According to a 2019 survey about consumers and communication, 63% of consumers reported they would rather work with a company that offers text messaging as a form of communication. Millennials make up one of the biggest demographics of US travelers, and they are a very text-friendly generation. Texting can be a quick and easy way to relay information and makes it easy to access the information at a later point. It also allows customers and companies to pause a conversation, think, discuss, and respond in a way that they can’t always do over the phone.
Communication is key when running a successful vacation rental, and adding text messaging to your methods of communication can help you appeal to a broader audience as well as simplify a lot of the methods and processes that you already have in place.
Here are a few ways you can use text messaging to improve your vacation rental customer service strategy:
Follow-up if the user hasn’t completed the booking
For many people, the planning part of a vacation experience is half the fun. They get so excited planning dates and saving vacation rentals to their favorites list, yet 81% stop there. They show interest, they asked questions, and then they disappear. We live in a busy world where people are distracted by a lot of different things, so a quick follow-up text may be just the thing they need to remind them to follow through with the booking before it’s too late.
Sending a follow-up text can be just a push travelers need to finalize their booking. It also shows them that you are active with your listings and paying attention to who is inquiring. A quick text can mean the difference between a booking sitting in limbo and an actual reservation.
You could text something like: “Hey [NAME], we noticed that you tried to book [RENTAL NAME], but were not able to complete it. Can we help? We’ve had a few people inquire about the house for the same dates, so I don’t want you to lose it. Best regards, [BUSINESS NAME]”
Opening up the dialogue to answer any questions they have can get a conversation flowing, build a relationship, and help hesitant travelers make a confident and informed decision. All because of a little text sent at the right time.
Before they arrive
As you go back and forth through the reservation process, ask travelers if sending text message communication is okay with them. If they say yes, use text messaging to send them updates about their reservations.
A quick text to let them know that their payment was processed, that you received their booking forms, or that you saw their online request for a welcome pack and have added it to their reservation can make guests feel included in the reservation process. This is an easy way to let guests know that you are working behind the scenes to make sure they have the best experience possible.
Send a text message on travel day to let them know that you are excited about them coming and update them on any travel, weather, or traffic issues they should be aware of. Remind them of the best way to contact you if they have any questions en route, and let them know that you are excited to have them.
You could text something like:
“Hey [NAME], we’d like to confirm that we’ve received your payment for [RENTALNAME]. We’ll be sending you more information shortly.”
“Your vacation is almost here! Please click here [LINK] to access your check-in guide so you know exactly what to expect when you arrive. Let us know if you have any questions. We’re excited to have you!”
While most vacation rental hosts send check-in information via email, it doesn’t hurt to send it through a text message as well. You can use text messaging to remind guests of their lockbox code or where they can pick up the keys to their rental. You can text them the alarm code, the gate code, the Wifi password, or any other information that they may need quick access to upon their arrival. Ask them to text you when they arrive so that you know they got there safely. This allows you to check-in with them to make sure the house is okay and answer any initial questions they may have.
You could text something like: “Hey [NAME], are you in vacation mode yet?! We just wanted to send this link again to make sure you had all the necessary info for check-in. We’re around if you have any questions!”
A friendly follow-up
Once the guest is in the home, give them some time to get settled. Then, send them a quick text message the following day to follow up on their check-in experience and see if there’s anything else you can do to help them. Guests like knowing that they can reach out to the host if they need anything, and a text message is an informal and casual way to do it. After this follow-up, try not to bombard them with other text messages. Allow them to enjoy their vacation, and let them know that you are available if they have any questions or concerns.
You could say something like: “Hi [NAME], we hope you had an easy check-in and are enjoying the home. If you have any questions about how the hot tub works or need recommendations for dinner, we’d be happy to help. Enjoy your vacation!”
Recommendations and local advice
Another great way to use text messaging to enhance guest experience is by offering recommendations and local advice. A quick text message to let the guest know about a cool new restaurant that just opened up, that there is an accident on a major highway nearby that could impact their travel plans, or cool community events that they should check out can help guests experience the area like a local.
You could say something like: “If you’re looking for something to do tonight, there are food trucks down at the park. There’s also a great restaurant down the street we love [ADDRESS]. Let us know if you need anything.”
When it is time for checkout, a text message can help send reminders about your expectations for the check-out procedures. You can text the guests to remind them of the check out time, how to secure the home, and thank them for staying in your rental. If you have any helpful tips on the fastest way to get to the airport or a great breakfast spot to try on the way out, this can be communicated in a text as well.
You could say something like: “We’ve loved having you, [NAME] and hate to see you go. A friendly reminder to [INSTRUCTIONS] before you leave. Let us know if you have any questions. The checkout is at [CHECK-OUT TIME]. Have a safe trip home!”
