Hospitality insights

Latest news

Named “Vacation Rental Software of the Future” since 2019, Track PM gives hospitality teams the tools to automate 1,000s of daily operational and communication tasks.
  • All
  • News
  • Vacation Rentals
  • Independent Hotels and Resorts
  • Digital Marketing
  • Track PMS
  • Track Pulse
  • Contact Center
  • Cart Abandonment
  • Webinars
  • Hospitality Hub
  • Guest Blog
  • Atlas

Track Tools To Assist In A Disaster Situation

In a disaster situation such as a hurricane or fire, there are tools in your Track software that can assist during the situation and after. Some examples follow. In case some of these solutions are not turned on, reach out to support or your CSM to have them turned on and for help configuring your needs. TRACK Pulse Track Pulse is a cloud contact center solution that allows your agents and representatives to take and make calls via the internet browser (Google Chrome) from any location. If you have Track Pulse but use regular, office phones, you can turn on the ability to take calls through “Remote Client” which is a browser. This is really handy when your team has to evacuate to safer locations. For more instructions on how to do this, see this article or learn more about setting up Pulse. (NOTE: You must have an account with Zendesk Track Support to access.) Once set up, a reservation agent would select Remote as their destination and be able to start using Pulse remotely. If you do not have Track Pulse, please reach out to your CSM to see if it is a tool that makes sense for your business. Owner Messaging (Beta) The owner messaging module is still in beta, but if your company needs a quick way to send out broadcast communications to all or part of your owner base via email or text message, you can request for owner messaging to be turned on.  It is easy to configure and gives you the ability to send all or a segment of your owners a message that can be viewed in the body of an email, text message and in the owner portal. City Accounts Did you know, when dealing with a cancellation, you can issue a credit to a “City Account” in Track, where you can allow the guest to rebook and in the future direct bill their City Account, rather than issue a refund? This was a prevalent practice early on in the Pandemic when mass cancellations were occurring but companies did not want to refund all of the future revenues.  Using City Accounts could also be applied during a weather related or disaster related situation. In lieu of a refund, in the case where a traveler does not have insurance, you could offer to credit them a City Account, which they can book and use in the future. Learn more about City Accounts. Multiple-Work Orders Oftentimes leading up to a storm, or after a storm, you need to assign people to go to homes and assess damage, as well as possibly handle the cleanup efforts. To keep track of this without needing to create individual work orders in the Track system, you can create a “Multi-Work Order” in the Work Order dashboard. This would allow you to create and assign multiple work orders across multiple homes at one time. To do this you would need to do the following steps: Create a work order template (can be done in the maintenance configuration tab) you can include lists, cost estimates, known problems, descriptions and give the ability to block check-ins. Create a multi-work order Assign the work orders For ease of communication, it is helpful if you have a trigger built in the trigger engine to auto-notify users when a work order is assigned to them, this can be done via email, text message, or both. In-House Guest Text Blast You can send a text message to all in-house guests by creating a one-time trigger or automation. Steps would be selecting “In House” Guests within the automation between the dates assigned to the message.  The two automation conditions most likely needed include “Hours after created >= 1” for reservations and status = “Checked In.” Any guest that is in-house will get a text notification based on these settings to alert them to potential dangers or notices regarding their reservation.

