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Posts tagged ‘guest inquiries’

2 simple ways to update your vacation rental calendar

Vacation rental availability calendar reservation blocking

Don’t Wait to Update Your Vacation Rental Calendar: Time Blocking and Reservations

Like many of my neighbors and fellow owners in Hawaii and Lake Tahoe, I love surfing, skiing and snowboarding, so why would I own property anywhere else?  It comes as no surprise that, like me, most vacation rental owners buy homes in the places they like to visit themselves.  And they visit a lot.

During my first year of owning a pad in Maui Kamaole, Hawaii, I visited 5 times. I stored my two surfboards in the closet, bought an annual pass on ATA airlines and eventually realized the importance of manually updating my vacation rental calendar.

In my previous post I talked about a very simple way to setup automatic calendar synchronization, once and forever. Here we discuss how to update your calendar manually.

At Rentini we have two options for updating calendar:

1)   Create a blocking – an easy one step process

2)   Create a reservation  –  a two step process which requires you to record payment.

There are multiple ways to add a reservation or time block to your calendar. The most intuitive would be by following navigation tabs:

  • Rentals >> Blocking >> Add Blocking
  • Rentals >> Reservations  >> Add Reservation

Another way of adding a time block or reservation would be by opening the monthly calendar page from the Dashboard or on Edit Listing page.

Select a month and roll your mouse over any date until an Update button appears. Click on the Update button or anywhere in that cell. A new window will pop-up, which will let you choose a type of action. Available options are:

  • Add Blocking
  • Add Reservation
  • Add Rate

We will discuss how to add different types of rates in future posts. For now, let’s just focus on blockings and reservations.

Time Blocking

Rule of thumb: Use blockings to mark dates unavailable.

To block, choose your start and end dates and hit the Update Calendar button. You can also put in a note for future reference, such as “My last minute getaway!!!” or “Uncle Sam promised it’s his last trip this year

The process is a bit more complicated with reservations as there are a few different scenarios worth considering.

IMPORTANT: Keep in mind that the dates on your calendar will not become unavailable until payment is submitted by the guest or the homeowner marks the reservation paid manually.

Reservation on Guest’s behalf: You are Expecting Payment

You may create a reservation on guest’s behalf and assign a custom rate to it (optional).  Let’s say someone calls you and says, “I would like to rent your place. How do I proceed from here?”

All you need is their name and email address.  Just open Rentals >> Reservations and click Add Reservation button. Select the Yes option for email notifications. This way your guests will receive an email invitation to pay the required amount as well as all future reminders. This is convenient, as you do not need to remember important dates to remind your guests about payment dues. The system sends out reminders automatically.

If you do not want them to receive automatic reminders,  just select the No option for email notifications.

Reservation on Friend’s Behalf

If a friend of yours wants to visit and you only want to charge them a cleaning fee, they may leave a check for the housekeeper or pay in advance.

To facilitate the pay in advance option, just click Add Reservation and enter $1 into the Custom Rate field (sorry, the system doesn’t allow to enter $0).  Select the Yes option for Email notifications and then hit Update Calendar. An email invitation will then be sent to your friend so he/she can pay online. Once they complete the payment process, the dates will be marked unavailable.

Reservation Payments

If a guest calls you and wants to submit a payment, you may accept credit card payments over the phone. However, it is important to note the recent PCI compliance standards, which do not allow keeping your guests’ card on file unencrypted.

Protecting cardholder data is also good for your business because PCI security prevents stolen customer data, and:

  • Prevents lawsuits
  • Saves you money

Rentini payment portal becomes handy when you need to accept payments and stay PCI compliant. We incorporate all the latest standards, which could also be another selling point for those guests who are concerned about Internet fraud and unauthorized credit card abuse. Working in IT data security for 13 years taught me to keep my hands away from sensitive information wherever possible. When a vacation rental guest offers me their credit card over the phone, I politely refuse to accept it. Accepting payment via a PCI compliant online system gives you the piece of mind that you won’t be liable for any data breach.

If you have any suggestion on how to make our reservation system better, please leave your feedback in comments!

Happy rentals!

(Mis)handling Your Rental Inquiries: Tips To Convert Inquiries Into Bookings

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

Stay in Control with Updated Booking Management

In the travel and hospitality industries, time is sensitive. For vacation rental owners, one of the first questions when joining up with a new service to promote their business is, Does this service enable me to maintain control? At Rentini we wanted to provide assurances for homeowners. We received a stream of feedback from our clients…

Rentini gives you the tools to run your business independently

once they got a reservation they wanted to direct it themselves and be in control before confirmation is granted to a guest. Rentini got the message. In order to prevent the scenario of the dreaded double-booking, we’ve implemented three buttons for homeowners to select from when they receive a booking at Rentini: the Accept button, to approve of a reservation; the Reject button, to disapprove of the reservation; and a Discuss Morebutton if there is more to negotiate or more details need to be shared.

The same controls that appear in your inbox when signed-in to Rentini appear in email form when the reservation is requested by the guest.

In any industry where check-ins and check-outs are critical to a successful business, calendars are a big consideration; this is often framed in the specter of the dreaded “double-booking,” when the same space is reserved by different people for the same time. Double-bookings, as irritating as they can be, do not spell the end. Airlines, for example, regularly overbook their flights (they use their own algorithms to determine the threshold of tickets to be issued). That’s why we often hear offers at the boarding gate for volunteers to take a gift certificate in exchange for giving up their seat and flying another time. Airlines operate by volume and can play with numbers. Similarly, large hotels can switch rooms around and make adjustments. It makes financial sense for airlines and chain hotels and is less hassle than for a vacation rental owner. Homeowners have a single transaction per property at any given time. On the homeowners end a double booking involves canceling a reservation for one party and informing them that the property isn’t actually available when they booked it (apologies are typically required). For the traveler, it involves continuing the often arduous search for the perfect getaway. In this structure, homeowners and property managers retain control of the reservation status – a guest is not charged until the owner/manager confirms their request.

When one is maintaining various calendars on many platforms online, it is a real task to keep calendars in sync. Rentini makes this easier by offering features such as HomeAwayConnect, which integrates updates from a combined calendar of HomeAway listings. But this is not 100% seamless. And though we’ve found demand for instant bookings from homeowners confident they can keep their calendars in sync and updated (with the option to cancel the reservation should something go wrong), we’ve received a fair amount of demand to always be in control. Now, when a guest submits a request to reserve the first week of next month and the homeowners clicks Accept then the reservation is confirmed, the guests payment is processed, the guest receives an email with confirmation about payment and the reservation details. This process, initiated by the traveler, is confirmed by the acceptance of the homeowner. A vacation is borne. As a homeowner, which button do you think you’ll be using more often – Accept, Reject, or Discuss More? Share your answer below.

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