Because we’re in the welcome book business here at Touch Stay, we spend a lot of time thinking about guests’ attention spans.
How do we ensure hosts don’t pour time, attention and heart into welcome books that guests don’t read?
It’s a fair question. Research shows that, in this digital age, our capacity to pay attention is shrinking. And in the accommodations industry, specifically, we hear about broken property rules and negative reviews that could have been avoided if the guests had simply read the materials provided to them.
Hope is not lost, though! Plenty of guests do read your guidebook. Some read every word, in fact. Some—it’s true—will never read a single word. And still others skim for what’s relevant and skip the rest.
Some of this is out of your control. But not all of it.
You can take a proactive stance and influence whether guests read—and pay attention to—your guidebook. We’ve seen it in action! And now we’re going to share some of those tactics with you.
Below are some of the strategies our hosts have used, or that we recommend, to get guests to read your guidebook.
Bonus points if you make it to the end of this post! 🙂
Tactic #1: Offer persuasive reasons for them to click and read.
Do your guests fall prey to the highly contagious “vacation brain” syndrome? A phrase coined by Touch Stay’s own Tyann Marcink, “vacation brain” describes the mindset many guests seems to fall into.
“Vacation brain” is at work when guests expect your digital lock to auto-unlock after entering a code, totally missing the part where they must turn the deadbolt to actually unlock it. Or when the guest calls you for the WiFi password, which is plastered in no less than three places around your rental. Or when they call to tell you that the door code isn’t working…and then they realize they are at the wrong house.
Vacation brain is a tricky thing. It strikes early. Sometimes right after guests have booked their stay, and simply gets worse as their arrival approaches.
Here’s one potential antidote: Be very clear with your guests about why they want to read your guidebook.
So, why would your guests need or want to read your guidebook?
Because it contains access instructions?
Nope, not exactly.
Because it tells them where the nearest seafood market is?
Nope. It goes deeper than that.
The true “why” is that guests want to unwind, decompress, kick back, and simply not think. Fumbling around for access instructions ruins that. Spending hours searching for good seafood options ruins that. There’s your “why.”
And you can communicate that “why” directly with guests in your intro email. Let them know how the welcome book will be of benefit to them. Keep it short and simple, and draw them in by promising to answer their top questions—and include a list of those FAQs.
For example, Tyann’s guests were always asking about the closest grocery store, so that gets called out first. Here’s her example:
Your trip is almost here, and it’s time to unwind. Our digital welcome book from Touch Stay can help with that! Information provided includes:
- Nearby grocery stores
- Closest coffee shops
- Access instructions
- Wifi code
- Packing tips
- Bike shops
- and more
So take a few moments to check out our guidebook at this link (no download required!). It’s your shortcut to less stress and will start your trip off right.”
Think about your own FAQs. Maybe your guests would open your welcome book in a nanosecond if they knew what was inside: how to get discounted ski lift tickets, how to find the secret parking spot at the best beach, where to rent baby equipment, or where to grab a truly amazing dinner.
Whatever it is for your guests, you’ll want to entice them with the promise of useful information. Without that, why would they click and read?
Tactic #2: Include a TL;DR.
For our purposes here, we will essentially ignore the guests who won’t read a word. They’re a particular—and thankfully, small—group. (And there are ways to market your way out of attracting these less-than-ideal guests. But that’s another topic.)
Then we have the skimmers. You have hope of reaching the skimmers! These folks are simply time-poor, maybe distracted, and likely overwhelmed. Who among us can’t relate?
They also tend to be skilled at glancing at your guidebook to find the information that they’re looking for in the moment.
Your job is to help them with that.
The most clever example we’ve seen of a skimmer-friendly strategy is from a manager in Kuala Lumpur. They ingeniously included a TL;DR section in their guidebook.
If you’re not familiar, “TL;DR” is internet forum slang for “too long; didn’t read.” In other words, “We know this is a lot of information. Here is the meat of what we’re saying.”
The TL;DR section should include the most essential pieces of information that guests need to know, right up front. The “this will be bad for everyone involved if you don’t read this” info. The “this is the stuff guests will text about at midnight” info. And, of course, the WiFi password.
Worried guests won’t know what TL;DR means? Use a heading that has the same essence: “If Nothing Else Read This”, or “Critical Info: Please Read”. You might even get a little cheeky: “Hate Reading? This is For You!”, or “Short Attention Span? Read This”.
Hey, you might even pair it with a goldfish photo for some humour 😛
And then be sure to include a short sentence at the end that your guidebook includes lots of valuable and rich information for those that want to read on.
Tactic #3: Use your voice.
The truth is, when your guidebook details are written in a dry, “strictly business” tone, guests are more likely to ignore—or read it and immediately forget what they read.
