never want to interfere with a guests private getaway time.

RETURNING GUESTS RECIEVE A THANK YOU NOTE AND A BOTTLE OF WINE
For about 4 years now we have been leaving hand signed thank you notes along with a bottle of wine for our returning guests. Just today, a returning guest after 8 years mentioned the thank you note and bottle of wine in her review (I hope we don't get in trouble with the liquor board). Obviously, this made an impression and I assume the other repeat guests appreciate it as well.
 
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AFirmani

Counselor
Inner Circle
This hits on the exact thing I miss the most! I loved talking with future guests. I loved hearing why they were coming, who was coming with them and what they needed while in Las Vegas! As the years went by, I had so many new friends and knew about their lives and adventures. While some guest came and went without too much contact - most provided such moments of engagement that my life now without it feels empty!

So - my "tricks" were to reach out, by phone if possible and if not, by email. And make notes. Remember the person and live their life for a moment -- it gave them a great trip and left my heart full!
 

Dana

Counselor
Inner Circle
Mile High Hosts
There are some great ideas in this thread already! Thank you for the inspiration and reminders!

Something we've been doing over the last 1.5 years is easy and has really made an impact on our business is sending an automated SMS to the guest the evening of their check-in. We ask how everything is upon arrival and if there's anything we can do to make their stay better. It's great to see the enthusiastic gratitude for the check-in and excitement we often hear of being on vacation! 🎉 And when there is something wrong, we're able to tend to it immediately, save the guest from having a bad stay and of course the possibility of a negative review.

This is simple, easy to execute and scalable which is essential for our team.
 
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Mark

Envoy
Inner Circle
Wing Fighter
@Matt Landau, I love this topic. I can’t think of anything in the vacation rental business that has a bigger return on investment - especially when the ‘cost’ is just time and being personable while the benefit is “Priceless”, as the MasterCard slogan used to say.

Intentionally, consistently, creating moments of engagement isn’t a very common strategy from what I’ve seen (outside the IC of course!). It runs somewhat counter to scaling, standardizing, automating and streamlining needed by big property managers but it’s one of my biggest differentiators. The personal rapport it helps create is one of those intangibles that pushes a Guest’s experience over the top. The ‘return’ to me comes in the form of not just 5 star Reviews, but stellar, gushing, lengthy 5 star Reviews! Building that rapport with guests is also a big factor in converting first time travelers into repeat Guests, as you mentioned.

I follow many of the practices discussed here in the IC to engage Guests via email, txt, and phone at different points ahead of, during, and after their stay. However, there are a minimum number of specific instances where I do my best to connect live by phone to have that personal interaction level:

1) 2-3 days prior to their stay to establish live, voice to voice contact to see if they have any questions, need recommendations (in addition to a Recommendations List sent a month prior), and confirm they received the driving directions and entry information.

My ulterior motive at this point is to establish familiarity well before there could be a need to call me about a problem during their stay. Not that I have a negative disposition and expect problems, I actually don’t at all. However, I want Guests to feel comfortable getting in touch with me if anything does go wrong during their stay. I don’t want to find out about it afterward. I want the opportunity to solve problems during their stay. The strongest Guest relationships I’ve built have come out of something going wrong and aggressively working to solve it for them. Even if an issue takes time to resolve, acting professionally by taking it seriously and communicating next steps/updates frequently creates extreme loyalty. It may be cliche, but a Problem is indeed an Opportunity.

2) Shortly after arrival, I check in to make sure everything looks good to the Guests, see if they have any questions, and reiterate that I’m available if they need me. This impresses that I CARE about their experience and want to make sure it is the best.

3) The night before departure, I check in one more time to confirm their stay went well and ask about any property issues I need to pass on to the cleaning crew. I also take the opportunity to ask if they would be willing to do us the favor of a Review. This helps to set the hook and the expectation of a Review. In doing this, I’ve never had a guest decline or fail to follow through on actually leaving a great Review. I think by this time they feel they ‘owe’ me the favor.

