VRMA Review of Technology and Operations

Written by: Beth Hamilton, Product & Marketing Manager

I really enjoyed the VRMA International session last week on “technology and operations: a winning combination”. The panelists (Bob Milne, Vacasa; Sean Miller, Point Central; Jeremiah Gall, Breezeway; David Krauss, Noise Aware and Anne de Ridder, Vacasa), discussed how incorporating technology into your operations allows you to lower costs, standardize processes and enhance quality of service. A variety of tech was discussed and it was exciting to see a nearly packed room full of eager managers. Of the session attendees, only half of the managers currently used smart door technology and less than one third of the managers had a noise sensor in their properties. If you still don’t think you “need” the smart home tech, check out these articles on why all signs point to yes:

VR Graphs: Appealing to the Millennial Traveler
The New Vacationer
Why should multifamily property managers invest in smart solutions?
Safety in Vacation Rentals Should be an Expectation, Not an Option

I took a lot away from this session, but in particular, it continues to surprise me how the “bones” of these technologies is just assumed but never discussed. First things first: smart home technologies require power (shocker, I know), a WiFi connection, and may require a smart hub. These constitute the “bones”, or initial structure, of your smart home technologies and without them, you will struggle to grow.

The session was broken down into three topics: how does technology impact your guests, your owners, and your employees. Noise Aware reminded us that we also have to consider the neighbors; and of course our team is always thinking about you, the manager.  This got me thinking: perhaps not everyone has thought about how WiFi impacts (or is impacted by) these 5 types of stakeholders? Well below I’ve broken it down:

  1. First let’s talk about you, the manager: Your business growth will thrive if you focus on your niche and allow others to focus on theirs (see our other post on how to scale your business using experts). This helps you to provide a strong product offering, resulting in more great reviews, more bookings, and increased revenue. It also allows you to establish brand continuity. When guests return, they know what to expect which has a positive impact on your business. Having a managed technology vendor who handles challenging technologies ensures that you have time to re-purpose your team’s attention to more important guest related items. When your business operates more smoothly, you are able to focus on the crucial items that need to happen to enable you to grow your business.
  2. Guests: I feel (and hope) this is the most obvious. Your guests are expecting a flawless WiFi experience for their streaming, casting, social media posting, emailing, and general surfing. No matter how amazing your vacation rental is, it will suffer by not providing a commercial quality WiFi service for your guests.  It continues to be the leading amenity in the hospitality industry. Check out this article that hits this idea home on WiFi is important to your business:  Is Your Guest Wi-Fi 5 Stars?
  3. Owners: It’s our recommendation that you (the manager/management company) should take over the Internet and WiFi management for your properties – even if your owners are currently paying for the service. Poor Internet and WiFi access reflects negatively on everyone, which will impact business. When a problem occurs you have no control over the account, you cannot maintain a standard of service, and you aren’t providing security for your smart home tech. It’s important that your owners allow you the control the Internet and WiFi to ensure that the guest experience (and your business) provide stellar service so that you can direct market and increase the direct bookings (aka more money in everyone’s pockets). This also allows you to standardize on technologies in your properties, gaining you economies of scale and therefore saving you time and money.A side note when chatting with your owners: choosing a managed WiFi service company should allow you to have a separate network for the owner’s devices to ensure that they are segregated from your guests. That’s part of having the right commercial vendor configuring your network for your owner’s device.
  4. Employees: If you have the technical knowledge on your team to configure, install and provide on-going management of your smart home tech, you are lucky. As your business grows it is likely that your geographic footprint will expand. This makes it increasingly difficult to have technical staff in every area that you need them. Even though the average person is more tech savvy than they used to be, do you want your business relying on someone who “kind of” knows how to install these items? The challenge is only compounded if your technology is not standardized across your entire footprint –causing your team headaches to keep track of what tech is where. Again, we come back to focusing on your niche and finding the right experts to focus on those right things. Having your staff installing your tech, answering guest support calls on tech, or on the phone with your ISP (Internet service provider) is likely not the best use of their time and can easily be offloaded to a managed WiFi service provider.
  5. Neighbors: Many condo buildings have issues with neighbors compromising their guest experience when their WiFi network is wide open. A wide open network allows your neighbors to stream Netflix while your actual guest is frustrated that they can’t see photos on Facebook – not to mention that this opens you up to a wide variety of security risks. The likely response is to add a password, right? Wrong. Guests too often miss the password, misspell it, or just simply get too frustrated to look. Plus then you have to keep track of them – and what happens if they reset your router? Our recommended solution is called “black listing”. The best practice is deploying a proper “hotel-like” authentication page where guests provide you with details (ie email address, name, phone number, etc) which ensures that you are able to monitor who is connecting to your network.

It’s easy to get caught up in what the guests want; because in the end, they are always right. The reality is though, that these technologies impact a variety of stakeholders and it’s important to consider them if you’re going to make any changes to your operations. This session at VRMA International covered how smart home technologies will improve your operations, but don’t forget that your efforts are all for nought if you don’t have “good bones”.

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