First impressions count, and for vacation rental owners, that means an outstanding guest check in process is paramount in making your guests feel welcomed and at home. Starting off on the right foot will also cast an overall positive feel to a guest's trip, helping to pave the way for a five-star review. Here are some ideas to help you tighten your guest check in process.
Invest in Reliable Cleaning Service
Whether you choose to clean your property yourself, hire a friend or relative, or use a professional service, investing in a top-notch cleaning person is important. This can involve more than just doing a thorough job, especially during peak vacation season when your guest turnover is fast. Be sure to pick someone reliable who can arrive shortly after check out and be done an hour before the next guest checks in. Your cleaning service should have a detailed check list to ensure they don't forget important items in between guests.
Provide Effortless Property Access
There's nothing more frustrating for a new guest after a day of traveling than to not be able to get into your vacation rental easily. Whether that means missing a physical meeting to get a key, the inability to open a lockbox, or a lost access code, difficult access is a certain way to downgrade your customer service rating.
To prevent these access problems, you can install a keyless entry system, which requires a key code for entry. These codes can be changed remotely and texted to the guests multiple times and easily. The downside is that they can be a bit expensive and tricky to install; however, the ease of entry and the added security of being able to provide a new code for every guest may warrant the investment.
If you live at or near your rental property, you can physically meet and welcome your guest. This can be a personal and pleasant option, but can be inconvenient if your guest guest is delayed by travel or arrives in the middle of the night.
Lockboxes that contain a physical key are a third option. These also can be accessed at any hours with a code; however, the code must be changed at the property. In addition, the physical key can be stolen or lost more easily with this entry system.
Share Clear and Concise Instructions
Once you have a confirmed booking, be sure to e-mail basic information such as directions to your property, a clear address, contact phone number, and parking instructions. Explain how to access your property, whether that is to meet you in person or the code for the lockbox or keyless entry system.
Many property owners provide a welcome packet or at least a one-page quick reference sheet that gives new guests important check-in information. Make it clear how they can contact someone for help, whether that be your own cell phone number or the information for a nearby neighbor or property management company.
Then, try to put together a frequently asked question list that includes instructions about controlling the heat or air conditioning, the passcode for the Wifi system, and the location of hidden appliances or extra blankets and towels. Extra information like addresses and phone numbers of local grocery stores, hospitals or gas stations are much appreciated.
Be sure to leave check-out instructions as well, especially the time guests must leave and what they should do with their garbage and recycling.
Provide a Local Contact
Although in some cases, guests may be able to navigate a rental property without on-site assistance, you want to be sure they have someone they can call if they have questions or an emergency with the property arises.
Providing either your own cell number or the number of a neighbor or property manager is helpful for those quick questions that can be answered by a call or a text. In addition, you want someone who can be at the property within 10 minutes if an on-site issue such as a plumbing problem or other repair issue arises during a guest's stay.
Ensuring that your guests feel well taken care of and that you are ready and waiting to help with go a long way to contributing to an excellent rating once their stay is over.
Make a Final Check
If you live near your rental property, try to make a final check in between guests. Use a check-list that you've developed over time to be sure you can quickly check every detail. Some things to be sure to double check include the cleanliness of every room, supplies like toilet paper and paper towels, functioning lights, and a working heating and air conditioning system.
You can also take this opportunity to add a personal touch like providing a snack or bottle of wine or welcoming your guests with a personal note. You may want to leave a few lights on, especially if you're expecting your guests in the middle of the night. Anything you can do to make your property warm and inviting will go a long way in helping your guests get off to a great start.
The Bottom Line
In the end, think of your own vacation experiences. What types of things to you appreciate when you are staying at a rental property, hotel or bed and breakfast? In some cases, these other lodging options provide amenities that are more difficult to replicate at a rental property. For example, a 24-hour front desk can be handy at a hotel. Think about how you can provide that level of service by providing a cell or text number that can be used around the clock.
Consider those things that you miss when you are traveling. It's much easier to provide personal service at a rental than at a large hotel. If you have been chatting with your guests and know they are coming to your property to celebrate a birthday or anniversary, think of little ways you can share your own congratulations as well with a personal note or small cake or bottle of wine.
One of the best ways to ensure great ratings is to simply be attentive from the moment you have a final booking throughout your guest's stay and even after they leave. If guests feel like someone cares about their vacation experience and is nearby at every step of the way to help things progress smoothly and as stress-free as possible, they will appreciate that.
Here's a quick checklist:
1. Immediately after you receive a final booking, provide a welcome e-mail with directions.
2. Be sure to be responsive to any questions before your guests arrive.
3. The day before or the day of arrival, re-send important check-in information.
4. Double check that your place is clean, ready and welcoming, and add any personal touches.
5. Make it easy for guests to get help and find answers during their stay. Anticipate needs and questions and try to stay ahead of your guests.
6. Respond quickly and compassionately to anything that does arise during their stay. Even if something terrible happens like your toilet overflows, your quick, positive and caring response can actually turn a disaster into a great review in how the situation was handled.
7. Make the check-out process easy and clear.
8. Follow-up after the trip is over. Provide a guest rating, and reach out with a personal request for feedback to each guest. This also gives you the opportunity to address any problems that may have been missed during the stay, apologize if necessary, and provide a a way to make things right. Again, publicly handling a negative situation in a positive way can be beneficial to your overall rating and perception by future guests.