How much tech do you use to deliver your guest experience? Or are you all about the human touch?
Last week’s conferences in the UK (Short Stay Summit and The Book Direct Show), France (Vacation Rental World Summit) and the US (Florida VRM Xtravaganza) were dominated by tech. But they were also dominated by a consensus that tech ‘done right’ enables a better guest experience.
Breezeway’s Jeremy Gall couldn’t have put it better:
You're freed up to deliver human touch when you need it, and people really feel it.
How do you choose the right tech stack?
Here’s the question!
During a panel at the Short Stay Summit with Hospiria, Avantio and Kigo, the challenge of there being too many tech options for hosts and managers came to the fore.
We all recognise the need for efficiencies and we know that tech can deliver those, but in an industry renowned for its diversity of offering is it possible to create a one size fits all tech stack?
The answer is no, simply because our industry is fragmented. That fragmentation is the joy of our industry, it’s our USP, our differentiator next to bland hotels. Every location is different, every home is different, and every host has a different brand. You pick the tech that suits your business, not the one that your competitor adopts.
The good news?
There are some standout companies delivering great products at very affordable unit prices. This ultimately enables hosts and managers to pick and choose what’s affordable for them and works best in managing listings, processing bookings, and communicating with guests.
The bad news?
It’s tough to find the right tech stack, to know beyond the sales pitch whether a particular product or service is the right one for you!
Andrew Schultz of NoiseAware positioned the challenge perfectly:
He urged attendees to identify what will help them spend “less time on managing, more time on guest experience.”
As a guest experience solution, Team Touch Stay was delighted to hear that!
Filipa Leitão de Aguiar, who runs Rent4Rest in Portugal, had some terrific advice during a panel titled “Another Week, Another PMS”. Her wise words:
I chose my PMS because of the support service, because I know a real person who I can talk to when I need support.
Sound advice and a great question to ask any potential tech provider during the sales cycle.
Ultimately, any tech decision you make should generate you and your team efficiency gains, gains that you can reinvest into guest experience and brand building.
Operational efficiency ≠ higher review scores
Beware the operational efficiency gain that dents your review scores was another theme from the week. At the Vacation Rental World Summit it was eye-opening to see AirDNA’s presentation on the inverse relationship between size of operation and review score.
Specifically, how larger property management companies tend to have a lower average review score than smaller hosts and operators.
Andy facilitated a roundtable discussion where a Spanish property manager with 200 homes asked the table “How can I stop my average review score falling as I grow? What am I doing wrong?”
The answer from the table?
Remain personable and human as you scale. Embrace tech, but be careful that it doesn’t detach you from the guest.
It was interesting to hear another property manager on the roundtable (with 275 properties) explain how they have mapped the guest journey from booking to arrival, with some very personal moments through the journey. Specifically, a call to every (yes, every) guest prior to arrival.
Sounds horribly inefficient, right?
Well, let’s break it down. The calls are, on average, 2 to 3 minutes long. Quick maths, for 275 properties with 30 bookings a year per property, that’s probably 10 weeks of customer service time for an entire year.
If that keeps the review score consistently high, it’s what you might call a ‘no-brainer’.
This point was reinforced by Chris Stephenson, Senior Director of Homes & Villas by Marriott:
Be more empathetic, think through the guest journey.
This is a people business.
What is tech’s role in guest experience?
If you view guests as more than an income stream, then you’re halfway to nailing guest experience. Quite literally it’s the experience guests have when booking and staying with you. The better the guest experience, the more likely they are to talk-up your accommodation, recommend it to others and even book again.
Guest experience is what we’re all about. We created our digital guidebooks to enhance our own experiences as guests – whether that’s knowing how to access a property late at night, helping guests plan their visit, or making it easy for them to depart on time and know where to leave their rave review.
Our version of vacation rental tech is designed to aid communication, to automate it in a helpful and enhancing way, no invasive tactics required.
However, at times, in our Touch Stay bubble, we’ve felt that we are the only ones talking about guest experience. In the time we’ve been operating, the ecosystem of tech options open to hosts and property managers has exploded, but only a handful of them have targeted improving the guest experience as part of their persuasive tactics with hosts.
The conversations last week at the various events definitely indicated a positive shift in the focus of guest management. Steve Davis from Operto said it best:
Don’t automate humans out of the guest experience.
Tech is about creating efficiencies for you and more delights for your guests.
How much time could tech save you?
Kelly Odor of Bookster asked the audience attending her direct bookings versus OTAs panel how many guest messages hosts received last month. Quantifying that is the first step in understanding how much guest management zaps your time – often without realising it.
The next step might be identifying where you could best apply that saved time. Perhaps those last minute bookings would be less hassle because you’d have more time. Maybe those tweaks to your listing photos would get done, or that new favourite restaurant in town could get added to your digital guidebook recommendations.
One more time: “Don’t automate humans out of the guest experience.”
Let’s put that another way. Adopt tech to save time, but not to detach yourself from guests. That doesn’t mean putting the saved time back into endless guest communication, but into smarter guest communication, delivered by a better mix of technology that allows you to be human when it really counts. And watch your business grow.
Quality in the service provision that’s enabled by time saving tech is going to improve and grow your business.
- Jeremy Gall
Would digital guest communications help you?
Consider the ROI of not having to answer that one question that every guest asks because it’s answered in your digital guidebook and presented to those guests before they even think to ask it.
Not bad for a product that costs just $99 (£75) a year for a single property (or less and less for managers adding multiple).
Choose the template that’s right for you and get your 14-day free trial started today.