At any of these points, it’s possible the Guest may get back to me via txt instead of a return call if I didn’t reach them live, which is completely fine. I made the effort, but take follow-up queues from them to make sure I don’t go beyond their threshold for communication. I’ve found as a general rule that people are very personable in return and happy to chat live for a few minutes at each of these points in their stay. In fact many keep me on the phone long after I would have let them go telling me all about their great week! (Of course I‘m taking notes in their contact record at the same time!)

One last point - Although I manage the property remotely, I have the luxury of traveling there often (due to my ‘day job’) and take every opportunity possible to briefly meet Guests for their arrival (if there isn’t a Pandemic raging!), talk about their plans, and give any additional recommendaions. That has worked out very well and created even greater rapport. So much so that returnIng Guests are disappointed if it doesn’t work out every time. I’m looking forward to going back to meeting Guests again, post-Pandemic!!
 
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Lynne Harty

Counselor
Asheville Hosts
There are some great ideas in this thread already! Thank you for the inspiration and reminders!

Something we've been doing over the last 1.5 years is easy and has really made an impact on our business is sending an automated SMS to the guest the evening of their check-in. We ask how everything is upon arrival and if there's anything we can do to make their stay better. It's great to see the enthusiastic gratitude for the check-in and excitement we often hear of being on vacation! 🎉 And when there is something wrong, we're able to tend to it immediately, save the guest from having a bad stay and of course the possibility of a negative review.

This is simple, easy to execute and scalable which is essential for our team.
@Dana how do you set up the automated text?
 
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Lynne Harty

Counselor
Asheville Hosts
Thanks for these suggestions. Coming up with creative ideas for the little things that make guest's stays better are the fun part of this business. I find that these help as I have time, but when I get too busy, they kind of go by the wayside. However, I keep trying to come up with new ideas. One year I created a little 2 page "flyer" that I printed out myself for our cottage in the woods that had a full page photo of the property in snow and a recipe for my homemade granola on the back, and I left a jar of it for them too. I thought this would be really well received but who knows? I never really got a comment about it, and since the cottage is a half hour away, I let that go for a while (though remembering this tempts me to try again).

I agree that whenever there is an opportunity for face to face contact, you are typically 'guaranteed" a positive review. A side bonus, if you clean yourself, is that when people meet you, they don't want to leave the place a mess!
 

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Susanne

Counselor
Inner Circle
Great communication tips in this thread; here is another angle. Our first vacation rental had a niche market designed to attract families with children ages 8 to 12. They would travel from Edmonton, about 8 hours by car away. We suspect families began telling other families about this "Summer Must-Do Vacation." How did we know this? Guests seemed to be from the same city and booked out our calendar long before summer. They all had children 8 to 12 years of age.

Our goal was to cater to the pain points and solve problems before they occurred. Problems like hungry, hangry children whose parents feared they would whine about being bored. Parents stressed from the drive, perhaps with no reading material to bring to the pool etc. Here are a few things we did:
1) Gourmet pizza in the freezer for late first-night arrivals. (Summer traffic through the mountains always moved slower than they estimated)
2) A nice bottle of Okanagan wine for the frazzled parents upon arrival.
3) Sports equipment such as tennis racket, basketball, putters for the amenity center
4) Family challenge games targeting the age group 8 to 12
5) A little take and leave library along with some extra pool towels that were easy to identify in navy blue.

I had one ***The Secret Engagement Sauce*** that I think took it over the top. I required a minimum seven day stays in the summer. This booking rule nudged parents to move the mountains. Make it happen, get the time off. Engaging with me is one thing but setting the stage so they could unwind, relax, and engage with each other was truly the recipe for a tween family dream vacation. (Side Bonus - no empty holes during prime time)
 

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DMartinez

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Wing Fighter
For the last 7 years- while we've been waiting and readying ourselves to launch as an independent owner- our streams of communication were directed through our PM company- cuz that's what the contract directed us to do.

But ~ during those years that didn't stop me from communicating directly with my guests (despite the admonishments from our PM). Nope, just like that biblical ox, I would not be muzzled. (1 Corinthians 9:8-10; Deuteronomy 25:4;1 Timothy 5:18),

The other skill I've picked up over my many years as a teacher, especially in Special Education, is the value of "Reciprocal Communication/Social interaction"~ the back-and-forth flow of communication/social interaction. The term reciprocity refers to how the behavior of one person influences and is influenced by the behavior of another person and vice versa. The goal in reciprocal communication- as in a game of tossing the ball back and forth- is not to just let the first pass of communication land flat in front of your feet without returning it back thus establishing a back and forth interaction with each other several times.

