Digital guest communications saw a huge upsurge in early 2020. With the onset of the Covid pandemic, it was no longer possible for hosts to meet guests at the door to their vacation rental property. Creative digital communication solutions filled the gap.
And yet, digital communication strategies have benefits far beyond their facilitation of social distancing. They help short term rental hosts to communicate more efficiently and more consistently. Efficient, consistent communications save time for hosts and enhance the guest experience.
So, if you’re a holiday rental owner who wants to find a more effective approach to communicating with guests, this one’s for you. We’re going to outline some simple digital communications strategies that will support your short term rental business – even help it grow!
Why a digital communications strategy makes sense for your holiday rental business
First of all, let’s go into a bit more detail about why it makes sense for you to take advantage of digital communication tools. As we mentioned above, it essentially boils down to:
- Time saved for hosts
- A better experience for guests
Although it also:
- Reduces the hygiene issues of having a multi-touch manual in the property
- Reduces the environmental impact of printed guest information
But how exactly does digital communications technology achieve this? Well…
Digital communications allow more flexibility for hosts and guests
There’s a whole lot of logistics involved in welcoming guests to your holiday property in person. And whilst a personal greeting is a warm gesture, at the end of a long journey your guests may not actually want to add another social interaction to their day. They might just want to let themselves in and flop.
Digital communications allow you to extend the same warmth to your guests without the complications of an in-person greeting:
- You don’t have to block a chunk of time out of your day, and…
- you might be able to offer a more flexible check-in window
A Touch Stay digital guidebook contains all the info you might give to guests upon meeting them – access instructions, guidance about appliances, recommendations for the best local cafe – and they can access it from their phone. You can inject as much personality as you like, so that they still experience your voice – but they can experience it on their own terms, in their own time. See how Fields Lodge B&B achieves this.
DISCOVER: everything you need to know about the digital guidebook
Guest communication software saves time across the guest lifecycle
Digital guest communication platforms often offer the option of automating your communications. If you can take out the manual task of typing and sending messages, you’ll save yourself hours of time. Plus, your communications will become more consistent – no more forgetting to send out the access code! – which will improve your guests’ experience.
You might be nervous that automating your messages will result in less personalised guest communications. But modern digital communications tools work wonders! For example, Memo 1.0 – our guest notification system – makes it super easy for you to customise your messages. Each message will reflect your personal voice, and will be perfectly suited to that specific guest.
All you have to do is create your templates, set up your fields, and schedule your messages. Memo 1.0 will deliver the right information, to the right guest, at the right time, without you having to lift a finger.
LISTEN: to Episode 5 of The Guest Cast, in which John McElligot explains the value of balancing tech with human contact
Regular, early communications enhance the guest experience
Digital communication strategies allow you to get in touch with guests earlier and more regularly. You might think it’s enough to touch base with guests 2-3 times before their arrival date. Tyann, Touch Stay’s Queen of Guest Experience, contacts her guests around fourteen times between booking and arrival! She uses a mixture of communication channels:
- Property management system
- Touch Stay’s invitation system
- Phone call
- Thank you card in the mail
Not every one of these is a digital communication channel, but without her templated emails and scheduled invitations from Touch Stay, Tyann wouldn’t have the time to organise the phone call or the thank you card.
Tyann provides a great experience for her guests by staying in regular touch throughout their visit. Even if guests miss crucial information in one email, they’ll get it via a text, or by looking in Tyann’s digital guest communications app. They feel prepared and informed from the get-go, and know that they’re staying with a host who truly cares.
Nat and Tyann over-deliver on the experience of staying at their historic Airbnb. Before we checked in we received multiple emails containing travel tips and what to expect, which makes the process of getting there so much more stress free. The online website for their guests is amazing!! Definitely will be back!
– One of Tyann’s recent guests
How to develop your digital communications strategy
The definition of great communication for your guests is knowing what they need to know, when they need to know it. A digital communication strategy can help you deliver this.
So, here’s our guide to developing the top five digital communication strategies that’ll help you ace the guest experience (without losing time to lengthy phone calls and repetitive emails!).
1. Establish a guest communication flow
A vacation rental guest communication flow can be as simple or as advanced as you’d like it to be. It could be a quickly mapped-out flowchart, or a network of fully automated communications. The key aim is to develop a communication plan that you can stick to.
Knowing when and how you want to communicate creates a consistent experience for each guest who comes to stay with you. You won’t be scrabbling around trying to find the door code as they get off their flight – you’ll have texted it to them 24 hours before they arrive.
A simple guest communications planner is a good starting point. It’ll help you to order your thoughts and remind yourself of what needs to be done, but it still relies on you remembering to craft and send each message.
If you want to make life easier, you could start using software to help you schedule messages to send automatically. Our guest alert system – Memo 1.0 – helps you to keep your guests in the know by pointing them to specific sections in your digital guidebook at set times before, during, and after their stay. All you have to do is set up your communication flow by scheduling your messages. Then, move onto the more interesting stuff.
