How many times in your life do you remember first impressions? The first thing a date said. The first day of a new job. The first thing you notice about a potential new home.
The first impression of a vacation rental is no different and significantly important when it comes to a guest's experience. As a property manager, those first interactions with a guest may set the tone for their entire stay with you as well as set the direction of their eventual feedback. Investing some time, money and thought in making a good first impression will reap many benefits. Here are some ideas to help welcome each and every guests in a warm and positive way.
1. Request a Pre-Arrival Survey. Once the booking is finalized, send a short survey to each guest to inquire about food allergies, particular trip concerns, or medical needs. Include optional questions about why they are visiting the area, ages of children if they are visiting, whether pets are tagging along, and what they hope to see. Explain that you are asking to be able to provide better service, but that the survey is optional to allow guest privacy as well.
2. Communicate Often. Once the guests are booked at your rental, be sure to send a personalized welcome note. Make sure this is not an automated communication. Although you don't want to overwhelm your guests with too much information, sending important data at this point is a good first step in opening communication. Be sure to ask if guest have questions during each interaction. Once they arrive, you may need to give them the same information again, reinforcing important information like house rules and ways to reach you.
3. New Guest Checklist. Create a checklist of all the things you or an employee needs to do before check-in for each guest. Include things like turn on lights, set the thermostat, check supplies, and heat up the hot tub. Take the opportunity to double check that everything is clean and well stocked.
4. Send a Driver to the Airport. If your guests are flying into town, consider sending a driver to bring your guests to your rental. There's nothing like stepping out of baggage claim to find an individual with your name on a sign waiting to take you to your final destination after a long trip. Charging them the same price as taxi service is acceptable.
5. Send a Greeter. If you manage your property on your own, plan to greet each guest upon arrival by name. Welcome them to your property and offer to help them carry in their luggage. Take the time to offer a quick tour of the home, but be sure not to overstay your welcome. Be sure to offer to answer any initial questions and explain how they can reach you throughout their stay. If you manage many properties, hire a greeter to do the same for each guest arrival.
6. Customize a Welcome Package. Take the information from the survey and customize a welcome package for each guest. For example, if guests are gluten-free and traveling with small children, you might leave some gluten-free snacks, locally made if possible, as well as information about area attractions for families. On the other hand, if guests are coming for a romantic getaway, you might leave a bottle of wine and a list of fine, dining establishments.
7. Focus on Local. So many cities in the United States look the same with chain retail stores and restaurants. Find the hidden gems in your city and help your guests experience them as well. This can include locally owned restaurants, tours of areas unique to your town, and experiences that are related to your region. You may be able to work with local businesses to offer discounts, coupons or tickets in exchange for the advertising service you are providing.
8. Include Visual Directions. Be sure you leave detailed but concise instructions for your thermostat, appliance operation or home entertainment system. If you can create a set of directions that are more visual in nature, they may be more appreciated than lengthy instruction manuals.
9. Leave a Welcome Gift. Remember those little mints some hotels used to leave on pillows? Just a small token of welcome goes a long way. If you can find something tailored to your guests as well as unique to your area, that would be an ideal welcome gift. Otherwise, find something edible that's produced locally, preferably free of common allergens.
10. Create an Information Folder. Besides providing individually tailored welcome packages, you may want to pull together some basic information for all guests like locations of nearby grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, pharmacies and the post office. Include important phone numbers or local maps as well as a calendar of local events.
11. Be Accessible. Be sure that your guests know the fastest way to reach you if they have questions, concerns or problems during their stay. Keep your phone nearby and answer it whenever possible. If you miss a call, be sure to return it as soon as possible. Although this can be a time-consuming offering, it will go a long way to ensuring a positive stay for your guests as well as a good review.
12. Set Clear Expectations. This is particularly important if you are hosting guests in a wing or room of your home. Be sure to explain whether you will be in your home while they are visiting or not. Some guests may welcome the opportunity to talk and visit with hosts while others will not. It's important to clarify these expectations before the guests arrive.
13. Provide a Mobile Phone. Although most people carry their own phones these days, it can be a nice gesture to provide one that is programmed with your number for use during their stay.
14. Watch Your Words. Many things can be said in different ways. Some phrases carry a positive, helpful connotation while others can be perceived as negative or shutting down conversation. For example, if a guest asks you for something that you cannot provide, instead of simply turning down the request, try to find ways to help the guest find what they need from another source.
Remember that first impressions matter, especially in the vacation rental business. If your guests are willing to share some information about their trip and themselves, use that information to tailor a welcome package just for them. If not, there are many other ways you can reach out and ensure a welcoming atmosphere by providing transportation, a treat, or simply being available and willing to help. Whatever welcoming efforts are made will pay off in positive guest experiences, five-star reviews, and increased bookings for your rental.