We’ve all probably heard the phrase “guest experience”. We use it in blog posts, on webinars, at industry talks. But when we strip away all the trappings, what does it actually mean? And why does it matter to short term rental owners?
These are the questions Tyann made it her mission to answer at the Short Stay Summit. As Touch Stay’s Queen of Guest Experience, she’s the best person for the job! She grilled four experts from every corner of the vacation rental industry to get to the bottom of why guest experience is so important:
- Matthew Loney – CEO of Xplorie
- Veronica Rivas – Director of Business Development at Homes & Villas by Marriott International
- Julie George – Author & Speaker at Million Dollar Host
- Andy McNulty – CEO & Co-founder of Touch Stay
This article is for any short term rental host looking to understand what guest experience is, why it’s important, and how you can excel at it. If this sounds like you, let’s get cracking!
What is guest experience?
This was Tyann’s very first question for her panellists. After all, there’s no point in trying to do something better before we’ve defined what it is.
Ultimately, guest experience does what it says on the tin: it’s the experience that guests have at your property. It’s the amenities, the communications, the local area, the added extras, all wrapped up into one big bundle.
For Veronica, the guest experience is everything that happens from booking through to post-departure. This includes:
- the communications guests receive
- the ease with which they arrive at and access the property
- the level of welcome they feel
- how smooth the check-out process is
Andy approached the question from a slightly different perspective. He and Joe founded Touch Stay because they’d had one too many rubbish experiences as guests. For them, these experiences came down to a lack of communication from their host.
So, for Andy, the guest experience is defined by guest communications. If you can anticipate your guests’ questions and serve them the answers before they even ask, you’re well on your way to providing an exceptional guest experience.
Enhance your guest experience with a digital guest welcome book
A digital guidebook contains all the details your guests could possibly need to enjoy their stay in one handy guest app. Use our guidebook template to insert practical property information, plus your personal recommendations for the local area.
You can then share your guidebook – either by pasting the link into your current communications, or by setting up scheduled messages in our guest alert system – from the moment your guests book. Encourage your guests to dive into your carefully curated welcome guide, and show them just how much you care about their stay!
Why short term rental hosts care about guest experiences
It’s pretty simple, really: if you can ace the guest experience, you’re more likely to see returning guests, 5-star reviews, and word-of-mouth referrals.
Matthew’s measure of a successful guest experience is one where departing guests are willing (or, even better, eager!) to big you up to their family and friends. Veronica agreed: Marriott International measures the success of their guest experience initiatives against the number of returning customers they see, and whether or not those customers intend to recommend their properties.
These pros know that nailing the guest experience is crucial to developing a strong reputation which entices new guests.
READ: How a magical experience at your vacation rental will cultivate guest loyalty
Return on your investment
Whilst improving your guest experience doesn’t have to cost a fortune, it might require some investment. Tyann asked her panellists: is it worth it?
Matthew’s response got straight to the point: what else would you put that money into? Physical amenities are certainly important (not to mention, they’re one part of your guest’s experience!), but they’re also degradable. They can be broken, damaged, or even lost completely if you have to change property.
However, if you can build a reputation for providing a stellar guest experience through personalised communications, efficient operations, and a warm welcome, your brand carries this with it wherever you go. Julie highlighted that the short term rental industry is only growing, and offering an outstanding guest experience is a surefire way to stand out from the competition.
Ultimately, word-of-mouth referrals and loyal guests convert into increased profits for your short term rental business. If you can build up an army of guests who come back year after year, and tell everyone they know to pay you a visit, you’ve got people doing your marketing for you! Plus, your prices can reflect the premium experience you provide, and the level of demand for your property.
WATCH: The role of guest review scores in listing site rankings
5 tips for improving your guest experience today
So, now that we’ve agreed on the importance of guest experience, here are our panellists’ top five practical recommendations for enhancing your guest experience.
