One of the most common questions we get asked at Touch Stay is: how should I best manage my guest communication? It’s a conundrum we’ve been pondering, with a solution we’ve been refining, for quite some years.
What we do know is that good guest communication is crucial to every hospitality business. But – there’s certainly a fine line between not enough and too much. It’s very much a Goldilocks and the Three Bears kind of situation! To keep guests happy we need communication to be just right.
But what is “just right”? And more specifically, when ought your guest communication start and finish?
Knowing when to start and stop guest communication is a subtle art – but it can reap huge rewards. So we’ve examined how to do this based on our knowledge of the market, along with a couple of our own experiences as guests.
Starting guest communication: your marketing
It’s easy to assume that marketing and guest communication are separate entities, but think about it like this: marketing material in any form is likely to be the first contact your guest has with you. Therefore how you market your business forms a crucial part of your guest communication.
That means it’s extra important to have functional, on-brand and compelling marketing content that speaks to your guests’ needs and wants.
To clear up any doubts, marketing counts as any touchpoint where your guests come into contact with you and your property. These can be:
- Social media
- Your website
- Print ads
- Digital ads/google ads
- Your property’s photos and copy on listing sites
This initial communication is crucial to the overall guest experience. After all, this “pre-booking” phase is the phase that ends in a booking, so it’s important you’re communicating the right things in the right way at the right time.
For example, if you’re focused on showing your amazing location, make the location the focal point of your marketing. Use impressive imagery and detailed descriptions to capture your potential guests’ imagination.
Equally, if you’re more focused on the unique aspects of your property, this should be focal in your marketing collateral. Place attention on the attractive attributes of your home above anything else.
By doing this, you’re likely to attract the right type of guest in the first place – the one who’s looking for the exact type of experience you offer. In addition, you’ll get your guest communication off to a good start when they do convert. After all, you’re selling what they’re looking for – now all you need to do is live up to their expectations!
The relationship between guest communication and the guest experience
Once your guest has booked, it’s time to start the real “guest experience” – something that starts way before they arrive. And you guessed it – the guest experience starts with guest communication!
In the weeks and days leading up to your guests arrival, how you communicate with your guests can go a long way to helping them feel safe, secure and excited about their upcoming trip. In many ways, this communication sets the tone of their entire stay.
There are lots of ways to do this. You can:
- Send guests information about the local area
- Send guests ideas about things to do when they arrive
- Send a personalised email/message thanking guests for booking
- Send guests a copy of your digital guidebook with all the information included
How Touch Stay helps with pre-stay communication
This “pre-stay” communication is something we’re pretty serious about at Touch Stay. We recognise that it has a really tangible impact on guest experience, and is a huge reason we designed our digital guidebook in the first place.
That’s why we recommend sending our guidebooks in advance of the trip to help guests gather all the information they need before they arrive. Depending on what you include in your guidebook, our digital guidebooks also serve as a great tool to get your guests excited about their upcoming trip.
However, we know that some Touch Stay users have felt unsure about exactly when to share their guidebook with their guests. Some have security concerns around revealing information about door codes and addresses too early.
But in our experience, the earlier guests see the guidebook, the better. Your Touch Stay guidebook can form a compelling part of your guests’ entire stay, and there’s proof that this increases the likelihood of having happier guests (and better reviews for you!) Regarding security concerns, data like door codes can (and should) be changed for every guest and sent in a separate email or text.
How to communicate with your guests once they’ve arrived
Once your guests have arrived, it’s time to up the ante communication wise. But beware: there is such a thing as too much or too little communication. So, here are some guideline to follow:
Guideline one: Make sure your communication complements your guests’ stay – not intrudes or becomes a point of frustration.
We have a good story to demonstrate how too much can be an experience killer. Kate, a Touch Stay colleague, was staying in a lovely property in South Devon. After she arrived, the host called her directly to make sure everything was ok with the check-in. At first she was pleased to receive the call and clarified that everything was fine.
However, the conversation didn’t end there! After expressing relief that everything was ok, the host continued to talk to Kate for half an hour, recalling in detail why he’d changed his property management company and why he’d been worried about her check-in. This left Kate feeling obliged to talk to him, leading to frustration and annoyance that the host had taken up so much of her time.
While there was no ill-intention on the host’s part, this over-communication had a detrimental effect on Kate’s experience, and it’s a perfect example of how communication and experience can go hand in hand – for worse!
Guideline two: Be personal, but then make it easy for your guests to come to you.
Personal touches are king in the world of vacation rental hosting. But that doesn’t mean you should be texting your guests every day checking in. Instead, focus on personal gestures and then make it known that you’re available if they need you.
I have a lovely example of when a host did this perfectly. I stayed in a home in Santiago de Compostela in Spain where my host welcomed me personally, offered me homemade cookies and coffee, chatted to me for 15 mins and then left me to it and told me to reach out if I had any problems. I was thrilled with the personal introduction, but excited to get on with my trip.
Unfortunately, on my last day, I was struck down with a nasty case of tonsillitis, rendering me all but feeble.
Scared and travelling alone, I reached out to my host for help – and she came through in the most remarkable way. She arranged for me to see a doctor, made me soup and brought it to me (in bed!!) and told me I could stay longer for free should I be unable to travel back home the next day. For me, it was the perfect host experience, made up of just the right amount of communication and personal touches.
The amount of communication guests want will always differ – but as long as you make things personal, friendly and keep that communication open, that ought to do just the trick.
Guest communication when hosting remotely
More and more hospitality professionals are hosting remotely these days – in part because of the pandemic, and also because technology now provides a lot of freedom for non-contact hosting (key locks, digital guidebooks, etc).
If you’re a remote host, it might feel like you need to communicate more because you’re not there to meet-and-greet in person. But don’t be tempted to over communicate.
Instead, focus on creating personal touches that make your guests feel welcome, and make it as easy as possible for them to reach out to you should they need you.
We’ve written an entire article about how to manage vacation rental properties at a distance – there are a lot of great ideas about how to create effective personal touches in there. We also have this customer case study about how Touch Stay has helped one of our hosts to better host remotely. Check them out.
Keeping communication alive post-stay
Read this and let it sink in: guest communication doesn’t end once your guests have checked out! Every guest could be a repeat guest.
Look at it like this: you’ve worked hard to make sure your guests had the best possible experience, so there’s really no reason why they won’t one day return. This is especially true during times of limited international travel.
But, no matter how much fun they had in your property, the “out of sight, out of mind” element can always prevail, so you need to make sure you stay top of their mind when they start planning another break.
This is where post-trip communication can be really powerful. This can be as subtle as asking them to follow you on social media, or adding them to a guest newsletter that you send out once a month with updates about your property or area. Or even sending them a real card in the mail to thank them for staying with you and inviting them back again.
Whichever way you choose to do it, remember to be consistent and true to your brand’s tone of voice. If you’ve been consistent throughout your guest communication, the familiarity previous guests will feel when they see your brand post-stay could go a long way in helping you bring them back for a second, third or fourth visit.
Touch Stay – making your guests happier
At Touch Stay, we want to help you keep your guests happy, and great guest communication plays a huge part in that. And the more happy guests you have, the more 5 star reviews roll in – and that equals more business!
Our digital guidebooks are designed to help you keep the guest communication en pointe and efficient.
It costs nothing to give it a try, if you haven’t already!
Start your 14-day free trial and see how we can help you improve your guest communication.