Vacation Rentals: Be Efficient, Save Time, and Grow [Webinar]
If you’re looking for ways to make your vacation rental business more efficient and set the stage for long term growth, this webinar recording will set you on the right path. Or scroll down and read the transcript, if you prefer.
You’ll also get an inside look at how shared inbox tools like Outpost can help your team collaborate efficiently and increase productivity—ultimately supporting a better customer experience.
Sabrina Parsons: Good morning or good afternoon depending on where you are. I want to welcome everybody to our vacation rental webinar on how to be efficient, save time, and grow your business.
So the webinar is brought to you by Outpost and hopefully you’ve heard a little bit about what Outpost is and, and why it can be helpful. But we’re going to kind of step up, step back here, and talk about lots of different things here. We’re going to do guest interactions in your bottom line.
We’re going to do your process for managing email and we’re going to do better team collaboration and tracking. All right, wonderful. Okay, so obviously everybody who’s running any sort of small business has limited time, limited resources and limited attention.
And we know those of you that are vacation rental property managers are probably also on the road and dealing with not just the guests but also the property owners as well as all the service people that you’re, you know, really needing to manage in order to keep the business running.
Growing your margin through efficiency
So you have a lot going on and not always all the resources you need and want in order to keep things going. And we understand that. And one of the things that I want to talk about today is how do you optimize that limited time and limited resources for your business so that you’re more efficient so that you save time and ultimately grow your business.
Because that’s what you’re really here for. And when we talk about growing business, I also want to be clear that this doesn’t necessarily mean bringing on more properties or hiring more people. It might not even mean necessarily tons more revenue.
What it means is more efficiency so that you make more margin on every single guest that books a vacation rental. So you keep your property owners happy and they stay with you. It’s about thinking about how to optimize both the incoming leads and guests that you have, your property owners and all your service providers so that you get the most bang for your buck.
That’s how you really tackle this idea of limited time, limited resources and limited attention. I’m going to open up our questions here. Somebody is just asking a question in terms of are we going to talk about the different opportunities for email and bringing in leads and that side of the business. And we definitely are.
Better email communication with your team and guests
So in order to really tackle limited time, limited resources and limited attention, you need to pay attention, you need to be convinced and you need to do something. So the first thing we’re going to talk about is sending better email. That’s one of the things that can really help. And that means sending better email everywhere in your operation.
So it’s not just send better email newsletters or email marketing or better emails, few property owners, or better emails to your guests. It’s the whole thing. It’s really looking at how do you communicate in email and are you maximizing your email communication. Email gives us so many tools.
It can be overwhelming, and it can also be completely misused and it can become a terrible bottleneck that can really become an albatross for your business. We’re going to show you how to take that albatross of off your neck and really embrace email so that it makes your business better.
The impact of email by the numbers
So here’s a few statistics. I always like to use data and I always like to understand what’s going on in the particular space that I’m talking about.
No surprise, 92 percent of adults online use email. There’s 2.9 billion email users and email is 40 times better at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter.
And just really think about that because I know that as social media—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram—has gotten into the world, it’s made things more complicated for you. You feel like you have more things you have to manage, right? Should you be Instagramming, should you be tweeting? How do you deal with that?
Those are all big and good questions and if you have time and if you have resources, the answer to, “Should I be tweeting?” “Should I be on Facebook?” “Should I be on Instagram?” is “Yes, yes, yes, yes.” But you also have to optimize, and the reality is your business right now is absolutely on email. And not that you can’t enhance your business with other methods of communication, but you better be doing email well.
72 percent of people prefer to interact with companies via email. They don’t want to call anymore. People want to ask questions, they want instant gratification.
They don’t want to wait and find out and call. They want to just get their emails out, get their questions answered. They feel like they’re optimizing their time if they do that.
Now, instant gratification is something that the internet has taught us all. In 2019, we’re facing this barrage of information coming at us in a digital format. One of the things you have to deal with is people are impatient and they want instant answers.
Guests expect a response in less than an hour. Now I know that’s crazy and that’s not always attainable and achievable. But knowing that expectation can at least help you build a strategy around response time and make that one of the things that you’re going to think about and plan and understand.
So 65 percent of people prefer personal tone when dealing with service issues. They don’t want to think that you’re a robot. There’s so much artificial intelligence out there. There’s chatbots so that you know, most of us had been online on a website when a chat pops up and there’s nothing people hate more when they realize they’re not talking to a real human.