How To Turn Inbound Reservations Calls Into Outbound Direct Sales Opportunities

Before we delve into this month’s topic, consider this question: what is the cost of a voice inquiry? Think about the direct "hard" costs such as, pay-per-click ads, email campaigns, retargeting efforts on Google, and the commissions spent to have a "billboard" presence on OTA’s. Then of course the indirect "soft" costs such as website development and maintenance, payroll and office for your reservations team, and the investment in your PMS/CRM investment. Next, I ask that you consider the potential value of an inbound reservations call, which can be calculated according to this formula: ADR x ALS (+ add-ons) = Revenue Potential Of Each Call. Yet with all the "admin" type work that reservations staff deal with in today’s era, phone calls sometimes feel like interruptions! It may be important to remind your team that the hottest leads they will ever get are inbound voice leads. Also, it may be important to remind your marketing and distribution leaders that the reservations team is also involved with direct website inquiries. For proof, try this exercise. Pull 10 or more reservations that were booked directly at your website. Find the phone number provided and then look that up in your call log in Track Pulse or your inbound 800 provider. Chances are that you will find that most of those who book online have called either prior to or following booking online. By turning inbound calls into outbound leads, your team can make sure not to lose callers’ business to another company or a different destination, or lose revenue in the form of commission to an OTA. While the primary objective is always to get them to book now, it is also important to realize that there are reasons why some callers are simply not yet ready. For example, callers are much more likely to be hesitant to book on their first call when they are planning longer stays, booking for larger parties with lots of people involved in the decision, and/or booking accommodations with restrictive deposit and cancellation. Most of all, the more emotionally involved they are with their travel plans the more likely they will hesitate to commit. Traditionally, marketing and distribution leaders have viewed the role of reservations agents as being a reactive one, as in "sales fishing" and living off inbound callers who nibble on the digital bait. Smart leaders are migrating their teams to a "sales hunting" mindset, in which every call, every email inquiry, and every inbound chat or OTA IM is viewed as a potential sales lead to proactively hunt down. To succeed as a sales hunter, your team will of course need a system such as Track Pulse that makes it easy to: See pop-up text box in which to enter notes and details from the conversation (which will also be seen if they call-back.) Trace the contact on a "lead stream." Briefly read a summary of previous correspondence in order to personalize the messaging. If you have not yet been able to get funding for Track Pulse, at least get in the game with a basic Excel or Google Sheets form. If you are just getting your team started with the sales hunting model, remind them that if all we do is find out dates, number of people, bedding requirements, etc., we are treating the role of reservations sales as a tech support job to assist callers, as if we were a website search help desk. Consider sharing this Doug Kennedy mantra: It is NOT our job simply help them find what is available. It IS our job to help them decide! Here are some training tips: Ask the right questions to narrow down the options vs. listing what is available. When callers say: "Can you tell me what you have available for these dates?" respond with, "Let me ask you a few questions so I can help you find the best options." Ask questions specific to the call story you are hearing. Here are a few examples: "Which is more important, location or view?" "Would you consider something just off the beach?" (Or away from the ski lift?" "Would you consider two homes close together vs. the larger option?" "How do those sound so far?" "Are you looking for something more upscale or economical?" "Is there something you’re looking for that I’ve not yet mentioned?" or, "Can you tell me more about what you have in mind?" What to say to get the caller to provide a phone and email for follow-up Of course, to be able to "hunt" after the call, you will need to get an email and phone number. Here are some tips to encourage them to share these. Do NOT ask, "Would you like me to email those to you?" or, "Did you want to give me your email?" Instead say: "Okay. Let me grab your email address so I can send you these links along with my direct contact information." Getting the email is the most important task but try also to get their phone number and implied permission to call to follow-up. Do NOT say: "Would you like me to call you to follow-up?" Instead say: "Super. I’ll shoot you over an email with my direct contact information. I’ll also check back with you to see what questions you have and what else we can do. May I have the best phone number..." Personalize the follow-up messaging: Be persistent but not pushy Start all follow-up calls and emails by restating something specific you learned about “the story” behind their plans... "It was wonderful to hear about the plans for your (insert special reason for travel...)" End all emails and calls by expressing interest and offering personal assistance. "Again, my name is Doug with in-house reservations. Let us know what else we can do to assist you with planning this important trip." You should generally follow-up at least two additional times: One to three calendar days after the initial inquiry, depending on their "story." Three more [...]

Helping Your Owners Understand Revenue & Occupancy Expectations

We’ve heard from our customers that managing owners’ expectations of their properties’ performances can be a tricky, but necessary task to get right. Open and frequent communication with your property owners is essential to the survival of your business as a property manager. To help you manage the conversations you will have with your property owners, we have boiled down some key topics to set the right expectations for property pricing and results. Show Your Owners the Data Using data-driven, intuitive tools to inform pricing decisions are paramount to driving bookings and retaining owners. We encourage you to show owners how your dynamic pricing tool responds to market changes and adjusts prices automatically. This automation and real-time understanding of market shifts provide you with the quick action you need in this uncertain environment. By sharing examples of your market data, highlighting occupancy information, and explaining how you are quickly adjusting pricing strategies, you will build confidence in trust with your owners. With the right revenue management tool, you can easily share this information. You can show your owners how their listings are performing compared to others in the area and even compare them to last year. Set Owner Expectations Early and Often With the ups and downs of the travel industry, there are new ways you need to think about driving positive outcomes and optimizing revenues. Therefore, it’s critically important you are setting owners’ expectations appropriately in these different situations. When demand is low, explain your strategy to ensure that you are getting your fair share of bookings. When demand is high, communicate how you will focus on capturing higher rates. Owners in Drive-to vs Fly-to Markets Drive-to Markets & Demand Travel trends have changed greatly due to inflation, recession anxieties, higher travel costs, and the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, drive-to destinations showed huge demand and recovered faster than fly-to markets. As a result of these changing trends, many of the managers we work with shifted their marketing efforts to capture demand, including focusing on repeat guests, getting current guests to stay longer, and increased advertising. Communicating your plan to your owners is another great way to instill confidence in you as the market expert. Fly-to Markets & Demand With demand changing in these markets, marketing tactics can be shifted easily. For example, consider marketing to locals or your loyal repeat customers. These tactics will show your owners that you are doing everything you can to get them bookings. And remember to speak to owners about adjusting minimum prices where necessary, along with minimum stay requirements and length of stay discounts. It is important to communicate and demonstrate to your owners the value you bring to them and their properties. Using a great revenue management tool to help show market data, demand trends, and the other tactics you are implementing will strengthen the quality of your owner communications, and build trust. Beyond is here to help, get started today!

