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Consistency sells. Especially when it comes to the consistency of your vacation rental business operations. Quality and standardization send the right messages to your customers and will make them want to come back.

What it boils down to is that guests are more likely to turn into repeat customers when your processes are smooth. Standardization will give guests a sense of security and the feeling of knowing what to expect.

However, this is easier said than done. Especially if you manage different types of vacation rental properties. What works in a hotel might not work so well in an Airbnb rental and vice-versa.

In this article, we’ll delve into the nitty-gritty specifics about how to streamline your vacation rental operations.

 

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How to start standardizing operations. 

If you are putting standard operating procedures in place for the first time, change is likely part of the equation. And as many managers already know, change does not come without risk. 

New systems and protocols mean investing extra time and energy. This is especially true at the beginning. Depending on the scale of changes that need to be made, it can even involve retraining your team. Here are some key points to keep in mind to help you get started:

Start off small

The best way to limit risk while implementing new practices is by avoiding wholesale changes and gradually testing new processes as they are introduced and then reinforcing them once you’ve proved their value.

Start out by using your new procedures for about 20% of your vacation rental properties and grow from there. That way, any major glitches won’t have an impact on all of the properties that you are managing. You’ll be able to see results and understand which procedures are working and why.

Make sure that your technology is on point

The vacation rental industry is evolving fast. According to a recent study, there’s been a boost in professionalization in recent years, and “the line between hotels and STRs has blurred”. This has happened for many reasons including “the use of digital technology and vertical integration.”

These days, guests expect a lot more when it comes to professionalism and operations. More than ever before, it is important to have a website that is easily navigable and mobile-friendly. Additionally, you need tools to communicate with guests and processes that flow smoothly.

Put your operations into writing

To put your new vacation rental standard operations in place, you will need to get your team on board. This will mean giving them a written point of reference for any procedural changes.

If you are automating your procedures to scale, consider offering training about how the new technology works. It’s best to establish a way for your team to internally communicate any doubts or concerns.

Cleaning & maintenance checklists  

For many managers, scheduling and communicating cleanings for your vacation rentals is extremely time-consuming. Without using automated tools, it’s nearly impossible to do this in a way that is sustainable and scalable. Additionally, you run the risk of creating scheduling errors or worse: a guest checking into a dirty room.

Automating cleanings will not only save you time but it will also ensure that your rooms are sparkling clean when guests open the door. Meaning fewer headaches for you and more peace of mind for your guests.

Image of Operto Teams Scheduling Calendar

But not all cleaning scheduling tools are created equal. If you’re searching for the right one, be sure to look out for features that can automate cleanings based on guest arrival and departure times.

 

The best automation tools can notify your cleaning team of any last-minute changes to prepare rooms for incoming guests. That way, you can rest assured that your scheduling system will not contribute to a poor experience.

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Process-focused internal communication 

In the vacation rental industry, last-minute bookings, and cancellations are commonplace. Vacation rental managers know that adaptability is key and you must be able to adjust to accommodate last-minute bookings and schedule changes.. If automating communications with your team, you need a way to make scheduling updates at a moment’s notice.

 

The best tools not only notify employees of check-in and check-out times but also allow you to access and make changes to calendars if need be. If choosing to go this route, you’ll want to make sure that notifications and messages are accurate and staff task schedules can be easily managed. 

 

Answer guest questions with a digital guidebook 

It’s essential to have a solid system in place when it comes to communicating with guests all of the information that they need during their stay. With this being said, you don’t want to overwhelm them with too many automated messages.

 

A good solution is to provide your guests with access to a digital guestbook. That way, guests can have all of their stay information in the same place.

An image showing amenities and house manual sections of Operto Guest digital guidebooks

Digital guestbooks provide guests with a clear understanding of everything that they need to know right from the start. This will help you to provide the optimal guest experience while reducing the number of questions that you receive.

