Love it or hate it, we all travel with our devices. It’s an inescapable fact. Even your silver surfer guests (I know many) are now glued to their iPads whilst on holiday. In fact they have been for years!
Your guests find you online, they complete their booking with you online*, they receive booking confirmations and instructions via email, and they research their restaurants and activities online.
* I’m going to avoid a discussion of how they complete their booking – the dreaded (?) “book it now” is a subject for another time!
The challenge is how to effectively communicate with guests who manage most of their vacation planning online. How do you ensure that they are satisfied and have everything they need? After all, the final action of the digital guest is a digital review!
Cue the Vacation Rental App
From our very own Touch Stay, to HomeAway’s Hospitality app (formerly the Glad to Have You app), Coponis and Guestavo, there are now some interesting ways that you can provide an experience-improving stay for your guests.
These vacation rental apps store all the important information that a guest will need pre-stay and during-stay. Think of it a little like the old-school paper welcome book (that many vacation rentals actually still have) but in digital form, consumed via phones and tablets instead of via paper. Driving directions, where to park, how to access the rental, where to grocery shop, the best places to eat, the local farmers market, and so on. It’s a local guide for your guests. Create it once and use it for all future guests.
You’ll find 2 different types of vacation rental app: the mobile app (like Touch Stay) and the native app (like HomeAway’s). A native app is one that a guest downloads to their phone – think of the app store (apple devices) and the play store (android devices). A mobile app is accessed via a website connection and doesn’t require the guest to download the app to their phone.
So how do you choose the vacation rental app that is most suited to you and your guests’ needs? Here are 4 factors that are important to consider.
1. Native or Mobile Vacation Rental App?
I don’t believe the choice of native or mobile is important in a vacation rental app. Whilst a native app is sometimes preferred because it doesn’t require a network connection, a good mobile app will have a built-in process that stores the information in the guests phone so that it’s available offline.
Perhaps more important (in an industry that still clings to print) is the capability of the app to provide a print option, or to save as a PDF for print. Despite the age of the modern guest, I still talk to some vacation rental owners and managers who view this as an essential option.
In other words mobile or native isn’t the game changer. As with any product we use, the game changer is in the detail…
2. Quality of Content
Top of the list should be quality content that is useful and well presented. This isn’t about high gloss and polish, it’s about having a real guest in mind. Picture a typical guest, perhaps a couple enjoying a weekend retreat. They are looking for relevant information, that adds value to their stay, presented in a simple way.
I’ve seen countless paper welcome books which are deeply unloved relics. I could forgive the coffee stained and page curled look if only the content itself was like gold dust. But it rarely is. And that’s disappointing as a guest, particularly when I know from my years of being a guest that owners have a deep vault of knowledge that no other guidebook can touch!
Use this deep and local knowledge to provide extra value for your guests. This is a significant asset, unique to the vacation rental industry, that can really set you apart. Look for the vacation rental app that provides the structure and features for you to professionally present quality content to your guests.
A PDF or Word document are certainly capable alternatives, but they somehow lack energy and attention, and are certainly difficult to sift through and navigate. Which brings us to ease of use…
3. Ease of Use – For You & Your Guest
Us guests (yes I am a guest of 40+ years) like information, but we like it to be simple. We HATE chasing down important and useful information whilst trying to relax! It’s therefore important that any vacation rental app you decide to use has a simple guest interface. If they offer examples, try using them as a guest would and all will become clear!
It isn’t just about the guest. As an owner or manager you’ll certainly be looking for efficiency in your existing process. If a piece of software simplifies your life then it’s offering value. In the world of guest welcome books that value comes in the form of making the process of creating and maintaining your information simple, allowing you to focus on quality content. And, for those who own more than one property in an area, you need an app that allows one single repository of information to be replicated across all your properties. That’s efficiency!
4. What About a Vacation Rental App for the Pre-Booking Process?
I’ve focused above on the pre-arrival and during-stay experience. However you should probably also look for a vacation rental app that you can use throughout your booking cycle. Which means being able to use it in the pre-booking phase as a booking conversion tool.
You know the drill. You receive an inquiry/enquiry from a guest and you instantly jump into conversion mode. Likely (hopefully) you respond within a few hours, or within 24 hours at the most. You probably also agonise (or have agonised) over crafting the perfect email response wording.
What about if you could differentiate yourself from many other owners by including a link to your guest guidebook using a vacation rental app? Read more about using your guestbook as a vacation rental booking conversion tool.
This is not rocket science so the choice of app needs to be simple to grasp, easy to use, and save you time. As such try them out and ask: Can this app house all my usual pre-arrival questions, saving me time in answering them? Can this app give my existing welcome material a professional look and new lease of life that guests will actually value? Can this app be easily shared with guests? In other words keep it simple!
Whilst we’d love you to consider Touch Stay as your vacation rental app of choice, we do understand that there is a choice! If you’d like to try us for free (and that means free in the sense of your time as well as your money), have a look at our start up service. We’re also a decent and customer centric team, which translates in normal speak as “easy to work with”!