1. Know who your holiday rental guest is
Julie’s key recommendation was to figure out your “guest avatar”. This means understanding the kind of guest who visits your property. Are they a couple celebrating their golden wedding anniversary? A family taking the kids away for a weekend in nature? A young solo traveller wanting to dive into the local culture?
If you can figure out why your guests are visiting you, you can start to tailor the experience you provide to the stay that they’re imagining. If your property is up in the mountains and guests are coming to experience the great outdoors, why not leave some basic walking equipment in the hall cupboard? It’s these little touches that’ll make them feel welcome and special from the get-go.
2. Provide a personalised guest experience
Now it’s time to move beyond the generic guest type. Use your post-booking communications to get some specific insights into each set of guests. If they’re staying with you to celebrate a birthday, Julie suggested leaving a birthday cake for them to enjoy when they arrive.
No matter why guests are coming to you, there are easy ways to show you care – another one of Julie’s ideas was to leave a welcome note. There’s no need to draft a new one each time. You can simply create a template and leave room for a few details specific to each guest’s stay.
Andy reiterated the value of personalisation when it comes to the tech you use. For example, you can share your digital guidebook with guests using Memo – our guest alert system. We’ve crafted message templates for you to send throughout your guest’s lifecycle with you, and each template allows for extensive customisations. Your guests receive messages that could only have come from you, and that could only have been sent to them.
3. Repeat your communications
Your communications are the crux of the guest experience you provide. If you can get the communications right, you’ll welcome guests who already feel prepared, informed, and excited for their stay with you.
Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself!
Andy’s key communication tip was to repeat, repeat, repeat! Guests are in holiday mode by the time they arrive with you – they just don’t want to have to think too hard. In the lead up to their stay, they’re busy packing, organising, and skimming those final work emails. So, your communications need to be friendly but to the point, and you need to really emphasise the crucial details.
Show guests why they need to engage with your communications. Identify the top five questions that guests ask you, and then tell them that you’re going to answer them. Get them to imagine a disaster scenario – turning up on the wrong day, packing the wrong wardrobe, driving to the wrong address – and then spell out how your communications will help them avoid this.
READ: What, how, and when to communicate with vacation rental guests
4. Test out your short term let
Matthew suggested that hosts stay in their property as a guest. He noted that if you’re going to try this tactic, you really need to commit to it. That means:
- booking via your online travel agency or direct booking site
- receiving all of your pre-arrival communications
- staying at least one night
Take a note of anything that doesn’t quite work, anything that’s missing. A great guest experience is one in which guests are able to arrive and seamlessly relax into their stay. Everything should just work.
If you’re able to, try staying in other local holiday rental properties that fall around your price point. Where does your experience land in comparison to theirs
5. Analyse what you could do better
Veronica was thinking along similar lines. She suggested that hosts trawl their review section to determine where they’re currently falling down.
- Are the instructions for the coffee machine clear?
- Is it easy to locate pots and pans in the kitchen?
- Was the check-in process smooth?
- Did guests feel they could contact you throughout their stay?
- Did they feel adequately prepared for their stay?
If your guests are already raving about your hot tub, there’s no need to invest a chunk of money in upgrading it to the latest model. That money would be better spent tackling the problems your guests are actually coming up against.
Ace the guest experience with a digital guest welcome book
Touch Stay digital guest welcome books allow you to share the right information, at the right time, with the right people.
Simply deposit all of your practical property information – from access codes to appliance instructions – and inspirational recommendations (best local cocktail spot, anyone?) into one digital guest app. Your visitors have all the information they need at their fingertips.
What a great guidebook you’ve put together for the house! We’ve been renting through Vrbo for more than fifteen years, and this is the best that I have seen!
– Guest of Debbie Kelner
Wave goodbye to unwieldy paper manuals and repetitive questions! You can start sharing your guidebook with guests from the moment they book, using deep links to highlight essential information. By the time your guests arrive with you, they’ll be primed to make the most of their stay, with no need for any last-minute texts or phone calls.
Happier guests and more time for you? It almost sounds too good to be true (we promise it isn’t..!). See for yourself – start your free trial today.