Lodgify had the pleasure of meeting Adrian Brown at the 2016 edition of the Vacation Rental World Summit in Barcelona where not only did he compere the event, but he also delivered an insightful presentation about how owners can make the biggest impact in each stage of the guest journey to increase income, bookings and repeat business. In this interview, Brown reveals what drove him to start his consulting business, secrets about perfecting the guest experience and solid advice for beginner vacation rental hosts.
Hi Adrian, first off, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a coach, consultant and mentor and my area of expertise is creating effective strategies to deliver outstanding customer experiences.
I have started two million plus businesses in the service sector, I have run a fabulous business and I have learned what happens when you have a soul-sucking albatross of a business that almost kills you… not the intended outcome.
What does your company, 2be2serve, do?
Simply put, I support business owners in developing really effective strategies for their business so that they can deliver their ideal customer the perfect experience. If you get that right and you have the right strategies in place, you will have a very successful and profitable business.
What’s the story behind 2be2serve?
I suppose the story of 2be2serve started at 4.00am at the bottom of a staircase in October 2013.
I was in a pretty low part of my life, I had had a heart attack some years earlier, I had gotten divorced and I was recovering very nicely from prostate cancer.
I was staying at a friends house and went downstairs and slipped on the top step. I grabbed the banister and the next thing I knew I was at the bottom of the stairs holding my arm in my lap and realized that my shoulder had completely dislocated. My arm was literally hanging on by half a tendon.
This forced me to stop and rest – I could not really do a lot else.
And I started to reflect on my career to date and realised that I have run some very successful businesses and I had learned a ton of stuff about how to run a successful business – and how not to. The latter is really important.
So I started typing one handed on my laptop and slowly, the framework that I use for my coaching, consulting and mentoring started to take shape. And the name came from the question “who do you have to be to really serve your staff, your customers and your stakeholders.
Your expertise is based on the guest experience. For you, in which stage of the journey does the guest experience begin, and why?
So many people get confused by what is meant by the guest experience. The thing is, we rarely know when a prospective customer or guest becomes aware of us, and that is the start of their experience – the moment they become aware you exist.
What would you say are some of the biggest challenges that you’re facing in order to help owners improve the guest experience?
The greatest challenge is with owners who think that the guest experience is NOT the most important thing for their guest or customer. Some owners get so excited about their new feature, the new shower, or the new decorations. These are all important of course you have to have a modern, well delivered product. But in the end, your profits are solely dependent on the guest experience.
Once an owner gets this – I mean really understands it – then more than half of my job is done.
The other big hurdle is getting owners to understand how to calculate the “return on investment” for their marketing activities. This can often prevent them from spending enough on a great campaign that works and conversely spend too much on one that doesn’t.
What role do teams/vacation rental business employees play in improving the guest experience or in meeting expectations?
The brand of a business or property is made up of “everything that impacts the relationship between your consumer and your products and services”. Stop and think about that for a few moments and then the answer to your question becomes clear.
A vital role. Because the quality of everything that they do impacts the brand! It impacts the relationship between the guest and the property. It influences the experience of the guest at a granular level.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in guest expectations and demands from when you started your career to now?
From a pure hospitality point of view, there have been hardly any changes in the last 100 years. Your guests want to be looked after, they want their needs met, they want their wants satisfied, they want to have THEIR perfect experience.
How this is delivered has changed and will continue to change almost by the minute. So because the tools have changed, guests expect to be better taken care of. They expect us to almost be fortune tellers, and the great operators are!
The vacation rental market is changing because the lines between the hotel and the rental property are blurring. As guests demand more and more services, and thanks to the advent of Airbnb, the opportunity to “serve” the guest is increasing and this bring huge opportunities to property owners.
What role do you think technology is playing in improving the guest experience?
It can play a huge role, as long as it is thoughtfully deployed. Just using technology for the sake of it can be a real barrier to the guest experience. The guest experience is only 30% down to the product. It is 70% down to the people and processes. So where technology can support the people and simplify the processes from the guest’s perspective, it is great.
How do you imagine this trend to continue as new technologies develop? (thinking about things like artificial intelligence, completely automated processes and smart homes). How could new technologies negatively affect the guest experience?
Hospitality is all about service, giving pleasure, interacting intimately, and appropriately, with the guest. Any technology that removes the human interaction must, I repeat MUST, deliver an experience that goes far beyond what can be done by a human. It can’t just replace the human element.
Examples of where this has gone horribly wrong are automated telephone answering systems and self service checkouts at supermarkets. Recently I checked into a flight and the only time I interacted with a human being was at the moment I boarded the plane!
What is the most important piece of advice you would give to an owner who is just starting their vacation rental business?
First and foremost, be absolutely crystal clear about the PURPOSE of your business. Included in that is make sure you really understand WHO your guest is and WHAT it is that they VALUE.
Design your business, and by that I mean everything, to deliver your IDEAL guest their PERFECT experience PROFITABLY. It is worth investing a lot of time in this before you even buy the property. A great place to start would be by downloading my free worksheet Unlock Your Business Purpose.
Finally, is there anything else we didn’t mention about the guest experience that you simply have to share with us?
I suppose for me, the one thing many business owners don’t understand is the impact that motivated, inspired and engaged staff can have on their guests. I recently got married to Wendy and for our brief “minimoon” we spent three nights at the wonderful Goring Hotel in Victoria, London.
One afternoon, we walked past one of the private dining rooms to take a sneaky peak at the beautiful setting. We were “caught” spying by a member of staff carrying something to the bar.
He welcomed us into the room and explained the amazing handmade wallpaper – it was silk – and the furniture, and told us that they were awaiting some specially commissioned dinner service that would be set off by the decor. It was beautiful, and that was the 30%. The experience of this young man passionately explaining all of this, beaming with pride made all the difference. But for me, the bit that made it so perfect an experience were his last words: “We are all so proud of the hotel”… and you could tell he meant it.