12 Steps To Reclaim Your Spirit of Hospitality From The Grasp Of Cynicism

In recent weeks, I've conducted training for a broad range of both hotels and vacation rental companies. it is very evident that the summer of 2022 has been yet another stressful period for the frontline staff of the lodging industry. There are several universal reasons for the added stress. For one, a lot of guests are still experiencing their first true summer vacation since summer of 2019, so they may have unrealistic expectations. The higher rates we all charge now elevates those expectations all the more. Plus, most lodging companies are still dealing with staffing shortages, so everyone is stretched thin. Specific to VR companies, with the high turnover of inventory, new owners don’t yet understand how things work, plus they are likely carrying a much higher mortgage rate to worry over. For traditional hotels, ownership is pushing hard to recover losses experienced during the pandemic, and are therefore pushing rates while driving down expenses. So, the timing seems perfect to address the need to reclaim the spirit of hospitality from the grasp of cynicism. As they say in virtually all 12-step programs, admitting you have a problem is the first step taken towards overcoming it. If you are still reading, perhaps now’s a good time to speak these words outline: "I have become a sometimes cynical (vacation rental or hotel) employee." Now grab your "white chip" and let’s get your spirit of hospitality back! Step One: It’s Okay To Vent. Especially these days, but really at all times, those of us who work in guest (or customer) service all need our go-to person to vent on.  Speaking as a married person, I suggest that this be someone other than your life partner! Perhaps a member of your “work-fam” who you can form a pact with to always be there for each other.  Or, as I suggest to my clients, talk your boss into creating a “primal screen therapy closet” complete with a punching bag and soundproofing. But once you’ve vented, let it go, as retelling it can feel like reliving it.  Be sure not to ruminate, which in psychology mean “to go over in the mind repeatedly.” Step Two: It’s Okay To Laugh At Situations, But Not People. Laughter is surely a terrific stress reliever, and we all get a kick out of the "clueless questions" guests ask. Such as "What’s the weather going to be during my visit (that is months away)?" or "Are there sharks in the ocean there?" or "Are there any mosquitoes?" or "What should we bring to feed the bears?" Remember though, the more clueless that guests are, the more job security we have! Step Three: It’s NOT Okay To Demean Guests. Avoid falling into the trap of resenting all guests based on the actions of a few. Otherwise, negativity will grow like the Kudzu weed, which those who have been in the Southeast USA know is an invasive species of vine that grows super fast and soon covers the entire tree canopy of the forest, blocking out all sunlight and killing everything underneath. Avoid thinking, "All guests these days only complain to get something for free."  Realize that most guests just want to be heard. That being said, organize a process to document negative guest interactions so that you can identify those whom I call the "full refund scammers" from the beginning, and later when they complain or threaten a bad review you can easily respond with the facts vs. having to do forensic research. Step Four: Accept That Guest Complaints are a Numbers Game. How many properties or guest rooms does your company manage?  How long do guests stay? How many guests per accommodation?  For vacation rental companies, let’s say you have 100 properties in your rental pool with an average of 2.5  bedrooms per home, that is 250 bedrooms! How many guests per room on a sold-out night? Probably at least 500. For a hotel, let’s say you have 200 rooms and an average of 2.5 guests, that’s also 500 complaint opportunities per day! Remember that most guests do not contact us to say “Hello, I just called to say that everything is working perfectly today, there are no insects, and the place is spotless!” Chances are that the number of complaints per guest is actually quite low. Step Five: Pandemics Bring Out Both The Best And The Worst In People. As I’ve been saying since March, 2020, the "meanies" have gotten meaner, while the nice people have gotten nicer! For every guest that turns the single, light blond hair hidden behind the top of the shower curtain into an all-caps text message that reads "THIS WHOLE PLACE WAS DISGUSTINGLY FILTHY!", there is another guest who calls at 9:01 a.m. on Monday, in the middle of winter, who says "Good morning! We are SO sorry to bother you, but last night at dinnertime the heating went out. We didn’t want disturb anyone then, and we were able to find some extra blankets in the closet, but when you have time, is there any way you could please get someone to check it for us?" Step Six: Understand That Human Emotions Can Swing In Either Direction! We are emotional creatures living in a physical world. Rather than rushing to judge others as mean, rude, or to label them with four-letter words I can’t say in this post, try to imagine the frustrations and challenges of travel. As the saying goes, everyone is dealing with something. Step Seven: Make It Your Job To "Flip The Vibe" and Bring Out The Best In Guests. The spirit of hospitality flows like a satellite signal to a cell phone tower, and each of us sends a signal to everyone we encounter. Are sending out a weak analog signal? If so, you’ll be overpowered daily by the negative vibes of others.  Instead, choose to blast out 5G Positivity!  Walk into work focused on a mindset that you are going flip the vibe of everyone you encounter. Step [...]

