In the vacation rental industry, guest reviews can make or break your vacation rental. A host with good reviews will be able to charge more and will be booked a higher percentage of the year. Here are 10 ways to get the review train rolling in the right direction.
The quickest way to get a bad review is by trying to hide something from a guest before their arrival. Is your unit by a noisy street? Are you more than 30 minutes from the nearest shopping center? Disclose everything clearly. Even trying to spin a negative into a positive can wind up coming back to haunt you. Start with professional pictures that are up to date with any changes that have been made to the unit. The unit should always match the pictures as it’s the only reference point guests have. From there, make sure your description is accurate and inclusive. Don’t leave things out that may lead to a guest requesting a refund. Make sure your amenities are equally accurate as you never know which ones sold the guest on your unit.
Keep Furnishings Up to Date
Old furniture can immediately be off-putting to a guest and, in this business, if it isn’t new, it’s old. The lifespan of furniture in a vacation rental is much shorter than it would be in your own home. Guests simply don’t treat your furniture as gently as you would. Think of the last time you rented a car. It wasn’t brand new but it felt like it was. It was probably only a few model years old and after that it’ll be retired and sold off. Even after a professional cleaning, old worn-out furniture can feel dirty and the guests will notice. When picking furniture, make choices that appeal to the widest audience and not necessarily what’s perfect for you. Don’t worry if you plan on living in the space down the road, you’ll probably have to buy a new couch before then anyways.
Make Sure the Outside Matches the Inside
The outside of your unit is going to be every guests first impression of the rental. Strong curb appeal is very important. You want the guest to get good vibes from the moment they arrive. Keeping up with landscaping and maintaining the exterior furnishings of your rental property are just as important as the inside. This includes regular pest control if your unit is located in a tropical zone where pests are common.
Provide Simple Luxuries
Small things can make all the difference to a guest. Simple luxuries provide the guest with a feeling of being pampered. Don’t leave a guest wondering who else has used something. Individual serving shampoo and soap, bottled water, or a Keurig-style coffee maker can go a long way to put a guest’s mind at ease. That being said, avoid single-use items such as plastic flatware, paper plates, and disposable cups. These can cheapen the experience and increase the over head cost between guests.
Provide Basic Cleaning Supplies
While you will always have to clean the unit between guests, whether it’s a professional cleaning company or done in-house, it’s good to provide the guest with the ability to clean up after themselves. Especially in the case of longer stays, basic cleaning supplies can save you and your cleaners a fair amount of time and money. Anti-bacterial wipes, spare garbage bags, and a healthy supply of paper towels enable quick touch-ups to be done by the guest during their stay. Always stock your unit with a dust pan and broom.
Provide How-to Instructions
Whether you’re a management company or you manage your own personal rental space, the majority of questions you’ll receive from guests will be simple things. How do I turn on the TV? How do I set the AC? Where is the nearest grocery store/restaurant/hospital? By compiling instructions like this into a manual you can save yourself the time of answering the same questions over and over. Combine this with your welcome/guest sign-in book to increase its visibility in the unit. Make a list as more questions come up so you can update your manual as time goes on.
This process can be time consuming and won’t make you any extra money, but stating where everything goes allows a guest to put the unit back the way they found it and will cut back on repeat questions. For example: looking for spare linens for the pull-out couch? They will always be in the hallway closet across from the stairs on the third shelf labeled “Pull-Out Linens”. Then the guest and cleaners will know exactly where those linens go after they’ve been cleaned. Labeling light switches will help a guest feel at home more quickly. Especially any switch associated with a ceiling fan or air conditioner. If something has an on/off switch and is also attached to a wall switch it can cause confusion with the guest. This will also enable you to list the locations of things in your “How-To” manual.
Know Your Location and Clientele
Know why people choose your area to take their vacation. Simplifying your guests planning as much as you can will go a long way to getting a good review. Do you live near a beach? Provide things the guest might need for a day at the beach (i.e. beach chairs, beach towels, snorkel). You are literally providing things for guests to remember fondly as they write you a review. Don’t purchase things that are fragile or expensive to replace, especially if the item is easily lost or stolen.
Ask for Reviews
Don’t be shy about asking for reviews from happy guests. They are how you stand out amongst your competition. Find ways to ask the guest to leave you a review, especially if the guest is thanking you for such a pleasant stay. Including something in your automated messages is a great way to point the guest in the right direction. It’s important to make sure they know where to leave reviews. If you get a bad review, make sure to respond to it but never attack the guest. Always start from a point of understanding. “I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy your stay. We’re remedying your complaint and we hope to make your next stay with us more enjoyable.” This makes the previous guest feel heard and prospective guests will see how professional you are and that the concern was remedied.
Know When You’re in Over Your Head
It’s almost impossible to predict how much work a unit will be. This will change from guest to guest as well. If you have an especially needy guest, you might wind up running all over town to ensure you get a good review after their stay. When things become overwhelming, it’s time to bring in a professional management company. They can bear most of the burden for a portion of the revenue. You will still be responsible for the upkeep costs of the unit but a management company comes with knowledge, staff, and strong vendor relationships. Struggling to get a plumber out to your unit in a timely manner? Due to the amount of business that management companies generate for their vendors, they are often considered high priority to maintain a solid working relationship.