So without further adieu, here are the methods of how I assure my moments of engagement:

Step One: have multiple means of connecting- especially when the systems and the services are stacked up against you with the full intent of cutting off all your lines of direct communication (e.g. PMs & OTAs all communications must flow through them). Via my website and Social Media conduits to promote our home, I was able to not only pique the interest in our home but also establish an "end-run and direct 2-way conduit for sustained communication with my "forbidden fruit," the guest.
  • Social Media Our Home's FB Page, FB Regional Page, Regional Group, IG page- for every comment made (also known as intent to communicate) I made a concerted effort to respond to their comment. I would strive for a minimum 3-turn effort of communication- demonstrating a commitment to the relationship and the topic presented by the guest.
  • Email via Mailchimp and Contact page- make that personal connection
Step Two: Provide a reason for your guests to consider YOU the expert worthy of seeking further/advanced knowledgable tidbits that will enhance their stay (even if it's not with you... this time). Via my blog and Social Media venues, I provided updates, blogs, and various factoids that would benefit them during their stay, even if not with me. My two most popular topics are Fly-Ins to Sea Ranch and Diving/Fishing tips. When potential guests Google for those top topics it is my website (and contact info) that pops up. I am also the restaurant guru as in "where do we go to eat in the time of COVID."

Step Three: Get thee ranking high on Google. God love Google My Business and all things related to a website that is found on Google. In our podunky region, it is I that now competes above the fold with the very same PM company that was managing my home...and that I am NOW competing against. Through potential guest Google searches, I am now receiving random phone calls seeking information about booking in our region. It also helps to have as one of our key tags/keywords "sea ranch rentals" even though I own only one little house.

Step Four: Be NOT afraid to chat with random strangers about all things related to your region and yeah, even your house. It took me a while to finally list my personal cell number on the open world wide web of "potential spammers." Since then I've had the most entertaining chats with the most random folks seeking bookings and info on what to expect when staying in my area...Oh and then asking if my place is available. While as a "client" of our PM I always dutifully sent them on to their location to book MY house...BUT not without coxing them to ALSO sign up to be a member of my "Inner Circle" ( an homage to the master😎)

A special note on this topic: I've been closed since what seems forever-actually since Sept 2019🤦‍♀️ for remodeling - construction and new decor. Just a few days prior to Thanksgiving someone googled our location and my phone number popped up- so they called. I explained we were closed for construction ...and well...basically a lack seating as our chairs and sofas were still on some slow boat to who knows where due to COVID supply chain dilemmas. I also explained that even our own family, in order to enjoy a few days at our home, had to pack camping chairs in order to have a place to sit.

During the call that lasted nearly ¾ hour - we giggled, we kibitz, we had multiple reciprocal exchanges of communication. (@TeenaNH you'd been proud!).

This couple was soooo desperate to escape their world of COVID-19 they too were ready to pack their camping equipment if I would just let them stay at our place ( a new definition of a limited commodity?) to the point that I finally said sure why not!

And it paid off:
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Christina

Counselor
Inner Circle
Last week we talked about the actives that generate the most profit for vacation rental entrepreneurs. If you haven’t checked back recently, this thread has become filled with some really brilliant new perspectives.

And this week we turn focus to guests in asking, “how do we cultivate moments of engagement?”

"Moments of engagement” is one way of thinking about those special interactions in which you win over guests, turning them from stranger to friend (and reviewer/repeat/referral booker). Moments of engagement are interactions that connect us: the openings for lines of communication and meaningful relationships (that generate dollaz).

You likely seek moments of engagement with your friends and loved ones -- going for long car drives (I recently heard) are wonderful for this because you're not looking at each other and you have nowhere else to go (ha!).

So how can we seek these moments with our guests?