The Switch to Google Analytics 4 Draws Near

Saturday, July 1, 2023, will forever change how website analytics work. By now, you’ve likely seen the hair-raising alert atop your Google Analytics account: “Universal Analytics will no longer process new data in standard properties beginning July 1, 2023. Prepare now by setting up and switching over to a Google Analytics 4 property.” Yikes. “Prepare now” sounds a little ominous. What’s really going down? Atlas Digital Commerce, a TravelNet Solution, has been preparing for the arrival of GA4, the “next generation of Google Analytics,” since it launched in October 2020. As such, we thought it might be helpful to explain a bit more about this change and what it means for you. You can relax. It’s not that big a deal. But considering what GA4 could mean for your business, it deserves your attention. A Brief History of Google Analytics Google Analytics launched in 2005 with the goal of tracking and reporting website traffic. This includes the classics you already know like unique visitors, time on page, and bounce rate. Eventually, it evolved to measure this data in real time. GA used a small snippet of JavaScript code to link a “property” (usually a website) to Google’s database. This type of analytics is based on “hits.” Powerful though it was, the platform has issues with accuracy, privacy, and the ability to track offline data. Universal Analytics (UA), launched in 2012, added cross-platform tracking and customized reporting. In 2017, the Global Site Tag came along to simplify implementation. Finally, GA4 launched in 2020. The biggest difference between UA and GA4 is in their data collection models, and the two are fundamentally incompatible. Once UA goes away next year, your data collection stops and your historical data will only be available for a short time, perhaps as little as six months afterward. That’s why you have to make the switch. So, What’s Different About GA4? Is It Really Better? GA4 will still collect a lot (but not all) the data you’re used to seeing, but it goes much deeper and offers greater flexibility, especially in reporting. Its data collection model is based not on “hits” but rather, “events.” In Universal Analytics, a “hit” is based on a specific set of hit types like page view or transaction. GA4, by contrast, considers every website interaction an event. Each event has a set of parameters that set it apart. Some parameters are automatically created and others are user-defined. The beauty of this system is its flexibility. Say you want to track the number of people who clicked your ad, watched your promotional video, AND booked a stay with you AND came from a particular ad. Rather than tracking these separately, you can track them as a discrete action. Pretty cool, right? Many events are already pre-configured in GA4. Automatically collected events and enhanced measurement events include page views, outbound clicks (link clicks), file downloads, scrolls, and video engagements. In other words, the types of analytics you already know and love come baked right into GA4. Google has also provided a list of recommended events that improve reporting and help track things like online sales. A fourth event type, custom events, offers a final option for users who want to track something very specific to their business. Universal Analytics vs. GA4: Key Differences Technology aside, the biggest difference between Universal Analytics and GA4 is granularity. The more specific your data is to you, the better decisions you can make. It will take some getting used to, especially if you’ve been using UA for a while, but data junkies will love it. Dashboards, reporting metrics, and past data will all be different. However, the new dashboards, metrics, reporting options, and customizations are worth it. UA was powerful, but sometimes it took a lot of futzing to measure what you really wanted to measure. GA4 still requires effort to learn and apply, but it’s much easier to customize. GA4 helps you better understand your users and why they do or do not take key actions on your website and/or app. GA4 is still under development and many new features and updates are sure to roll out before the hard launch in July 2023. We expect the next year to bring a number of welcome changes and additions. Do I Have to Change? How Big a Hassle Is It? The short answer is yes. The digital economy is built around data, and if you can connect the dots between data and strategy, you’ll thrive. If you can’t, you’ll struggle. The sooner you implement GA4, the bigger your opportunity. It’s very new, but in the right hands, the actionable data it delivers could give you a major leg up over your competitors. Chances are, they do very little with Google Analytics to begin with. We’re moving into a platform that is considerably more powerful and useful. There’s never been a better time to learn data-based decision making. The other argument for making the switch now is that you won’t be able to compare much Y/Y data between the two platforms. Thus, if you wait until 2023 to make the switch, you will wind up with a full year of data (July 2022 – July 2023) that you can’t really use for a Y/Y comparison (July 2023 – July 2024). Making the switch isn’t exactly simple, but it’s not complicated, either. If you work regularly in Google Analytics, understand the back-end, and have admin access to the necessary Google products, you can do it yourself in thirty minutes or less. Just make sure to familiarize yourself with GA4 before jumping in. Otherwise, you’ll probably want to hire someone. In any case, be sure to connect with your booking engine provider to ensure GA4 will showcase properly allocated eCommerce metrics and revenue. Remember, practice makes perfect. Learn more about the next generation by playing around with the new GA4 platform. We have nearly a year to learn the ropes and set up customized “Reports” and “Explorations.” Reach out to your […]