Why your business’s voice and tone matters
And when they, when you, and you’ve probably experienced it with other companies, if you send an email with a question and your response comes back and it’s clearly an automated response that really doesn’t address your question, you’re less likely to purchase something from that company.
So, you know, these are all things that you need to think about as you get into this busy summer season, which I know is super busy for vacation rental property managers. Think about how you’re interacting with your guests, with your property owners in email, and whether or not you’ve even thought about this response time or a personal tone.
Have you even thought about what is the tone that your emails have and why? And are you training your staff who answer emails to have a similar tone?
80 percent of customers will pay more for a better experience. 89 percent of customers have gone to a competitor after a poor experience. And customers tell twice as many people about bad customer service. And you see this when you go to Amazon and you see reviews, what you’re likely to see is really, really bad and really, really good.
We don’t tend to do human nature is not to say “good job,” it’s to say “awesome.” That was just absolutely extraordinary or that sucks. And there’s not a whole lot in between. And so you don’t want to be part of this statistic that you know, people are telling two times as many people about bad service.
Planning, setting, and revising your goals
So two and a half is the number of hours per day that we spend managing email. are we going to deal with that? Well, that’s one of the things that we feel really strongly about at Palo Alto Software.
We work with small businesses and we help small business owners succeed and really think about how to get their businesses to the next level, we really want to have them think about planning a roadmap. And when they plan it, we want them to have this cycle of plan, perform, probe, and pivot.
It’s a plan that you come up with. You start to implement it, which is the perform part. Then you probe into what’s going on. That’s where you’re going to get all your data. Is it working? Are you getting the responses that you expected? Are you driving more customers are closing more guests in your vacation rentals?
And if you’re not, you need to pivot and you need to figure out, “what am I doing wrong?”
Or what am I doing right?
How can I change things and then go back to my plan and tweak what I’m actually doing?
And so actually having a roadmap and some goals is going to be the number one thing you need to do to be efficient, save time, and grow your business. As you think about the planning part, this is the important piece of it.
You need SMART goals—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound, right? So an example, it’s specific, right? I’m going to increase newsletter click rates by 2 percent by the end of Q2—that’s very specific, that’s completely measurable.
Now only you know that’s attainable and you don’t even know if that’s terrible, if you don’t know what your click rates are. So if you’re sending out newsletters, you should be looking at reports from your newsletter online tool to see what those click rates are.
Then, is it attainable to actually get that 2 percent by the end of Q2 or Q3 or Q4? That’s an example of a SMART goal.
But you might increase repeat guests reservations by 25 percent, right? You’ve probably heard the old adage, it’s easier to keep a customer than to find a new customer. So how do you do that? And how do you increase repeat guests reservations?
Well, one of the things you’re going to have to do is give excellent customer service because that guests will want to come back.
The other thing is you’re going to have to reach out to that guest when they are not a guest. You’re going to have to remind them how much they loved being at that vacation rental and how great the experience was.
So you’re going to have to have some sort of an email marketing strategy to reach out to those guests who’ve already been customers so that you can keep them as repeat customers.
Maybe you have a strategy that gives repeat customers 10 percent off if they book the week that they want for next summer as they leave this summer.
Maybe there’s some strategies you can implement. But the biggest thing is to write down your SMART goals.
I know I often talk very fast, so I’m going to slow down here and just remind everybody that if you have a question, go ahead and put it in there.
I do see a question about SMART goals and how many goals should you think about when your kind of trying to put a plan together? And it’s a really great question.
One of the things that I often encourage anybody who’s running a business to think through is—you’re not going to accomplish 55 priorities, right? It’s too much. You need to think about the goals that you want to achieve and they, they also need to be manageable for you.
So when you’re thinking about SMART goals, think about them in the same way. Think about five specific goals and put them within a timeframe. Maybe that’s 90 days, maybe that’s six months. Maybe you do want to set out goals for the next year and maybe tackle two or three per quarter. So just think about what you can achieve.
If you achieve two or three things a quarter and you achieve them well and you actually meet the expectation, that’s really way better than thinking you’re going to get through 50 things and not achieving any of them.
Customer stages: Awareness, consideration, decision
So as you think about your SMART goals; as you think about your customers and how are you going to really nurture those customers, how are you going to bring them in?