There’s a reason that certain car insurance commercials are often hilarious and rarely about car insurance. The producers know that laughing makes people feel good, pay attention, and improves recall for their brand.
Like this one here in the UK:
If you incorporate some fun—even a bit of humour—in your guidebook, guests may read what you have to say, and, on top of that, will be more likely to remember what you said.
If you have a few jokes up your sleeve, don’t be afraid to use them! But even if you don’t moonlight as a standup comedian, you can engage guests with a friendly, person-to-person tone.
For example, Touch Stay’s templated access instruction content (which our hosts can use if they’re not feeling particularly creative) includes this section:
We will provide you with an access key code before arrival. This will allow you to check yourself in to the property. Please ensure you have the code before you travel. If not, please contact us. There’s nothing worse than arriving somewhere new (potentially at night) and not being able to get in!
It’s a human way of say, “If you don’t have your access code, you’re in for a rough start to your vacation.”
Compare that to something like: “Please ensure you have your access code before you arrive at the property.”
No wonder some guests don’t ensure they have it! The tone is dry and forgettable. Plus, it isn’t clear about why this information is important. In other words, the human-ness is missing. Don’t forget to be a human! Just because you’re not there in person, it doesn’t mean you can’t inject your personality.
[Bonus tip: the bolded content within that section allows for emphasis without the drama of ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, which can feel like a scolding elementary school teacher.]
Tactic #4: Use menus and subheadings.
Back to the skimmers again.
They’ll be more likely to digest what you say if you offer clear signposts to guide them through your welcome book. (Kind of like this blog post does.)
It makes sense: your guests probably don’t want to arrive at their vacation spot and then spend the next half hour learning every nook and cranny of your home, and they don’t need brunch recommendations at 4PM.
They want to find and digest information right in the moment it’s relevant.
By including a menu/table of contents, headings, and subheadings (like the rules in this blog post) for each section, guests can quickly and easily find what they’re looking for.
🌟 Coming soon: Touch Stay will have a snazzy search feature. Watch out for the summer release! 🌟
Tactic #5: Trim your word count.
As Mark Twain once wrote to a friend, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
Trimming back your words can be tough. But a big block of text can feel overwhelming—especially if guests are reading on a screen (as they often will be, especially with a digital guidebook like Touch Stay).
Sometimes it’s a matter of cutting extra words. Other times it’s about zeroing in on the most important info and eliminating the “fluffy stuff” that can easily be gleaned from context.
Here’s an example of a block of guidebook text about a hot tub in its more wordy form, and then an “after” that trims it back to the essentials:
Now let’s talk about the sparkling hot tub in the backyard under the pine trees on the back deck, which is cleaned between every set of guests. This hot tub seats six people and is a great place to relax with family and friends, but there are a few things you need to know before you get in. First, before you turn on the jets, lift the cover and tuck it behind the hot tub between the hot tub and the side of the house. To turn on the jets, look at the touchpad on the front of the hot tub, then use the up and down arrows to set your ideal temperature. We recommend about 102 degrees—not too hot, not too cold. The jets are also fully customisable so you can set them to your pressure preference…
You get the idea.
Now, here’s the bite-sized version.
Now let’s talk about the hot tub, which is sparkling clean and ready for you to enjoy. Simply:
- Pull up the cover
- Slide it between the house and the hot tub
- Turn on the jets.
To set your jet-power and temperature preference, use the up + down arrows on the touchpad. We find 102 degrees to be just about perfect.
Same information. Fewer words.
Having trouble determining what to cut? Consider having a word-savvy friend (or copyeditor) help out. Someone like Jessica Vozel (over at Guest Hook) has this incredible knack of sprinkling magic dust over badly written, overly wordy text. ✨
Tactic #6: Add visuals.
Some folks simply learn/process better with visuals. So, for example, along with your hot tub copy, include a photo of the controls so guests know exactly where to find it.
Better yet, make a simple video with your smartphone to demonstrate how to use the hot tub controls, just like one of our hosts did in his hot tub section. (That doubled as personality, too, as it featured him!)
But it’s not just about functional visuals. Most of us react positively to a beautiful photo and, in gaining our attention, we’re more likely to read the accompanying text.
If you made it here to the bottom of this blog post, we applaud you. It’s not easy to maintain focus on a 2,000 word article when the whole Internet is out there, just waiting to grab your attention.
Hopefully you found some tips here that ensure your guests appreciate the hard work you put into your welcome book.
Thinking about trying a digital guidebook for your accommodations business? Touch Stay is totally customisable and designed for its readability—and it can live in your guests’ pockets, right on their smartphone. Get in touch with us to learn more!