Squeezing the Most out of Peak Season: Driving Last-Minute Bookings

Best Habits For Selling Travel Insurance

These days, most vacation rental companies and many destination resorts offer travel insurance, especially those who require large deposits or full pre-payment, with restrictive cancellation policies requiring 30 or more days out to receive any refund. The good news is that travel insurance offers a triple-win situation. Guests win because their investment in a vacation is protected from unexpected disruptions such as due to weather events and health concerns. Vacation rental companies and resorts win because they do not have to choose between feeling badly about having to say "no refund" to a distraught guest experiencing personal travel drama or refunding guaranteed revenue. The third win is of course that lodging companies and many reservations sales agents are commissioned or incentivized for selling travel insurance. Yet when our KTN team conducts either mystery shop calls or remote call scoring (evaluation of recordings of real conversations such as in Track Pulse), we typically either find that agents are too aggressive in pushing insurance to the point that it is a turn-off, or too meek in offering it so that callers don’t fully consider it. Here are some best habits to share with your reservations sales team for use during both telephone (voice) conversations as well as in textual message exchanges by way of email or in-app messaging. Sell the vacation first. KTN’s Reservations Coaches often find that agents engage in a discussion about the travel insurance too early, thus derailing the conversation away from the primary the primary objectives of very call: to convince them that you are the best resort or company, this is a great vacation home or room, and now is the best time to commit. Remember that callers are already overwhelmed by choices. Do not give them another reason to procrastinate and "circle back." Listen for buying signals. Once you are hearing buying signals such as "Okay, that last one sounds perfect," start down the path of confirming details such as to get the full spelling, address, and contact information. Then it is the perfect time to segue into presenting the insurance option. On a related note, if guests book online, many VR and resorts have the reservations salesperson call the guest to reconfirm details and to offer to arrange for guest service experiences. After doing so, it is the perfect time to present the option of securing travel insurance. Ask permission to cover the benefits of travel insurance. Too many agents either say "Did you want to buy the travel insurance?" or "Would you like me to tell you about the travel insurance?" Instead, say: "Now Douglas, I know a lot of people automatically say no to travel insurance, but if I may, can I please go over a few of the benefits which I definitely think are worthwhile considering?" Use a "storytelling" approach. Rather than reading a list of features such as: "It covers..." or "It offers..." Use a "you" approach to include the guest in the story.  Examples: "If you or anyone in your party were..." or "If during your stay…, then you and your family..." Use personal recommendations and endorsements. Examples are, "I can tell you that if it were my vacation, I would definitely take the insurance." Or specific to VR companies and resorts with large accommodations with many bedrooms, "Based on that this is such a large home/accommodation for a big party, I believe it would be worth the extra costs, especially since the fee will be split by 3 families." Prepare the team for the most common FAQ’s. Make sure your reservations team is well-versed in the benefits of travel insurance and can provide reasonably definitive answers to the most frequently asked questions. When selecting an insurance provider, ask them about onboarding training as well as ongoing training support. Of course, your agents need to be sure not to "guarantee" any benefits and instead defer to the written details the guest will receive from the policy provider. However, your staff should at least be prepared to say with confidence, "To the best of my understanding, this will cover… and you can read on that on page 3 of the document I will send." Do not over-incentivize selling of travel insurance. I often find that when we hear agents pushing the travel insurance even more so than selling the vacation home or resort accommodation, it is because the staff’s main incentive is based on selling insurance. First and foremost, provide your staff with a well-designed incentive program for selling lodging accommodations, and then make the incentive for travel insurance a secondary incentive. -Doug Kennedy Best Habits For Selling Travel Insurance