Part 1. How to Create Moments of Engagement?​

Moments of engagement require effort, that’s for sure. They rarely happen automatically (unless you’re physically on-site). And they rarely happen regularly if you don’t have a standard operating procedure in place.
  • Take the time to call (or FaceTime) a guest upon arrival: say hello, talk about their trip, reveal any special details about the home.
  • Custom-write a longer-than-necessary inquiry response including a personal detail or two to showcase your family business nature.
  • Physically show up (with warning) can mean in-person check-ins, stopping by to say hello or bring extra coffee filters or just an excuse adjust/fix something
  • Underdog blog the challenges you're experiencing (as a family business) along with victories on a company website — a great hands-off way to open up and create these moments “at scale.” (We elaborate on the Underdog storyline as part of the Force Field here)
  • Send a handwritten note is probably the easiest and least executed moment of all.
  • Cooking challenges/kits that give a group an excuse to do something together and create their OWN moments of engagement
  • Boardgames or throwback toys (" ")

Part 2. What Technology Can Help Create Moments of Engagement?​

We often talk about technology in ways that removes the need for human interactions. As a tool to free up time for activities that matter — the ones that Jeremiah Gall of Breezeway likes to say “will get you credit” (see Part 1 above).

But sometimes technology itself can cultivate moments of engagement. No, not life-size robots that behave like humans. But companies that are designed to personalize automation and deliver feelings of connection. Some examples:
  • Send a digital handshake (aka. Will Franco's invention of a personal video intro) upon inquiry, booking, or arrival with a short anecdote that conveys your personality (ex. We just got back from skiing, I just took my daughter to the movies, we’re getting ready for the big upcoming XYZ.)
  • Magic writer machine like @DEaton uses at Seattle Oasis:
  • Trigger a gift/action (@BrookeP would you mind sharing the tool you use to pull off @AngelaL and the pineapple delivery in Hawaii?
  • Automated SMS campaigns that drop little friendly hello's or goodbyes or "how's everything in the home"?

How Do Your Create Moments of Engagement?​

I am very much looking forward to the wonderful ideas from our creative community members...
In the beginning of our business, it seems like moments of engagement with our guests was simply a natural reaction to providing service, and recommendations, and opening our homes to guests. As we moved forward and grew in size, this required more intention! Thor hand writes a thank you note to ALMOST every guest every month (not to the jerks though, because I don't think what he would say to them would be helpful). This takes several hours each month but is completely personal as he reviews their stay information and connects and offers them a returning guest discount. Our reservations team, particularly Robin dedicating one day a week, calls back each guest who books, talks them through the property they have reserved, and confirms their details. This offers an opportunity to find out why they are visiting Chattanooga, what we can be helpful with, and also us to further screen folks who are staying in our owners' homes! Having that Spidey Sense is crucial. We also know the folks, owners and staff, at two of the main restaurants we recommend, so those folks take extra special care of our guests in addition to the discount they provide.

I LOVE the idea of cooking challenges/kits for guests. We did just roll out a CHATTA-BINGO for guests to experience Chattanooga more intentionally, and even potentially win a next free stay. Jen is making this happen for our guests to further enjoy being locals!

I also love the Video Intro Idea by @Will Franco I want so much for us to get more intentional about video - let's shoot for 2021Q1! I believe this will be a bigger game-changer in 2021!!
 
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Matt Landau

Ambassador
Staff member
I also love the Video Intro Idea by @Will Franco I want so much for us to get more intentional about video - let's shoot for 2021Q1! I believe this will be a bigger game-changer in 2021!!
This is one of the tactics that, if you do it consistently, WILL increase your conversion rate by double digits guaranteed. @Will Franco would you mind sharing that guide on how to do your "digital handshake" best?
 

Debi

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Wing Fighter
There are a few things that I do routinely, such as send a 'thank you for your reservation' note and if guests have booked through Airbnb, I ask for their personal emails. Then, I send them local information about the area, invite them to our FB page, etc. My housekeeper gets the first names of the guests so that she can handwrite an Arrival Welcome on a plaque in the house, and sometimes she turns on the music. I send a personal 'checking in' email the morning after arrival to make sure all is well. Honeymoons, anniversary, birthday and engagement couples get a bottle of wine. Engaging in conversation leads to ad hoc abilities to do special things ... such as delivering a massage table for the osteopath physician who needed it for the courses she was developing; making sure that an anniversary cake was in place (via our housekeeper); sending special ads from restaurants that might be opening for carry-out or delivery in the area (this changes on a daily basis these days and is impossible to keep up with).

