At the 2022 VRMA International conference, I attended a session on scaling operations using technology. Why do you need technology to optimize and scale your operations? Simply put, the majority of us are here to make money. I’m sure we’re all personally feeling how hard it has become to stretch a dollar and make every minute count. Technology, when used properly, can and will help you grow your business by cutting time on mundane tasks, automating processes, and helping you work more efficiently.
Here is a simple example from my local area: The Mic Mac Tavern has been a local establishment in my city for more than 40 years. You are hard-pressed to get a table at mealtime without making a reservation ahead of time. They just recently launched an online reservation system, so you no longer need to call to reserve (yay!). Do you lose a tiny bit of the “personal touch” when you eliminate the phone call and move to an online system? Sure. But as a millennial, let me tell you, my desire to book at the tavern has increased significantly when I realized that I no longer need to make that painstaking phone call and sit on hold when they’re busy.
I hear it all the time from short-term rental operators and seasoned hospitality professionals: they do not want to lose the human connection. By holding onto that mantra, you are missing out, and it is costing you. In this blog, we’ll review a few pieces of technology that you should have in your short-term rental if you’re looking to grow.
Your Own Website – And Booking Engine
If you want to grow your business, you need to get your brand out there. You can start small and simple, but a few important things to include on your website include:
- A method of booking that is not through an OTA. Make sure the “Book Now” button is prominent on every page.
- Mobile FIRST. We often hear “mobile-friendly,” but guests are so heavily dependent on their phones that you need to prioritize the mobile experience.
- Easy sorting and filtering of your property types. You know how your guests like to view your accommodations – maybe by size, location, or view. Whatever it is, make sure they can filter your results to find what they’re looking for.
- Professional photography. Using generic stock footage can help you along, but guests are visual and want to see real photos showing how beautiful your property is.
- Differentiators from your competition. Set your brand identity and focus on what makes you unique. You do not have to cater to every guest, but rather the ones who match your vision.
Guest and Staff Wi-Fi – Along with Automation
Guest data collection is made easy when you automate it through Wi-Fi captive portal registration. Gone are the days of entering a Wi-Fi password into the SSID field on the device. Guests easily become frustrated, you are opening a nightmare of hacking risks, and you are not taking advantage of the potential for guest data capture. The majority of guests (not just your booker) will provide their email addresses to ensure they have a stable Wi-Fi connection – an opportunity for you to add them into your PMS and marketing database.
Once you have this data – use it. Consider sending them a survey to identify any holes in your operations or units. Send them marketing promotions targeted at repeat and direct bookings. Provide them with incentives to book directly with you next time or to spread the word. And don’t forget: ensuring your Wi-Fi provider connects to your PMS or email automation tool is key here to save you time.
Also, consider asking your provider if they have set-up and management services for you to mitigate support calls or project management time. It’s a huge bonus to outsource this technical installation work to an expert.
There are a multitude of smart home (IoT – Internet of Things) technologies that you should consider if you haven’t already. From smart water monitoring, noise sensors (NoiseAware), smart locks (Operto), smoke sensors (FreshAir) and everything in between. Yes, there is a cost to using these systems, but you will save time by adding these to your units.
Get guests into your units safely and quickly by providing them with a code ahead of arrival. Deal with issues before the neighbours call to complain with a little text nudge asking them to quiet down. Save valuable costs from leaks or guest damage. These technologies are not meant to add more time to your day – you simply need processes in place to ensure they’re being managed in a timely manner. Don’t forget to check with these service providers on whether they offer any automation to minimize the human contact required of your team.
Regular Emails – Along with PMS Connectivity
It actually astonishes me how many properties/groups do not have a regular email campaign plan. Even something as simple as a confirmation or pre-arrival email. You need to maintain contact with your guests (past and potential). Prioritize getting the content set up so you can operate on a schedule and only require seasonal or special updates. Connecting to your PMS and email marketing tool is critical – these tools should always be the central source of truth for guest details. Don’t forget that you can gather guest details through contests, social media, or subscribers. Build a list and communicate with them.
You might be thinking, “I’m too busy trying to grow my business; I can’t possibly do all this too” – well, that’s fair. I feel you there. The important thing to remember is that once implemented, these practices will be built into your routine and become an easy part of your day. Automations help make the pieces work, and then it’s up to you to take care of growing your business and delighting your guests with another value adds. If the items in this list seem daunting and you don’t know where to start – pick one and only one. Starting small will allow you to get buy-in from others and, ideally, a little help too. Also, consider hiring a professional to help you move forward – a photographer, a marketing professional, a new graduate, or an industry expert. Piling more work onto your already busy staff may not get you where you need to be.