3 Ways to Grow Your Business on Expedia and Booking.com

Track and Atlas have many software integration partners and direct connections, but there are many instances where we connect or partner with third party vendors to ensure our customers receive best-in-class products and services. We’ve built a robust partner ecosystem that addresses possible product gaps and enhances our customers’ businesses. VacayHome Connect is a platinum partner of Track Hospitality Software. Our full-service distribution platform connects vacation rentals with online global travel agencies, including Expedia and Booking.com. We’ve helped many Track clients grow their businesses, reach new audiences, and drive more bookings on Expedia and Booking.com—Track does not connect directly to those channels, but we do. With VacayHome Connect, you can take full advantage of everything Expedia and Booking.com have to offer. Here’s how: 1. Clustering Properties on Expedia & Booking.com Clustering is a tool that allows you to combine multiple units under one listing. When you cluster, that one listing benefits from multiple-units availability—as well as reviews and conversion That sounds pretty great, right? Well, here’s the catch: clustering is only available on Expedia and Booking.com. Any property managers with units that share an address can cluster, but the tool is exclusive to those two channels. It’s absolutely worth implementing, too: on average, VacayHome Connect has seen a 40% booking increase for property managers who cluster. Even better, some properties have experienced up to a seven-fold increase in production. On our easy-to-use platform, you can cluster properties with a simple click. 2. The Expedia Group Network In 2021, Expedia Group was responsible for $4.24 billion of global travel. It goes without saying, but the upside of listing on Expedia is monumental—especially when you have access to the entire network. VacayHome Connect helps property managers list on Egencia (corporate travel), Expedia Rewards, and Amex Travel; our Expedia connection also includes loyalty programs such as Chase Credit Card, as well as 550+ airlines and 15,000+ rental car agencies. Egencia Corporate Travel: VacayHome Connect provides access to Egencia’s corporate travel network. Why is that important? Because corporate travelers are truly “golden guests” of the industry: they spend more than average travelers, they cancel less, and they stay longer. Expedia Rewards: More than 100 million users are part of Expedia Group’s loyalty programs, which allow members to collect points and unlock special perks on major channels including Expedia.com, Orbitz.com, and Hotels.com. VacayHome Connect bridges the gap between property managers and those tens of millions of travelers: we convert loyalty points to cash so Expedia users can book your properties. Expedia Packages: Roughly one-third to half of our bookings are through packages and the Expedia Affiliate Network. These bundled deals are extremely popular—not to mention they are a natural fit for vacation rentals and property managers who want to package accommodations with other perks, such as flights and car rentals. It’s pretty simple: once an Expedia guest books a flight or car rental, a pop-up appears in their shopping cart. Your units show up there as available to rent, allowing for a “packaged deal” to occur. Other distribution platforms (ahem, our competitors) do not offer this type of integration, but you can tap into this massive market today through VacayHome Connect. 3. Promotions & Merchandising Channel promotions and merchandising opportunities are powerful tools designed to help you generate short-term revenue and secure steady future bookings. As it turns out, Expedia and Booking.com offer some of the best promotions in the industry that aren’t available on other OTAs. VacayHome Connect can not only implement these opportunities for you, but we can also personalize your promotional efforts based on your business’s needs and goals. Visibility Boosters: Roughly 75% of click traffic goes to the first 15 spots in search results, so where your listings rank is absolutely critical to your success. Expedia’s Accelerator and Booking.com’s Visibility Boosters are designed to maximize your visibility and elevate your listings’ placement in search results.Our personalized promotional campaigns not only increase your rank in search results, but they’re also customizable with blackout dates and can be targeted by country and region. Boosters can also be utilized to improve your listings’ search position for select days, meaning your listings will show up higher in traveler search results. Promotions: Your discounted rates are fully customizable according to your business needs. Expedia and Booking.com allow blackout dates, booking windows that target specific travelers (such as early bookers, last-minute bookers, and mobile users), and much more. When you implement these promotions through VacayHome Connect, we’ll help you increase bookings and convert more efficiently, build long-term value for future bookings, capitalize on seasonality, and encourage longer lengths of stay. Campaigns: Campaigns pack mega marketing power. When you opt-in, your properties receive special placement in search results, email marketing, banner advertising, and additional promotion filters. On Expedia and Booking.com, your participation in campaigns can also include special listing badges and supplementary marketing juice from the channels themselves (such as pay-per-click promotions).

Webinar Highlights: Train Your Team To Overcome Flooded Inboxes

Those of us who have worked in the lodging industry may fondly remember "The Good Old Days" when, at least as we remember it, our work lives were much less stressful because we didn’t have to deal with email! Yet like all memories, we tend to forget the bad parts of work back then! True, we didn’t have all the emailing, but instead our desks were stacked with pink message pads, our admins were beeping through live conversations to announce that another customer was waiting on hold, our beepers were beeping, and a stack of faxes were awaiting urgent responses. These days our messages arrive digitally, and there seems to be a nonstop tsunami of them. Depending on what type of lodging company you work for, and what your role is there, you may have receive some or all of these: Direct emails to yourname@yourcompany.com Notifications from “role” emails such as reservations@ or sales@yourcompany.com Email notifications that platform messages await replies on OTA sites, platforms such as CVENT, Wedding Wire, The Knot, or DMO/CVB/Tourism sites. Emails to document chat logs or to tell us that messages await at CRM’s or project management platforms such as Delphi/FDC, Slack, Basecamp, or others. Whether you are working in your own direct email accounts, or working with a shared inbox setting, here are some training tips to help us overcome what I call email fatigue. These are taken from several of our KTN hotel and vacation rental training classes, including those for reservations sales, group/event sales, and even owner services, so hopefully there is something for everyone! 1. Commit to a clean inbox. First, this will help avoid accidental deletion, especially when emails are being read on multiple devices. Probably all readers have had a situation where an inbound email has somehow simply disappeared, perhaps before it was even read, or maybe after it was read but not responded to. Some blame it on those nasty email trolls that slip into our offices in the middle of the night to steal them, but more likely is that while we were swiping to delete an email, a new one popped in and we deleted the wrong one. Secondly, many emails trigger multiple action steps. Upon first reading, the receiver acts on it but intends to get back to it later to finish the subsequent actions, yet the email moves down in the box and is forgotten. Having a clean inbox is especially important for those working in a shared in-box to ensure that emails are "owned and resolved" by whomever opened it, as they are responsible for filing it. This avoids confusion, duplicate work, and most importantly the chance that an email is not acted on because someone inadvertently opened it but did not resolve. Finally, perhaps the best reason to have a clean inbox, at least for me, is being able to sleep through the night! How many of us have woken up at 2 a.m. stricken with the terrorizing thought such as, "Oh no! Did I finish that task she emailed me about yesterday?" Now, if you are an admitted email inbox hoarder, and if I have nudged you towards a the clean inbox mindset,  you are now thinking, "Okay, I’m just going to come in one day and clean up all 7,000 of those emails." THAT will NEVER happen!  Instead, clean up the top 100 or so most recent ones, then create a new subfolder marked "Old emails through today’s date" and move ALL of them over into that folder! Then start fresh and keep it clean! 2. Create A Uniform Filing System For one, this will make it easier for you to search through your own email boxes. More importantly, it will ensure that anyone on your team can cover for anyone else, thus enabling YOU to actually take a real vacation day off and not get phone calls, texts, or emails about that lost email. Rather than suggesting a "one size fits all" system, I always encourage the team to brainstorm and agree on what works best and file by any of these: Source of lead. This may be by channel (Expedia, AirBnB, CVENT, Wedding Wire, email direct…) Type of lead. What staff member owns the lead. Then under each of those master file folders, create sub-folders by year, and for folders containing a large number of emails, add subfolders under that for month. 3. Reduce The Volume Of Emails (To The Extent Possible.) Start by sorting inbound emails at the source level by using multiple email addresses for different purposes. For example, I use one email address for my customer-facing (sales and service) emails, and a separate one for vendors, suppliers, and other public-facing business roles such as registering for a trade conference, after which I know I will be spammed by a ton of vendors sending random, mostly irrelevant messages. Next, and this one is for the top leaders, shrink the use of intercompany emails. Too often staff are slapping on CC’s to way more people than needed at the start of an email exchange, and then senders continue to reply to all even when a matter has been delegated down the line, basically spamming everyone. Also, too many workers these days are emailing back and forth about things which could have been resolved much quicker and better had we just made a "talk to Chris about" list and either called them up or stopped by their desk once per day. 4. Personalize Digital Message Exchanges With Prospects and Guests Whereas intercompany emails should be succinct and pithy, sales and service related emails that I see could use a LOT more fluffing, or as my customer who heads a wedding sales team in Jamaica says, “Sugar it up!” Fully embrace your CRM so that you can quickly and easily find key details you can insert into the first few sentences of an email to personalize your message by paraphrasing and restating something they shared or something you [...]

