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Photo by Jeda Villa Bali

Ever feel like you had an inquiry that could’ve paid off, but maybe you mishandled it? Or think that your revenue could be greater if only your dad was a car salesman and some of his skills rubbed off on you?

Below are a few tips for handling inquiries from prospective guests. While some inquiries may not be serious for whatever reason, many of them represent real opportunities to make a new customer and get a booking for your vacation home.

HELPFUL HINTS ON HOW TO CONVERT AN INQUIRY INTO A BOOKING

Respond ASAP. Whether you know it or not, you’re most likely in competition with your neighbors. So don’t wait to respond to rental inquiries, do it now! And when you do respond, remind the guest of compelling reasons why they’d want to rent your home.

Prepare responses in advance. Many homeowners have an automated email go out when you first inquire, i.e. the ‘auto-responder’ that states that the homeowner will follow-up with the inquiry. This is a good idea, but is often done sloppily. Test it out so that it looks and reads the way you want it to. When you do respond yourself, it’s best if you have many answers already prepared. Canned responses, which you can conveniently use to respond to frequently asked questions, will be useful here. After a while you will click a canned message countless times, and this will save you time and labor (instead of repeatedly writing out the same answers again and again, long-form). You will have to do this even if the information is printed on your website because guests often will not read that and will prefer to ask you directly. Canned messages are useful, but don’t rely on them too much else you may get complacent and not answer the heart of guests questions. More often than not, guests just want to engage you.

Introduce yourself. Your correspondence should be consistent with your website and ads – maintaining a cheerful tone and image. Introduce yourself, include a signature in your emails and always add a link to your website. You’ll want to make reference to the initial inquiry by responding to it directly creating a thread; the prospective guest has probably sent out various inquiries and may not be sure which property is yours. Be personal – guests are looking to connect with you so don’t sound like a disinterested hotel clerk.

Tell stories. How did you enter the vacation rental business? Why this particular house? What do you like about this neighborhood? What do you love about your home? What are your favorite things to do – what activities are nearby? What’s the history of the place? Tell them stories in which the underlying message is: This lovely home is right for you! Guests will appreciate it.

Tell guests a secret. Surprise them with an amenity not mentioned on your site. Let them know something interesting about your home, the area, and the people. Include a discount or some perk that you want to entice them with.

Make them remember you. If you’re already booked, mention a few available weeks and give them the option to book those instead, include a special discount for them and mention how you go the extra mile and cherish your guests. You also want to arrange promotion with your neighbors so that you refer each other to get more bookings. (Rentini’s property management tools make this easier than ever to do.)

Talk about your property. Guest questions are good opportunities to segue into the benefits of your property. If the guest asks about the garden, mention how pleasant it is to have a barbeque there while the kids play chase or badminton on the lawn under the sun. If they ask about the jacuzzi mention how nice it is at sunset with the jets on and an open bottle of wine.

Give a clear call to action. At Rentini we have a rule about always having a call to action in our communications with clients if we want something to happen. Messages must have calls to action so that the recipient is clear on what is expected from them and business can move forward. It is no different from your business. At the end of your emails, state what it is you’d like to see happen. For example, “If you’d like to book the available week, you can do so directly from my website: http://www.rentini.com.”

Speak with guests by phone. Many people, and perhaps you’re one of them, are better speakers than they are writers. That is, they’re better over the phone than they are via email. In any case, anecdotal evidence suggests that when you get a guest in a phone conversation they’re more likely to book your place. Things are just simpler if there’s been a conversation to back it up. Emails provide more room for miscommunication. Remember to keep the friendly charm in your tone as well.

What tips do you have to share? Handling guest inquiries is an art. There are many tricks to the trade. Share them and discuss.

Photo by SunlandGroup

Comments on: "(Mis)handling Your Rental Inquiries: Tips To Convert Inquiries Into Bookings" (7)

  1. I just failed to make a booking – here is the scenario. Family is going to Hawaii to visit the daughter who lives near my vacation rental home. Daughter wants to drive by the home to be sure it is what her family would like. The family wants me to hold it for 24 hours until they hear back from the daughter. After the report from the daughter, she says the home looks too small. It s a 3 bedroom, 2 bath oceantront home that can easily sleep 5 (the number of guests in their group). From the street, the home doesn’t look very big because it sits behind a separate cottage. I told the guests that you can’t see the home very well from the street before the daughter went to take a look. Anyway, I can’t beg people – but there is plenty of room for 5 guests! So in this case doing a drive by lost my booking – although the “setting is spectacular.” And the house is plenty big with 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, large living and dining area, kitchen, and length of the house oceanfront lanai.
    Any advice here??

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Pat! I’m not sure what you could have done differently in this case. Perhaps giving the family the square footage would have helped convince them that there is space to accommodate five people. But that assumes they’d be able visualize square footage…. [?]

      I am sure you’ll have many more bookings to make up for this one. [?]

  2. Oddly, I find the success rate for “drive bys” is incredibly low for every property I’ve ever owned or managed, even though our guest satisfaction rates have always been extremely high. I think it’s that the guests who need a drive by have something very specific they want, since most listings now have a ton of good pictures. I have a friend in the business that says you just have to realize some potential guests are just “not a good match” and move forward.

  3. vadimosya said:

    I am not a big fan of drive bys either. Here’s my idea behind it. In vacation rental we are selling dreams. Whoever is able to put a better dream which is a combination of photos, testimonials and rate wins. An in person inspection would always reveal nuances, not necessarily downsides but nuances and unfortunate encounters: a dog barking next door, garbage collector showed up at the time of the drive by, airplane passed by, neighbor had a birthday party, it started raining etc etc. It’s impossible for guests to get all vacation rental options inspected in person, thus your “reality” will be compared with a “dream” package presented by other owners. Guess who wins?

  4. Hi Pad, a possibility is that you let the people (who have inquired) know, that they can contact you for visiting the house before booking, so they can see for themselves that the house is bigger than the the impression from the street.

  5. Drive-bys are a lost cause. Our vacation rental – like many mid-century homes in Palm Springs – turns its back on the street (literally) since all of our living is designed to be done outside in the backyard. So all our home has to offer is a concrete block wall and clerestory windows.
    A virtual drive-by is worse. The day that the Google camera car came by, there were landscaper trucks parked everywhere making it look like the entire street was under construction.
    When we get a request for a drive-by, we usually try to make an arrangement with the housekeeper to turn it into a tour. Every time we’ve done that, we’ve gotten the booking and it’s worth tipping the housekeeper a few bucks to let the prospects in.

  6. These are great tips. We use the phone a lot too. It gives us a chance to sound out the person enquiring as well as building trust and a more personal connection.
    We have quite a detailed terms and conditions form which we send out when confirming a booking to give the customer a chance to change her mind. There are people who want to use your home for a party or they may want to cram more people in than the number of beds available. It is far easier to put them off at this stage,

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