It’s always good to be aware of how customers come into your business, right? The first part is a little bit of awareness. Maybe someone starts googling and trying to figure out, you know, “Hey, do I want to go on vacation in May?”
And they start to build awareness and they start to kind of think about it. So in the awareness stage, they visit your property listing site.
Then, they take an action on your site that indicates they’re interested, like sending you an email inquiry. That makes them a lead—so they’re in the consideration stage.
And they’re trying to decide what they’re going to do and how they’re going to interact with you.
Then, as they’re considering becoming a marketing qualified lead or a sales qualified lead, depending on how they come into your funnel, once they get down towards the opportunity, that’s where they’re making their decision.
That’s where they’re deciding that house or this house. And that’s when they become a customer.
So think about your SMART goals if they have to do with building that pipeline of guests and think about these different steps in that journey of a potential customer and where you might be able to improve things.
Are you getting enough visitors to the website or do you have to think about maybe some better search engine (SEO) taught tactics. Maybe you need to find someone who can help you do better Google ads or advertise in a different way, or leverage big directory players like Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway.
Maybe you need to change things up and get more visits so that they become leads. Once they get into your marketing and sales funnel, how are you nurturing them there? Are you answering their questions quickly? Maybe somebody wants to know if the house has ever had pets in it because they have a child with really bad allergies. Even if it’s not pet-friendly today, they can’t ever go to a house that’s ever been pet-friendly.
If you don’t answer their email fast enough, and another company does, you might lose that customer, right? So think about what’s going on in the consideration stage portion and how you’re interacting with and nurturing that lead. Once they’re considering your property—thinking about how you can turn them into a customer.
Email best practices to help you achieve your goals
So we’ve talked a little bit about the planning for the big picture and goal setting. Now let’s talk about the performing part. Once you determine your goals based on the things that are important to your business—like increasing repeat guests by 25 percent—then what?
How are you going to do that? Right?
If you’re going to do emails, you’re going to have to think about how they’re written and what makes them compelling for people you’d like to be return guests.
Who does the email come from?
What’s your (sender) email address?
What’s the subject line?
What’s your preview text? The preview text is the little bit of text that shows up both in your email browser and on your phone. It’s really important to think about those first six to ten words that show up because sometimes that’s all people read.
What is in the body?
What’s in the footer of the message?
Your open rates—the number of people who actually open your email—those are going to be affected by these different areas: name, email address, subject line and preview text and the body.
And what you say in the body of your email—your calls to action or links—those influence your click-through rates. When you send an email, it should have a specific goal—get people to visit a specific page on your site, get people to complete a booking.
So if you’re sending out emails to returning guests, potential customers, and those emails have no call to action, you’re going to get no click-throughs.
Your call to action might be something like “check out these houses” or “we noticed last year you rented this house, you might be interested in these three houses.”
So the way you write emails, whether you’re using an email newsletter tool or you’re just getting back to a customer and doing a more personal, individual email, you still have to think about all of these pieces.
This applies to email newsletters as well as to all those emails that you get from inquiring potential customers, inquiring potential property owners, repeat guests, guests who’ve already booked, and are already coming.
You don’t want to turn a guest off who’s already coming, right? You don’t want them to already have a bad experience before they even get there.
So use these email marketing best practices is for all your email.
You always want to think about how can you personalize the sender name, your name, and then the subject line because that’s about that. Short attention-grabbing subject lines.
Think very carefully when you reply to email inquiries. Think about that example of the potential guest who asks if a property has ever been pet-friendly.
Your first instinct might be to just leave the subject line alone when you respond. Or you may want to change it. Maybe the subject line needs to be, “all of our houses have always been pet free”
Maybe that will grab their attention.
Other ways to grab attention in subject lines are to ask questions, use numbers and have a sense of urgency.
And remember, if you’re trying to engage that potential customer, answer their questions quickly, and then maybe ask them how else you can help them.
Maybe tell them you’re happy to hear from them and that you’ll get back to them right away, if you need to buy some time to put together an appropriate response.
Use your preview text wisely. That’s not just the subject line, but that very first line of the email. Think about that. Most people forget as they’re writing emails how important that preview text is.
One of the other things I really recommend you do is to start noticing the emails you get from other companies when you’re the customer or potential customer.