Webinar Highlights: Train Your Guest Services Team To Stop The ‘Full Refund Scammers’

Train Your Guest Services Team To Stop The "Full Refund Scammers" As I make the rounds conducting hospitality and guest service excellence training workshops every month, the topic of what I call "full refund scammers" is certain to come up. Over the years I have always tried to redirect the conversation back towards the more typical guests. I have always said there are a handful of guests who do complain only to get a refund, but the vast majority only want to be heard. However, in recent years, the number of incidents has increased, with a good portion of these guests specifically stating a threat such as: "If you don’t give me a full refund, I am going to write a bad review." So, the time seems right to add this to our KTN workshops, webcam training and webcasts like this one. Who are the "full refund scammers" and what damages do they cause to your hotel, resort or vacation rental company? While one might think of a stereotypical scammer who yells and berates our staff, plenty take the opposite approach and try to sweet-talk our staff into a refund such as "Now honey, I really don’t want to have to go online and give you fine folks a bad review about all this." When it comes to damages, the most obvious impact is that negative reviews could damage the "brand" by scaring off potential guests. Yet I would argue there is something even more damaging. If left unchecked, these full-refund scammers will destroy staff morale and allow a culture of cynicism to take root. How do you know if you have a culture of cynicism?  Just ask your staff (and yourself!) how you would finish this sentence: "Guests these days only complain because…"  If the answer is "…they want to get something for free," then the timing is probably good to cover the following training tips. How to stop the "full-refund scammers." Document "red flags" during guest interactions in the "guest contact record," starting with calls to reservations. Guests with ill intent usually inadvertently present "red flags" by making comments during their conversations (or textual exchanges in email or in-app messaging) prior to booking, or perhaps after booking, but in their pre-arrival communications. Here are some examples of what your staff should document: Guest objected to the fee and was notified that it could not be waived Guest was notified that early check-in could not be confirmed in advance Caller requested a king bed/view room and was notified of the up-charge for that category. If they later claim "No one told me that ..." or "Someone told me that ..." and their claim is outrageous, then pull the call from your "Guest Honesty Verification" system, more commonly known as your cloud-based recording platform. Here’s a sample of what to say: "Oh, well then since we always record calls for training and QA purposes, let me pull the recording from our system." Often guests immediately begin to back off by saying, "Well, I’m pretty sure that’s what they said." Document details of "requests" for special services or amenities. Be sure to train your staff up front to use the term "request" and not "confirm" and certainly not "guaranteed." Again most guests will be reasonable and understand the deal, but those with ill intent will tend to make remarks as "Oh yeah? We’ll SEE what happens when I get there then." Especially in these cases, make sure your staff adds comments such as "Guest notified that the request is NOT guaranteed." By the way, here’s some sample dialogue your staff can use when explaining why they cannot fully guarantee certain types of requests: "We are always careful not to promise more than we can be certain of delivering, and there are sometimes situations which prevent us from doing so. For example, guests might not check out when they are supposed to, or rooms might go out of order unexpectedly." Document response times and details on action steps taken, and especially on any solutions or alternatives that were offered but refused by the guest. This will save huge amounts of time in "forensic research" that the person responding to the reviews would otherwise need to track down these details. Stand up to the bullies. Make sure that managers do not cave to unreasonable demands and threats of a bad review. For one, it wastes money, as most scammers will blast you online anyway. But this also destroys staff morale when a frontline employee has stood up for your brand and done what’s right only to be overridden by a higher-up who did not even take time to fully understand the situation. And now a word about guests who drop the "F-bomb" or who otherwise carry it too far.  Provide one stern warning: "Sir, I am eager to assist, but I insist on professional language and mutual respect." If they escalate further, then it is time to hand off to another colleague who can invite the guest to stay elsewhere, or if necessary, call security or law enforcement. Defending your "brand" online. First, that if you don’t have any bad reviews, they won’t believe the good ones!  Personally, I truly believe that most consumers can sniff-out when a review is written by a scammer. As with all reviews, be sure to provide an original response, not just an overused standard template. This shows professionalism and provides an opportunity to share your side of the story. Components include: Thank them for their feedback and indicate how much you always welcome such. Provide validation for the emotions they have expressed. Add "however..." and give your side of the story. Use "we" vs. "you" statements. While you might want to say, "You should have read your confirmation email, in which you were notified…" instead say, "Although this is always documented in our standard confirmation emails, we regret that you did not notice it there." Here is a sample:  Dear Mr. Kennedy, We are always grateful [...]

