The Owner Manages the WiFi – Why This Will Hurt Your Vacation Rental

Written by: Beth Hamilton, Product & Marketing Manager

It’s a common phrase that we hear from property managers: the owner pays for and manages the home or unit Internet, WiFi & TV and managers have no control over it. I often wonder though: why are you allowing your owner to have significant control over your brand and guest complaints? Have you sat down and looked at how having zero control over a key guest amenity hurts your brand? In this blog, I’d like to discuss why you, or a team of professionals, should be managing the Internet connection, WiFi and TV services and how a value added partner alleviates much of the stress of taking this on.

WiFi is a Key Unit/Property Amenity

Digital Nomadism is increasing significantly with the increase in remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and this trend isn’t going to go away now that people have had a taste of freedom. Recent studies have proven that WiFi is the highest desired amenity from guests, and one the main reasons they avoid vacation rental properties is because of slow or no WiFi access. Vacation Rentals, however, are increasingly desirable to travelers because they can have a “bleisure(business-leisure) trip and combine work and vacation time. Moral of the story is: if you don’t think WiFi access has an impact on your business – you are wrong. 

TV is Still Important to Many Travelers

Many people believe that cable/satellite TV is dead in hospitality and it’s an unnecessary expense. Although this sentiment is true for some, it’s not quite the case for all demographics. Mark Hemmer, COO at Vesta Hospitality said in 2019 that people want to have what they have at home – or better. He recognizes that cable is decreasing in popularity, but thinks it will remain relevant for another 10 years. I believe it comes down to your demographics: If you service 18-29 year olds, a strong WiFi network and streaming option is important. If you service 50+ year olds, having a minimal cable package with news and live sports is still relevant and important. What it comes down to is this: TV may be important to your guest – and why would you let an owner (who may or may not fit your target demographic) control this service?

The Impact on Your Guests

I’d like to paint a picture for you: the WiFi at your property, for whatever reason, is not working (maybe a recent storm has impacted the infrastructure). Since you don’t have ownership or responsibility for the WiFi, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to identify the outage or know when the outage will be fixed, much less attempt to dispatch a tech to assist. Instead, you are at the mercy of your owner, who likely has a million other priorities eating up their day and isn’t able to spend 1hr+ on the phone with their internet service provider. In the meantime, the guests staying with you are lighting up your service department with complaints, because they are unable to consume their online content, listen to a music service, or complete their work. Your service department has no answers for them, so the guests are upset and are either asking or a discount or will simply scrutinize everything else at your property and then boom – you are forced to comp their stay. After all, your listing promised that Internet, WiFi and TV was included.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Now, let’s say that a sink was clogged. Would you wait for the owner to dispatch a maintenance person?  Not likely – because the guests need their sink! The question is: why do you treat WiFi differently than the sink, when it has just as much of an impact?

It is important to note: taking control of these services yourself or hiring a specialized in-suite telecom management company to look after these services will not prevent all outages, although I wish we could control the weather! The right partner, however, would let you know that you had an outage (most times before the guest notices), call the internet/TV carrier, get the story behind the outage, and give you data to provide to the guests on what is happening and when a resolution will be in place. This gives you the power to be proactive and communicate to your guest. If you are able to let them know of the outage and the resolution before they even notice, you have the opportunity to use great communication and information to keep the situation calm before it gets out of hand.

The Impact on Your Operations

Consider also the impact this has on your operations. You miss out on a few things by allowing your owner to manage the WiFi:

  1. You are not able to collect guest data (IE. Email address) to match a reservation with a person to contact them directly during their stay or for remarketing.

    Business quality WiFi products and services provide you with data collection methods to use to remarket to guests. We all know that it’s easier to keep a guest than it is to gain a new one – and repeat guests typically spend more over their life cycle. Using these systems is one if the fastest ways to collect guest data, and you collect it for everyone staying at the property, not just the booker. Without these systems, you are relying on people recording these details which simply isn’t accurate or effective. 

  2. “Home-like” internet and WiFi does not have the same security features as a professional business quality network, nor does it allow for you to segregate the network for your operational technologies, making your network easily compromised.

    IoT and smart technologies are increasing in all industries, short term rentals included. Having unsecured IoT and smart technologies provide a significant security risk to your WiFi network, which could impact owners and guests. The FBI has even issued a “drive-by hacker warning” for unsecured smart technologies at your home. This should be of particular concern if your owner shares the property (and network) that you rent to guests. Would you be comfortable having unsecured technology be responsible for your owner or guest having their personal information stolen? Segregating your IoT technologies on a secured network makes these threats much more difficult and also ensures that guest usage doesn’t impact your operational technologies.

  3. There are operational challenges.  

    Have you ever had a guest reset your internet modem? Doing so means that passwords will be wiped clear and factory settings will be reset. A few things will then happen:

    – Your operational IoT and smart technologies no longer have access – meaning those smart locks you’ve installed no longer work. You’ll have to get the WiFi set-up again and home all your smart devices work.

    – Your WiFi password doesn’t work. Although this may be OK for the guest who did the resetting, the next guest will be frustrated and call you upset.

    – Once you receive the guest complaint, how do you fix the problem? Since you do not have access to the account, it may be difficult to adjust the settings, which means your owner has to do so.

    Having a commercial WiFi platform means that these problems aren’t a concern. The modem is connected to a WiFi access point and that circulates the Internet wireless at the property. Passwords don’t matter and the smart locks are configured to an administrative network which, once the WiFi comes back, will operate again.

  4. Commercial WiFi has different quality and signal distribution.

    The WiFi capabilities in a residential modem is limited. If you are working with a large unit/property, or one with a multitude of barriers (IE. lots of walls or steel), your signal will be negatively impacted. Poor WiFi signal strength, or inconsistent strength at a property results in guest complaints. If your owner controls the WiFi in the space, you have no control over the quality of connectivity. Having a WiFi Site Survey done of the premises and business quality WiFi equipment properly distributed on site will ensure a consistent user experience which ultimately equates to happier guests.

The Conversation to Have With the Owner

It is important to explain to your owner that WiFi is a core guest amenity and therefore has a large impact on your brand, which ultimately impacts your ability to rent their property/unit. Without having control over this, you are likely going to be stuck with increased guest complaints, regardless of how hard the owner may work to ensure the quality is solid. Similarly, by collecting guest data, you have a higher likelihood of re-booking their property/unit, which benefits both of you.

It is also important to explain to them that there are value added WiFi partners that can assist with:

  • Surveying the property to ensure a consistent user experience,
  • Assisting with managing the ISP (internet service provider)/TV service provider relationships,
  • Installing and maintaining the equipment and gear,
  • And the guest support if/when guests struggle with gaining WiFi or TV access.

If you have an owner who spends time on-site, assure them that a properly configured business network will have the ability to set-up an “owner network” that is separate from the guest network. This experience is just like their “at-home” WiFi experience and does not have the added steps that your guest network would.

Conclusion

The Vacation and Short Term Rental industries are poised for a big boost in the coming months with COVID-19 vaccination rates increasing, and many industry professionals are commenting that brand partnerships matter for growth. If you are interested in scaling your portfolio, professionalizing your WiFi and managing it for your owners should be a key consideration. Your business will benefit from a professional WiFi experience and should not be ignored.

Learn more about SolutionInc at https://www.solutioninc.com/.

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