It’s one of those things that I do all the time. Now I cannot get an email without analyzing it because it helps me be a better business owner for Palo Alto Software.
And if you start noticing these things, you’ll see great ones. You’ll see ones that are terrible too, and that’ll help you think through what you’re going to do for your business.
Better click-through rates and calls to action
So that’s all about the open rates. Right now we’re going to talk about the click, a clear CTA, call to action that includes answering questions. If somebody has a question and they haven’t booked the house and to the question, put the link to the property booking page right there.
Don’t make them go back through the emails and find a link to how they can book. Make that your CTA: “Book now,” or “call me now.” Don’t make the customer do the work. Do the work for them.
Another aspect of this is your attention toward good writing and forming relevant, concise sentences. Don’t just send an FAQ and tell the customer “your answers in our FAQ.” If they have a specific question, given the specific answer, and learn to really personalize because otherwise, people get annoyed.
Make sure that your email templates are simple. Don’t complicate them really with crazy backgrounds.
Think about the images that you put in your emails because sometimes that prevents them from going into people’s inboxes. Images can be something that get caught in spam.
Maybe you have a fancy signature and you love that. Think through that. A nice text signature with some very clear links to your most popular houses (for example) might do better for you.
Analytics and reporting: Let data guide your strategy
We’re going to go on to the next one. So once you think about how you’re going to write emails, how are you composing them, you’re going to want to think about the analytics and reporting part.
You’re going to review and analyze your best practices, for your emails, for your conversion rates, etc. You’re going to want to review everything that’s currently going on to the best of your ability, right?
You may not be able to review everything if you’re just answering email using Outlook or Google mail—there may be a limited amount of metrics that you can get.
If you’re using a tool like MailChimp or Constant Contact for email newsletters, there are lots of reports there. Dig into them, understand what’s going on, get the data that you can get, and then note the things that you like to get that you’re not sure where you can get them.
If you have any questions about that, you can always email us. This is what we do. We’re happy to help you figure some of this stuff out.
Once you start to analyze what’s actually happening with your emails, you can figure out if you need to pivot, right? Do you need to adjust and clarify things?
You want to avoid the trap of businesses as usual, right?
“Oh, we’re fine. It works. It is what it is.” Don’t get caught into that, or you’ll never going to take it to the next level.
Change is the hard part. A lot of people and businesses are afraid of change.
If you’re willing to buck the trends, willing to push your employees and your colleagues to really embrace the tools, and the systems, and the plan—that can take your vacation rental property management business to the next level.
Let data guide you. There’s so much great data in these days of digital growth and technology. Figure out what data you have access to, analyze it and then use it to create those SMART goals.
If you use the data that you have to figure out where you want to make improvements, make those goals, then implement them, you can go right back to that data when it’s time to pivot. You’ll have a lot of information that can help you refocus (and repeat) and that’s really going to take you to that next place of growth.
It’s one of those things that you hear all the time. I know it can be hard to do when you’re wearing all the hats that you wear. But if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail, right? You’ve got to put a plan in place. You’ve got to put those goals in place.
There’s all kinds of data that proves right. You’re 40 percent more likely to achieve your goal if you write it down just by writing it down. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?
Leverage a 40 percent improvement just by writing it down.
Once you write it down, plan for implementation, and think through how you are going to implement, get that data, analyze that data and then refocus and repeat.
How Outpost team email can help
I’m going to show you some of the things that we see with vacation rental property management, in terms of the email they’re getting, the different problems that they encounter, and how specifically our Outpost team email tool can help.
So here’s a view of Gmail and a bunch of different emails that a property manager is having to deal with. These are all just demo fake emails. We put this all together with the help of a couple of actual property management owners, vacation property management owners.
You see an email with Gerald at the top saying thank you for your stay. There’s four emails where Cassie’s asking about dinner suggestions. Danny is asking about upcoming reservations. You’ve reached out to Simon about next year, etc. etc.
This should look pretty familiar. And these emails are, might be going into your email inbox, right by email@example.com or they might be going into info@, reservations@, or even support@ or help@.
Fielding a wide range of email inquiries
They aren’t just from prospects and leads, some of them are from existing customers, but they’re all kind of mixed in together, right?
So some of them are from potential guests, but some of them are from current guests that need your attention right now. And then maybe some former guests who still want to interact with you. And these are your guests that can be repeat customers, right?