2. Create templates for your messages to guests
Most of your communications with Vrbo, Booking.com, and Airbnb guests will probably happen via email, SMS, or a booking platform guest messaging system. Establishing a template for each of these messages is a super easy way to cut down on the time you spend sending them.
Once you’ve determined what your communication flow will be, simply draft the body of each message. Make sure to write it in a tone that reflects your brand and personality, and leave space for a couple of details to personalise it to each guest:
- Guest name
- Arrival date
- Size of the party
- Extra services they’ve requested
- Any interests or events they’ve mentioned in relation to their stay
You could even write a few different versions of your opening sentence, depending on whether you’re talking to a family group, a couple, or a single traveller.
You’ll still be crafting personalised communications, but it’ll take you significantly less time to send them. To make things that bit easier for you, Memo 1.0 contains pre-written templates, so all you have to do is:
- Select which templates you want to use
- Schedule your messages
- Welcome happier, more informed guests
3. Add a digital guidebook to your guest communications toolkit
How many phone calls have you received from disgruntled visitors who can’t for the life of them figure out how to turn the washing machine on? How many times had you already explained, written, emailed, or texted the instructions?
Perhaps you already have a printed holiday rental house manual for this very reason. It’s sitting pretty on the kitchen table (until someone spills their coffee), and contains practical property info plus your recommendations for how guests can spend their time. It should act as a complete guide for guests to turn to with any and all questions.
And yet, guests still won’t read it. Or, they skim through it, before forgetting the name of that lovely bagel spot you recommended. Cue another text when you’re in the middle of something else.
A Touch Stay digital guest app solves these problems and more. Guests access it through a shareable URL – no need to install an app or download a PDF. They simply pin it to their home screen for easy, offline access, and they’re good to go.
You can send the link to guests multiple times before they even leave for their holiday (or get Memo 1.0 to send it for you). You can even use deep links to direct visitors to the juicy details. Guests arrive with you knowing that all the crucial information is at their fingertips.
86% of Touch Stay users halve the time they spend managing their guests. You read that right! That’s half the time fielding emails, texts, and phone calls, because your guests have everything they need in their pocket.
READ: about how one Touch Stay user shares essential property information with her guests.
4. Share your guidebook with a guest notification system
As we mentioned above, it’s all very well establishing a guest communication flow, but you then have to implement it. We know you’ve probably got a to-do list that stretches down to the floor. Whether you run multiple holiday properties, or you’re juggling your short term rental property with other employment and family life, it’s easy for tasks to get lost.
And yet, forgetting a small task such as sharing the access instructions with your guests has a huge effect on the quality of their stay. Their first impression of your property is a locked door that they’re stranded on the wrong side of. This is unlikely to prompt positive feedback, and those 5-star reviews are so important for attracting new guests.
A guest notification system takes this task off your plate for good. Memo 1.0 shares your digital guidebook with guests as many times as you need throughout their stay. You can choose to surface different sections of the guidebook in each scheduled message, and include as much extra information as you need. With fully customisable templates, your guests will receive the exact info they need, when they need it, and they’ll be able to feel that it came from you.
5. Add an analogue touch to your digital communications
We get it if this sounds like a paradox! All we mean is that topping off your digital communication strategies with a physical welcome note, or a thank you card in the mail, will help to nurture your guest relationships.
Let’s take the welcome note as an example. Guests will love arriving to find a signed welcome letter waiting for them next to the welcome basket. It adds a truly personal element to their stay, and lets them know that you were thinking of them before they even arrived.
You don’t have to write out a new welcome note for every new set of guests. As with your other communications, you can establish a broad template and simply insert a couple of lines that are personal to these particular visitors. Then, when you or your cleaning team are preparing the property for their stay, you can simply sign it and prop it up in a visible spot.
You can even leave a QR code at the bottom of the note, which guests can scan to access your digital guidebook. This provides a fluid transition back into your digital communications, and reminds them again to check out your personalised guest book for tips and tricks.
READ: How to write a welcome note that makes your guests smile, for more in-depth guidance.
Achieve personable digital communications with Touch Stay
We know that you didn’t get into hosting because you wanted to sit behind a desk scheduling emails. The heart of short term rentals is in the passion that hosts have for sharing their property and their local area with visitors. And that’s exactly what we want to help you do.
With a digital communications strategy, you’ll free up your time to focus on the elements of hosting that bring you joy. A Touch Stay digital guidebook, teamed with Memo 1.0, makes your information sharing simple and effective. Wave goodbye to last-minute phone calls and never-ending email chains. Your guests will have all the information they need (and more!) in their back pocket.
Touch Stay has cut down on those nitty gritty details such as how to work the hob, or how to use the remote control. It gets guests talking to us about more interesting things. Touch Stay helps us facilitate deeper conversations.
– Bob Garner, owner of Casal Dei Fichi
Implementing digital communication strategies means more time for you, more clarity for your guests, and a more relaxed stay for everyone!