Ask for reviews
Reviews are critical for vacation home rentals, but sometimes guests get so caught up in getting home and getting back into the swing of normal life and forget to leave a review about their stay. Sending a text message with a link to the place where they can leave their review can make it easier and more convenient for guests to leave their feedback about their stay.
You could say something like: “Hey [NAME], it’s [YOUR BUSINESS NAME]. Hope you made it home safely and are falling back into your normal routine. When you have a second, can you leave a review about your stay at [LINK]? It only takes a few minutes and would really help us out. Hope to see you again!”
Send promotions and deals to reel in past visitors
One common goal of vacation home rental owners is to turn first time guests into loyal guests. Sending a text can be a casual but personal way to let previous guests know about promotions and deals you’re offering for repeat guests. This makes them feel special and appreciated, and is a great way to stay in the forefront of their mind. Let them know that even if they aren’t ready for another trip, these loyalty offers can be shared with their friends and family.
You could say something like: “Hey [NAME], it’s [YOUR BUSINESS NAME]. Wanted to let you know about some special deals we’re offering to past guests. If you’re thinking about renting the home again, please let me know and I’ll send you the discount offers! Talk soon!”
Best practices for customer service through text
One disadvantage of texting is that without any context, messages can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. To avoid this:
1. Read and reread
Take the time to read and reread the text before you send it. Look for typos and make sure the message makes sense. Using manners helps soften your tone, and if you need to take a second to collect your thoughts, do it. Don’t respond impulsively.
2. Stay Professional
Even if you’ve developed a “friendly” relationship with your clients, it’s important to keep text messages professional. Use punctuation, avoid using slang, and hold back on the emojis. While you want your guests to feel comfortable with you and trust you, you also want them to see you as a business. This means keeping messages professional and making sure you’re proud of every message that is shared. Remember, people can screenshot messages!
3. Don’t bombard them
For many travelers, texting is an easy way to ask questions and communicate with their rental hosts. However, they don’t want to spend the entire time texting and checking their phones. Follow the guest’s lead when it comes to texting conversations.
If they’re short to respond, back off a little bit and give them some space. Remember, they’re here to disconnect from the world and reconnect with their families, so a few text messages during their stay should suffice.
4. Say what you need to say
Texts are easy to misinterpret or ignore, and your guest may see a long text come in and not have time to read it and set it aside, only to ignore it for days or even weeks. If you have important information to share, get right to it. This shows that you honor your guests’ and schedule and want to provide the information without taking a lot of their time.
People can tell when you’re sending a generic, pre-written text. While this is fine for some aspects of the vacation rental experience, some of these texts should be more personal. Avoid sounding like a robot and instead, use more conversational language and use information you’ve learned about them to tailor your message specifically to them.
5. Ask questions
A text message is an easy, fast, and efficient way to ask questions and get to know your guests a little bit more. You can text them and ask them if they’re coming to celebrate anything when they plan to check-in and check-out, or if they’re familiar with the area. You don’t want to be too nosy, but asking basic questions can help you prepare for their arrival and customize their experience.
6. Encourage action
All of the text messages that you send should be a means to an end goal, such as making a booking, encouraging the guest to leave a review, or helping them book again. Ask yourself if the texts you’re sending and the correspondence you are engaging in helps guests take action.
Why text messaging?
58% of guests are using their phones to look for vacation rentals, so they are already in the right space to send and receive text messages. Offering text message options can set you apart from your competition, allows for faster response times, and allows you to meet the needs of the modern traveler. Text messaging is also easier to implement and requires very little training or education vs other more complicated chat features and messaging systems. Text messaging is a fast, easy, and convenient way to connect with guests in a way that they prefer.
Texting has become one of the easiest ways for people to communicate, with many people preferring texts over phone calls. 8 trillion texts were sent last year, and 95% of them were answered within 3 minutes. This means people are close to their phones and available to send and receive information this way.
In contrast, only 14% of phone calls were answered by a real person without being put on hold, and only 20% of emails to businesses from consumers were opened at all. This means if you’re adding text messaging to your communication methods, you increase the number of reaching the people you’re trying to reach.
Speed and accuracy are vital in securing a reservation. Many guests will book with the rental host that contacts them first. A quick text message makes it easy to be at the forefront of the pack and get their attention when their mind is still in vacation mode.
What to take away
As a vacation rental owner, success depends on your ability to meet the needs of the modern traveler. Offering text messaging communication options gives your guests another simple and convenient way to communicate with guests and make sure you are providing top-notch guest service.
Texting, like Lodgify’s automation tools that come with our PM modules, can help minimize your workload and maximize the guest experience with implemented autoresponders.