 

While creating your digital guestbook, you should be sure to include:

 

  • Arrival and departure information: In your guestbook, be sure to include directions on how to arrive and check-in and out. Guests should be provided with exact dates and times. Additionally, it is a good idea to include information about how to find the property. This will help guests feel reassured from the beginning.
  • Access keys: If utilizing a smart lock system for self check-in, guests should receive access codes within their guestbook.
  • In-stay features: It’s always a good idea to include a list of amenities and smart home technology included in the room. Be sure to include instructions about Wi-Fi, air conditioning, TV controls, or anything else that may raise questions.
  • Local guides: Be sure to recommend nearby restaurants, seasonal events, and museums. Include any local attractions that may be of interest to your guests.
  • House rules: You’ll want to include your check-in, check-out payment, and cancellation policies. Other information could include rules about valuables, smoking, pets, and parking.
  • Two-way messaging system: Having an open channel of communication will help guests if they have any problems. You can also include a list of frequently asked questions in your guidebook to help guest communications stay manageable.

Create access codes that activate automatically when guests check-in.

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Automatically generated door codes  

The days leading up to traveling are often tiring and overwhelming for anyone. The last thing that guests want is last-minute complications while checking in and getting settled.

 

The best way to make the check-in process as smooth as possible is to put a contactless self-check-in system in place. That way, you won’t need to have physically present staff to meet arriving guests. Additionally, a contactless check-in system will make guests feel more comfortable and independent. It’s a winning solution for everyone.

Image of the Operto keyless access check-in log

You should know that there are many types of contactless check-in systems on the market. Before deciding on the right one, you’ll want to consider a few aspects first:

 

  • Security: When it comes to automated check-in, security should be your top priority. Some digital check-in systems do this better than others. If using a smart lock with coded entry points, it’s more secure if the system generates unique guest access codes for every check-in. In contrast, systems that reuse the same codes for every guest can raise some big security concerns.
  • Convenience: Some tools are easier for guests to immediately use than others. Many self check-in tools require guests to download an app on their phone, which can cause some annoyance. You’ll want guests to have a way of entering without having to open the app store first.
  • Integration with PMS: This is an important aspect to consider, especially if you are managing 30 or more properties. Tools that automatically sync with your property management system will save you a lot of time and make your operations scalable.

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Closing advice on scaling and streamlining operations

When you scale your vacation rental business, you are also scaling your operations. Even if you have a system that is “good enough” for maintaining your business, you might need to standardize processes before expanding. This is especially true if you have a range of vacation rental properties in your network.

 

Here are some of the key takeaways to remember while creating standardized processes that scale:

 

  • Establishing standard operating procedures boosts efficiency and establishes a system that guests trust.
  • Automating communications will help you to save time and reduce the risk of missing cleanings before guests check in.
  • Digital guidebooks are an efficient way to communicate the information that guests need to know about their stay.
  • You can reduce the need for physically present staff and increase scalability with self-check-in tools.

For many vacation rental managers, automation can be a real game changer when it comes to standardization and scalability. Not only do these tools make your processes more efficient, but they can help you make sure that the guest experience comes first.

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Frequently asked questions about STR operations

How do I scale my business on Airbnb?

Whether you use Airbnb or any other platform, if you want to successfully scale, you should optimize and automate your processes. You’ll want to improve things like cleaning calendars, guest communications, and check-in/check-out. If you primarily use Airbnb to list properties, you’ll want a PMS that is compatible with their platform.

 

What are the challenges of scaling a vacation rental business?

Scaling your vacation rental operations can be extremely challenging if you don’t have the practices in place to support your business growth. Common struggles include inadequate technology, staff burnout, and too many messages from guests. Scaling too quickly and without the proper resources can counteract any progress that you have made.

 

How do I build a short-term rental portfolio?

Start out by doing research about location popularity, seasonality, and market trends. While building your short-term rental portfolio, it can be advantageous to start out small and stay local. But what’s even more important is to have the right location.

 

Key factors you should consider when targeting a location for your STR business include:

  • Local regulations (are there any business-limiting regulations in force?)
  • Popularity of the location for travelers (what will draw your target audience?)
  • The intensity of the competition (is there a gap in the market?)
  • The local workforce (can you build a team for your operations?)

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