You’ve already engaged with them, you don’t have to find them, you don’t have to remarket to them, you just have to make sure you keep their experience good.
And then see if you can convert them as quickly as possible to be a repeat guest. So we’ll go back and we’ll see.
Here’s your email view. And in here you’ve got potential guests, you’ve got current guests who are staying with you right now and they need attention, right? The dishwasher is leaking. This is huge. If you don’t get back to Simon, you’re going to be in PR and in trouble here, right?
And then these are former guests. These are your pot of gold. If you can get them to keep coming back, you don’t have to spend money marketing to new people. So we’re going to talk a little bit about the guest’s communication, the homeowner communication, and then any external partnerships.
Your team’s also receiving other types of emails, maybe from local tourism boards, from restaurants and businesses that you’ve partnered with, and maybe from homeowners who have demands or have changed their mind about availability or whatever their issues.
They want to let you know, “Oh, actually we got to take (the property) out of the rental pool because we’re going to re-do the master bathroom.”
All of that email is coming in and all of that email needs to be dealt with efficiently and quickly. And the more efficient that you can be and the better those emails can be, the better your business is going to be.
This is your pot of gold. These are the people who are already communicating with you.
Common scenarios: How vacation rental businesses deal with email
So current solutions right now for dealing with all of these emails, solution number one potentially is a shared login, right? You and a couple of people in your office login, maybe you’re logging into Gmail and you’re using the same login solution.
Number two is the distribution list. Maybe reservations at myvacationrentalproperty.com all come in and get distributed to six of us. So we all get the emails and somebody has to respond to that.
Or number three, the email comes in to one person and that person is solely responsible for all of it. If any of you on this webinar right now are in one of these current situations, if you’re not using one of these solutions, let me know because these are the three most common ones we hear from people in your industry on how they deal with these incoming emails.
And sometimes the one person does it all, or one person does all the homeowner communication and one person does all the guests communication. Sometimes maybe you’ll have a couple of people who specialize and deal with messages in one particular area.
Duplicate responses, no replies: Disjointed processes
So shared login pros, everyone can access and anyone can reply. The cons, it’s a security issue, right? You’re sharing a login.
That usually means you don’t change passwords very often. That can be a potential security issue that you don’t want to deal with, right? You could have a lot of sensitive customer information and having that shared login is definitely not a best practice in terms of security.
The other issue that comes up is figuring out who’s responsible, right? Five of us are logging in, but who really owns it? If somebody doesn’t answer an email, you know, do they get in trouble?
Now it’s possible that because no one is sure who should answer, everyone does, so customers get duplicate replies, right? Somebody might not have realized that Bob already answered that email and you know, if we were in a room live right now, I would ask you all to raise your hands.
How many of you have emailed a company about various different questions, product service and gotten multiple responses? And I bet almost all of you would raise your hands because we’ve all had that, right?
I’ve had it in vacation rental property management companies. When I’m not running Palo Alto Software, I’m a mother of three boys. We travel a lot and we always rent vacation properties and we never use hotels. Boys are messy. I have three of them. And trying to pack enough clothes for a week-long vacation if I don’t have a washer and dryer—it’s just not happening.
So I use rentals all the time. The number of times I’ve gotten multiple responses or no response to my question about whether there’s a washer and dryer—I can’t even count them.
It happens all the time. No tracking, right? It’s just your people in there doing their best, and emails either get answered or they don’t get an answer.
Do you have a process to archive emails?
Do you delete emails?
Do you have any sort of templates so that questions that get asked a lot are easier? So your customers always get a standardized, well thought out, well-written response with the right personal tone.
And most of the time there’s no defined process.
So here’s a scenario that’s shared with us a lot. It’s a distribution list where you have emails that come in to firstname.lastname@example.org. They automatically get distributed to two, three, four or five of you.
Everyone gets a copy and messages don’t get stuck in an inbox, but you have cluttered inboxes and it even less clear who’s responsible, right?
If I know the three other people got the email, maybe I don’t worry about it. Or maybe I end up playing the part where you forward the email to everybody else on the distribution list to ask who’s dealt with it and why and what did they answer.
And all of a sudden there’s even more email.
You definitely get duplicate replies. It’s really hard to do offline collaboration because everybody’s just got a copy of this and their inbox.
