Staying in a hotel can be one of the most exciting parts of a vacation. Guests aren’t made to feel like rock stars by accident! Their excellent experiences comes from hotels who really know what they’re doing, by consistently offering great customer service. As vacation rental owners, you can learn a lot from top hotels! And by implementing some of their techniques, you too can offer a five-star experience to your guests.
It all starts with hello
Some of the best hotels in the world get their great reputation simply because they make guests feel important. From the moment a guest checks in, or even when they are making their reservation, one key personalization technique that luxury hotels use is name use.
Using someone’s name is the easiest way to make him or her feel special, showing them that they are more than just a room number. There are so many different ways to use a guest’s name that sound friendly and natural.
In the vacation rental industry, interacting with guests can be much more intimate and personal than at a large-scale hotel. Ending or beginning conversations with the guests’ names (“Hey Mike, thanks for calling!” or “Good question Judy, let me clarify”) can make guests feel like they are talking to a friend rather than a stranger.
If meeting the guest upon check in is part of your check-in process, you have even more opportunities to provide excellent service before they step in the door. Greeting them with a smile, answering their questions, making eye contact, and giving them a tour of the home makes them feel like you want them there and that they are welcome. After a long day of travel, a genuine and friendly face is always appreciated.
Show guests you value their time
Another way hotels offer five-star service is by striving for fast, friendly and stress-free check-in and check-out processes. They know guests have been driving all day with cranky kids or dealing with delayed flights and long queues, and all they want to do is arrive safely.
If they have to drive to a totally separate place to pick up their keys, or have to wait ages for their keys, chances are they won’t be happy. Making the check-in process quick and easy is a great way to start a vacation, and will show guests that you value their time.
Listen and follow through
During the reservation process, engaging the guest in conversation and getting some personal information can also help you provide five-star service. Asking about why they are coming, who they are coming with, and if they are celebrating anything special gives you an opportunity to personalize their vacation before they even arrive.
Hotels often put strawberries, champagne and roses in the Honeymoon suite, or balloons and a small gift for a child who is celebrating their birthday. It’s not difficult for vacation rental owners to do the same. A small gesture goes a long way, and guests will always appreciate a thoughtful host – it’ll certainly be reflected in their review!
Food and free stuff
There are two things that most people (especially guests) will never decline: food and free stuff!
It’s customary for hotels to stock their bathrooms with toiletries for their guests to use, but many go above and beyond any guest expectation. Some hotels offer free travel-size bottles of sunscreen or bug spray, while others leave complimentary bottles of water, coffee or even wine in the room for guests. Certain hotels go as far as to offer shaving kits, books, headphones, toothbrushes or other luxuries that guests may have forgotten to pack.
Supplying your guests with a small “welcome pack” at your vacation home, which includes travel-sized toiletries, tea, coupons for pizza delivery, or pool toys (for homes with swimming pools) can make the guest feel like they’ve really hit the jackpot by renting your home.
While on vacation, guests will often take pleasure in eating as many delicious meals as possible. Since calories don’t count away from home, many guests visit the on-site and local restaurants regularly during their stay.
Hotels have the time, money and resources to whip up five-star meals to impress their guests, but unfortunately, vacation rental owners may not. However, a simple gesture such as offering guests suggestions for local restaurants, giving them directions to the closest grocery store, or even stocking the home with a few cupboard essentials can leave a lasting impression.
As breakfast is the most important meal of the day, many travelers pick their accommodation based on whether or not they can get a free breakfast. It may not be realistic for you to offer a three-course meal for every guest in the morning, but having bagels, cereal and toast on hand is a thoughtful gesture, much-appreciated by a tired traveler.
Some families want to arrive at their vacation home, do whatever is required of them to check-in, and never see or hear from you again. Others want to sit down with you and rack your brains about all your insider knowledge of the area, your favorite dinner spots and the rest.
Interaction with guests depends on the comfort level of both parties. It is important, however, to touch base with your guests at least once or twice while they are there.
Guests at a hotel will run into hotel employees multiple times during their stay, each one another opportunity to “wow” the guest. But how can you give yourself the same chance? Checking in with your guest, even via a note in the mailbox or a casual text or phone call will ensure they know you care about their stay. If they do have a question or concern, they’ll feel able to drop you a line and for you, that’s another chance to show off your exceptional service.
Take cleanliness seriously
Nothing spoils a vacation like dirty floors or dusty surfaces. Luxury hotels and established B&Bs take cleanliness very seriously and have extremely high standards when it comes to housekeeping.
Whether you clean your vacation rental yourself or have someone else do it, attention to detail and cleanliness of your home shows guests that you care and that you love your home. When you ensure the home is perfect when they arrive, they are more likely to leave it in equally as great shape when they leave.
Come back now, ya hear?!
Luxury hotels work hard to make sure their guests want to return. Loyalty and rewards programs encourage them to pick your place out of the millions of other options they have. However, there aren’t enough “points” in the world to get someone to come back to a place that was less than impressive.
When guests have had a fabulous stay at your rental, your customer service will be one of the key features attracting them back to your property. That’s why you can reward people who choose your home over and over again by providing discounted rates, special freebies and/or amenities, or any other incentive purely available for return guests. You don’t need a rewards card or points system to provide five-star service, but showing guests that you value loyalty will always encourage a repeat stay.
Until we meet again
The end of a guest’s vacation does not mean the end of opportunities to provide amazing service. Hotels often leave guest satisfaction surveys in the room on the day of departure or send an electronic version out via email shortly after the guests leave.
This feedback is vital to the growth and continued success of the hotel, and allows management to see what they’re doing right, and what they could work on. Why not do the same for your vacation rental? Unlike hotels who receive hundreds of these a day, you have the benefit of being able to personally respond to all of the feedback you receive.
Don’t send out a generic, pre-typed message. Instead, get personal, use details you learned about the guest in your correspondence, address any issues they may have had, and don’t forget to invite them back. Luxury hotels are masters of email marketing, so you should learn to be, too! By sending special deals and information to previous guests via email, you’ll stay relevant in your guests’ minds, and hopefully, inspire them to book another trip.
Luxury hotels, B&Bs, and vacation rentals that stay busy all year and have excellent online reviews, don’t happen by chance. There is a lot thought put into the things they do and the way they do them that sets them apart from the competition.
The vacation industry is the relationship industry – people go on vacation to feel pampered, relaxed and comfortable. Making guests feel heard, valued and important is one of the most crucial things you can do as a vacation rental owner. What we can learn from those hotels who are doing it right is this: figuring out ways to make those connections, to listen and to interact with guests to make them feel like they are more than just a reservation is the key to five-star service.