I have learned so much from others in this forum over the years, that I don't think what I do is very different or unusual. However, I've found that we in the IC are not the norm. I don't really think there are a ton of hosts who want to put out absolute minimum energy, rather I think it's a lack of education. I just heard in a webinar last week that 'professionalism' is expected to be the trend this next year as we come out of the pandemic. OTAs, hosts, property management companies and hotels are all adding emphasis on being seen as professional. I expect the schism will widen as more focus gets put on the 'extras' which could potentially become the 'expected'.
 
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Catherine

Envoy
Inner Circle
Great communication tips in this thread; here is another angle. Our first vacation rental had a niche market designed to attract families with children ages 8 to 12. They would travel from Edmonton, about 8 hours by car away. We suspect families began telling other families about this "Summer Must-Do Vacation." How did we know this? Guests seemed to be from the same city and booked out our calendar long before summer. They all had children 8 to 12 years of age.

Our goal was to cater to the pain points and solve problems before they occurred. Problems like hungry, hangry children whose parents feared they would whine about being bored. Parents stressed from the drive, perhaps with no reading material to bring to the pool etc. Here are a few things we did:
1) Gourmet pizza in the freezer for late first-night arrivals. (Summer traffic through the mountains always moved slower than they estimated)
2) A nice bottle of Okanagan wine for the frazzled parents upon arrival.
3) Sports equipment such as tennis racket, basketball, putters for the amenity center
4) Family challenge games targeting the age group 8 to 12
5) A little take and leave library along with some extra pool towels that were easy to identify in navy blue.

I had one ***The Secret Engagement Sauce*** that I think took it over the top. I required a minimum seven day stays in the summer. This booking rule nudged parents to move the mountains. Make it happen, get the time off. Engaging with me is one thing but setting the stage so they could unwind, relax, and engage with each other was truly the recipe for a tween family dream vacation. (Side Bonus - no empty holes during prime time)
Hi, I also provide toys and treats for the visiting dogs. I order from Chewy who will credit/reimburse you if you're ever unhappy with a product. You don't ship the product back. Instead they ask you to donate it to a rescue/shelter.
For auto-messaging I use Smartbnb which, I think, is a fantastic, user-friendly app. Their support team are quick to respond. I've been using the app for years.👍
 
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TeenaNH

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Take the time to call (or FaceTime) a guest upon arrival: say hello, talk about their trip, reveal any special details about the home.

Ummm... upon arrival? My guests would hang up on me! I host groups so they are so excited to see one another, pick their bedroom, jump in the pool, etc.

I think that the welcome phone call depends on your situation.

I don't text with guests. There are so freaking many ways a guest can reach out to me! Every day I check email, voicemail, Facebook posts, and FB messages. I'm selfish enough that text messages are just for my friends!

I've found that calling every inquiry and putting email responses on autoresponders has really upped my conversion rate. A year ago, I would have talked about how important a personalized response is but during Covid, phone calls convert like CRAZY! My potential guests are frantic to get outta town for a respite. I'm a great salesperson so if I can get them on the phone, I usually can find a date that fits their schedule and budget.

Great topic @Matt Landau !!
 
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Jackson

Counselor
Inner Circle
Asheville Hosts
In 2014 we started to rent out a studio apartment over our detached garage on the property where we live full time. It is the only STR property we have. We learned by the seat of our pants, but now have a 4.99 rating on Airbnb with over 250 reviews.

Pre-covid we met with over 95% of our guests at check-in for a quick tutorial on our place and to point them in the right direction for food, drink, and fun! We also popped out when they were loading the car at check out to see how their visit was and to ask for any improvements to the space (we've made about a dozen changes as a result). Now with covid, the opportunities for this interaction are mostly gone, but now we sometimes have masked yard greetings from afar.

We also transformed our paper/ PDF guidebook to a TouchStay electronic guidebook. We poured a TON of effort into this book with a lot of our personal comments on restaurants, the best roof top bars, and how to navigate the city during covid. We've also created within the Touch Stay guidebook a "quick start guide" with our recommendations, if they just don't have the time or energy to pick one. Examples: Top 3 hikes, Top 3 restaurants for dinner, Top 3 places for lunch--easy peasy. The reception to the very personalized guidebook has been great, with some guests having 30-40 page views.