And there is lots of failure to reply because no one feels responsible when they know five or six people are all getting the email. When one person does it all, it’s less confusing. The inbox can be cleaner and there’s more consistency. But clearly, there’s a bottleneck if that person is sick or out of the office. How do you deal with it? There’s no transparency, there’s no collaboration. And it’s clearly not scalable.
You can’t just have one person deal with all your email, particularly if you’re trying to grow your business. So really think about how it works if you’re set up for one person does it all.
Outpost is designed to help you be more efficient
So we’ve really talked about how the current solutions aren’t going to be the best practices and they’re not going to give you the tools and the data to really be efficient, save time, and grow your business. There’s no prioritization. There’s no organization, there’s usually not documentation. You don’t have that oversight, right?
If you’re the owner and you want to make sure that everything’s getting answered, none of those solutions will give you the oversight that you need. And there’s no accountability because too many people are involved.
So what if there was a better way? We think there’s a better way.
That’s why we created Outpost. And if you haven’t heard the story of how Outpost came to be, it really came to be a long time ago.
Oh gosh, maybe 15 or 18 years ago we built Outpost—or the original implementation of it. It was a tool we built internally for ourselves to deal with all of the issues that I just talked about with incoming email.
We wanted a better way to collaborate. We wanted more oversight. We wanted the ability to be consistent about how we replied, and that sense of accountability, making sure everyone got their messages answered and in a timely manner.
So we actually created it as a tool to solve some of our own business problems, which is why I know it’s a great tool and can really make a difference in how you communicate with all the people in your business. Every team member can contribute to getting the work done—all in one place, and you can assign the right emails to the right people.
Outpost gives your team that accountability—and you’re able to have better oversight, right.
If I assign this email to Gerald, I can go back and I can see not only if he answered it, but what he said and when he answered it. Right? That’s huge.
All of a sudden when you’ve got that plan with those SMART goals, all the things you want to do—now you can follow up and really understand and analyze what’s happening.
You can use internal notes to share important information. You might want to share some information about that guest who left their hiking shoes in the house and you might want to say—”this is a repeat guest. They come every year, they leave the house spotless. We love these guests. Do not charge them the shipping it’s free to send their hiking shoes back. We want to make an exception for this guest because they’ve been super loyal.”
You could put that in the notes and assign it to Gerald to take care of. Then you wouldn’t have to worry about what’s going to happen with that customer relationship.
And you could even go back and you could read the email that Gerald sent to the guests about the hiking boots.
You can also create and save templates so your team can send the right answer in seconds. So if you have that same question about pet allergies, or about restaurant recommendations, or is there a hot tub?
Templates are great for all those questions you get all the time.
When is my deposit due, what is your cancellation policy?
You can have well-written templates, where you thought about the subject and you’ve thought about that first line of the preview text, and you’ve thought about the tone and the call to action in every single email.
Templates are not just about saving time, they’re also about being efficient. Every time you send out an email is a potential opportunity for generating more revenue, if the focus on building relationships, and let Outpost manage the rest.
Don’t get caught in the time-wasting complexity of email that’s disorganized, has no oversight and has no accountability. Instead, you really want to be able to use the right tool so you use your mind space and your time and your resources for the right things.
We’ll also give you key insights to track and improve team performance so you can see, is George actually doing what he said it was going to do? How many emails did he answer? How long did it take him? What’s your response time?
The analytics in Outpost are going to give you that data to make sure that not only are you being efficient, but that your team is being efficient and could get you closer to that statistic at the beginning of the webinar when we said 64 percent of customers expect a response in one hour.
It’s crazy and you can’t always do that. But what if you could put into place a SMART goal that says every single customer will get a response within one business day. No matter what, one business day. That’s a SMART goal. It’s probably attainable and achievable, but you need the right tools in order to make sure that you can get that data and track it and implement it. So what does a tool like Outpost give you?
It gives you assignments and notes, templates, responses, email routing rules, analytics, and unlimited mailboxes. You can connect as many email addresses as you want. You only pay per user. So I wanted to finish up here.
On The Water in Maine case study
As we get to about 15 minutes from the top of the hour, I want to move on to a quick case study about a vacation rental property company called On The Water in Maine. They’ve used our tools for many, many years, they’re a great customer and they love Outpost.
