I sound like a stuck record on a few things in life, but the one that has stuck me with me for some 13 years now is this: “everyone’s a holidaymaker”. And in the holiday home rental industry, that means that your holiday home owners are holidaymakers too. Forgetting that is exactly how not to attract holiday home owners to your letting agency.
A first hand example
I’ve booked three last minute short breaks this summer. All staycations. All UK holiday rentals of one shape, size or location. None of them with a client. So there’s no bias here either.
I also have a grand plan (some call it a pie in the sky dream) to save my hard earned pennies and buy a holiday home.
So when I went to collect the keys for the third and final stay away, I was genuinely bamboozled by how poorly the company handled the interaction.
Let’s lay some caveats on the table shall we:
I went in earlier than the stated arrival time (but only by 25 minutes)
It was the end of the summer holidays in a tourist hot spot
And here’s how it went:
I was told in no uncertain terms to come back at 3pm - the poor lady seemed very frazzled and I clearly wasn’t the first eager beaver keen to get on with my hollibobs who she had had to fend off
At five to three I joined a queue of other new arrivals, which was being managed by others in the team
“Me again!” And I was handed the keys.
I wasn’t asked if I knew where the property was or how to get to it
I wasn’t asked if I knew where I could park/which car park the permit applied to
I wasn’t told anything at all
I felt like I had to be nice to them, not the other way round
And so I left, thankfully knowing exactly where I was going and how this whole thing works - a few others in the queue looked less confident.
Once in the property, the info pack was decidedly average and generalised - there weren’t even instructions for using the WiFi. Was it as clean as it could have been? No.
Would I turn to this holiday home company to manage my holiday let for me? No.
How not to attract holiday home owners to your letting agency?
Simple… Don’t treat them like holidaymakers at the end of a summer season.
The analogy for me is years ago, running restaurants… it’s five minutes before the kitchen closes on a Saturday night and you’ve been on your feet since 10am (so five minutes shy of 12 hours). Guess what? In walks a new table. There might just be two of them or maybe 10. All slightly inebriated by this point and hungry.
My heart and the soles of my feet sink, but my cheery welcoming smile climbs as high as my ears while I feel the chef’s eyes burning into my back through the porthole in the kitchen door. We might all want our beds but the cheerier we are to these customers the better time they’ll have, the more they’ll spend, the better they’ll tip and with any luck they’ll also considerately realise when they’re the only table left in the restaurant and the staff are crying for their beds (or what’s left of Saturday’s nightlife).
What’s more, they’ll probably come back another time and tell all their friends what a great night they had, rounded off with a visit to us.
Successful holiday lets are more than good marketing
If you’re lucky enough to own a second home in a holiday hotspot, but not lucky enough to live nearby and manage the bookings, changeovers and marketing, then you’re going to need a holiday cottage company to help out (unless you plump for that San Fran airbed start-up that went global).
Marketing matters. Absolutely. The UK holiday lettings space is hugely competitive with no sign of the opposition abating. But beyond the search engine optimisation, glossy photos, 3D tours and property walkthroughs, how are prospective guests actually being served?
Try before you buy
It’s an adage that has applied to the holiday rental industry, globally, forever. Buy a holiday home somewhere you know and love. Stay in a few to get a feel for the location, the frills or no frills of each individual property and the associated price tag.
But the other perspective is to rent those cottages and villas through different companies each time and see which treat you, the holidaymaker, best. Because no matter how much someone likes the place they stay, if they can’t abide dealing with the letting agency again, there’s plenty more fish in the holiday cottage sea for them to choose from.
Join the dots between your marketing and your service
Sounds so simple doesn’t it. We all know it’s not. But it’s not impossible.
One of the best ways to improve how your staff interact with guests is to give them the opportunity to be guests themselves.
Whether you’re a holiday letting agency or a restaurateur, the same applies. But remember, your staff might not be able to afford to take those holidays or eat those meals, so give them a hand (where you can) and they’ll soon appreciate what’s being asked of them so much more.
For now, we’ll file this article under ‘Helpful rants’. If you’d like to chat more about our expertise and consultancy services in the hospitality space, drop us a line.