Five star guest reviews on Airbnb have become so common place that instead of counting the number of stars for a guest, we count the number of exclamation points in their public write ups. Guests during covid seem to be especially appreciative to having the space and any extra effort you give them. We feed off their positive energy.

Our calendar is closed for 2021 as we will be away for the first quarter, but we are considering only opening our space to repeat guests at a deep discount as a 'Thank You' for their past business. We think this building of good will, in what is likely to still be a weird and challenging year for travel, should be fun for us as we reunite with acquaintances/ friends we've made over the years.
 
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Debra Dresbach

Envoy
Inner Circle
I think this may sound a little counter-intuitive, but my answer would have to be: VETTING. Especially during these times of Covid. Top-notch guests appreciate the fact that they are heavily vetted by me, and, once accepted into my club as a guest, there they shall stay for as long as I am in business. You would be surprised, but guests of high calibre almost seem to appreciate the fact that I grill them with questions before accepting them as a guest. It lends an air of exclusivity and selective acceptance that I suspect is not the norm at most Airbnbs.
 

Catherine

Envoy
Inner Circle
I think this may sound a little counter-intuitive, but my answer would have to be: VETTING. Especially during these times of Covid. Top-notch guests appreciate the fact that they are heavily vetted by me, and, once accepted into my club as a guest, there they shall stay for as long as I am in business. You would be surprised, but guests of high calibre almost seem to appreciate the fact that I grill them with questions before accepting them as a guest. It lends an air of exclusivity and selective acceptance that It suspect is not the norm at most Airbnbs.
Would like to hear how you vet your Airbnb guests? Thank you!
 

Debra Dresbach

Envoy
Inner Circle
First, if they have not been reviewed, I come right out and say I do not accept unreviewed guests. If they come back to me with a reason such as, "I've never used Airbnb before," I find a way to give them the slip. If, on the other hand, they respond with a fulsome reply that indicates who they are, what they do, why they want to be a guest at the property and if they can do anything to help me feel more comfortable with the fact that they will treat my house as their own, they've passed the first hurdle. The second is, they must be comfortable with leaving me a security deposit off-platform. I usually include an explanation of how I am extremely protective of the property and take extra precautions to ensure I accept only those guests who I am confident will take good care of it. I honestly feel this makes guests feel more grateful that I take such precautions.

If they have a decent number of good reviews, I always find out their purpose for coming. If they give me a flat answer, I, again, give them the slip somehow. If they say, for example, they are coming for a creative project, I will usually respond by saying something like, "Oh, I love creatives. What are you working on?" Then they will reveal whether it is a Netflix project, or say, social media. If it is social media, I find a way out. If it's Netflix, I'm in. And then I'll tell them that many feel the house serves as a muse and I hope they find it serves this purpose for them, as well.

These are a few examples and specific to my area. I use many different approaches, but in the end, if I like someone, I ask them enough questions to make them work for it a bit. And if I accept, they realize they have passed a few vetting hurdles and that I do not let just anyone stay on my property. I try to make guests feel almost as it they have become a part of a club.
 

Jefferson

Attaché
Inner Circle
It's hard for me to add to more to this thread than is already here since I am clearly the Padawan in this group and not the teacher but I can share what we have done recently that has greatly improved our guest experience.

Our cleaner happens to be from England and is blessed with a beautiful British accent. We've started paying her a little extra per booking to call the guest within 24 hours of their booking, introduce herself as their "onsite concierge", thank them for choosing Loma Homes, and ask them what brings them to the area. After creating a personal connection she asks them if she can pick up any groceries for their arrival, schedule a babysitter, etc. After this call she will hand write a personal note on their welcome basket that pertains to their initial conversation. She then calls them the morning after their arrival and checks in to make sure everything is to their liking.

This call not only creates a personal connection but turns into an additional revenue stream. We work out discounts with the local businesses so that we can charge the guest regular price and keep the difference (split with our cleaner of course).

Hope that helps!
 
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