We talked to them about why they use it, what they like, and what it has done for their business. So they were really looking at prioritization, organization, documentation, oversight, and accountability. The owner of On The Water in Maine wanted to make sure that he was getting back to everybody at the right time, that things were organized, that there was documentation for guests.
What did we say we’re going to do? Which rental did they get? Did you answer all the questions? Because people can complain. We all know this, anyone who runs a business and has customers has had those difficult customers. Right?
So I told them, you’ll have the notes on the side of all the email interactions so you and the employees at the desk can see them. And then as the owner, you’ll have oversight and accountability. So the shared inbox in the mailboxes that On The Water in Maine have several inboxes: guests@onthewaterinmaine, billing@, partners@, vendors@, inquiries@, business@, watercrafts@, cleaning@. Now they have a lot, but part of the reason they were able to create all these email addresses is because they used a tool like Outpost to manage them.
So now they can tell what’s going on, right? Inquiries are all those potential guests, guests, they’re people who are actually already booked. Billing is all about all the different billing related questions. Partners are all those people that they’ve partnered up with vendors or the cleaners, the hot tub people, all of those, right?
So they’re able to manage all of those. They use a few other tools too, like LiveRez, RingCentral, Breezeway, and DocuSign so that they sign contracts with their guests.
And using Outpost, they actually were able to save $10,000. This is one very small, little specific thing, because I would venture to say they’ve saved thousands of dollars in just efficiency as well as good customer service, which then gets you repeat guests.
One very specific example that On The Water in Maine shared was when they had some guests who booked a big beautiful property for a wedding.
Whatever happened, customers and people are sometimes not great, not super honest. These guests disputed the charge on the credit card and said they never went to the property.
Now, they had RingCentral to manage people coming in and out of the property, but they couldn’t find the guest’s name in RingCentral to absolutely validate and verify that they had been to the property.
So what they ended up doing is getting into Outpost where they had all the emails with these guests and all the notes. So not only did they have all their records in order to fight the dispute against the card, in those emails they found where the guest let them know that their daughter was going to be opening a house through RingCentral and they were able to find the daughter’s cell phone and then go into RingCentral and retrieve that voicemail and that interaction and they were able to absolutely prove to that credit card company that these people did stay there and it saved them $10,000.
But just RingCentral alone wasn’t going to do it for them. It was about having that organization in their email, having a process and knowing where to look for that data. That’s what made them efficient and that’s what saved them $10,000. These types of instances are going to happen again and again and again.
This is why you need to think through and make your plan. In a business like vacation rentals where it’s all about the customer service and the guests, it’s all about your communication, and these days it’s instant communication, right?
That’s what we all want. I want to send an email and I want to know right away and if you don’t answer me, I’m going to get impatient and I’m going to go somewhere else and you’re going to lose me as a customer.
And maybe I was already a customer last year. So even worse now you’ve lost me. It’s a repeat customer and maybe simply because you didn’t communicate efficiently and in a personalized way with me.
So when you use Outpost, you’re going to collaborate efficiently, you’re going to increase productivity and you’re going to save time and your team will actually really optimize your interactions and you will see a difference.
And I think that’s the most important thing is using a tool and putting a process in place makes all the difference. And that goes back to, and I’m going to go back to the slides actually just for a second here because that goes back to this idea that I presented in the beginning, right?
Limited time, limited resources, limited attention. It means you have to pay attention, you have to be convincing. You have to do something. And at the end of the day, you’ve got a plan, perform, probe, and pivot. And that is the most important part of the message that I could give you today. It’s not just going to happen because you want it to happen.
Things move too quickly. You have an employee. You’ve got to come up with a plan, you’ve got to communicate it, and then you have to have the right tools in place to implement, because it’ll be a continual process.
Nothing about communications with your customers is ever done.
But how cool would it be if every month, every quarter, every year you improve the process, you set your goals, you achieve them, and you continue to grow your business.
And maybe you don’t have to grow your costs to actually grow your business. Maybe you become more efficient and you bring in more, right? Every single repeat guest is the guest that you didn’t have to market to. You already have them. Just nurture them and plan for it and be efficient, and that’ll make an enormous difference for your business.
So with that, and I’m going to end here.
I want to thank everybody for being here. I really appreciate you attending.
If you have any questions or suggestions about other tools in general or email marketing tool—we know the space very well. We’re here to help you and we’re happy to answer any questions. I appreciate your time.