Webinar Highlights: The Top 5 QUESTions Your Reservations Team Should Be Asking In 2022

Are You Ready To Make 2022 The BEST Year Ever For Your Hotel or VRM Co.? If so, it is not going to be easy. As we look ahead to the coming year, nothing is certain. Well, actually one thing actually is certain: there will be continued disruption in the lodging industry! One small but important sales habit you can do now to help in your reservations team’s QUEST to be the BEST in 2022 is to update your list of QUESTions that should be asked as part of your sales "flow" criteria. Why do lodging industry reservations sales agents need to update the questioning process? Today’s callers are pre-informed. They already know the rates. They’ve seen multiple images of each option online and perhaps even used 360° or virtual tours. In fact, they can most certainly book it themselves online by using the smartphone they’re calling from. To put it bluntly, those who are calling no longer need us. The lodging industry pundits have been predicting the demise of the voice booking channel for decades now, and yet still they call. What can reservations sales agents do that no website, computer-generated IVR voice, or chatbot do? Through the magic of satellites and transmission towers, we can touch the hearts of strangers. Have you ever had that warm, fuzzy feeling around your heart area after having an especially heartfelt conversation reservations caller? Guess what — they are feeling it, too. By asking the right questions, we can start conversations that enable uniquely human engagements. Chances are that your hotel, call center or vacation rental company already has a list of call standards in place that includes traditional questions. At KTN we call these call standards the "call flow" model. Following are five new and/or updated QUESTions we should be asking as part of our QUEST to be the BEST! Question One: Instead of this: Have you stayed with us before? Ask this:  Have you stayed with us before or did anything online catch your eye?     This question helps you obtain two important details all in one question. When callers have stayed before you can probably look them up in your guest history, and in all likelihood they will want to rebook the same accommodation. If they have not stayed, you will know they need help in selecting a room or vacation rental home. Additionally, by asking if anything online caught their eye, you will determine where they are in their decision making process. Perhaps they have seen something but have a question about it or they just need some reassurance. Perhaps the option they want is sold out and they need alternatives.  Or perhaps they are simply overwhelmed by the number of choices. Question Two: Instead of this: What brings you to the area? Ask this: "Is there anything special I can help you plan during your visit?" The first example listed above is the traditional way we have always determined purpose of travel, which is important for hotels that are holding blocks of rooms for groups and events, but it also helped determine what features to describe and sell. The new version is a better conversation starter that positions yourself as being a helpful travel planner who can do more than some OTA website chatbot or generic call center agent reading a script. Plus, if a special occasion is mentioned, it may prompt you to upsell to a higher-rated accommodation type. Finally, if you work at a resort or a vacation rental company that offers amenities and services for add-on fees, this will help open the door for you to discuss and therefore cross-sell those services. Examples might include transportation, dining options, golf or ski packages, or in-room amenities upon arrival. Question Three: Ask this: "May I ask what website you’re on?" This question will only apply during some conversations, such as when the caller self-reveals that they have been shopping online or when they mention the rate they see online is lower or different. If the rates are the same, you can then cover the benefits of booking directly, the most obvious of which is that you can complete the booking right now and make it easy. Remind them that you can book this directly into your reservations system. You may also want to point out the benefits of booking directly vs. with a third party, which may include less restrictive deposit and cancellation terms. If they are seeing a lower rate, you may want to ask if they are looking at the same accommodation type or if they maybe need to click to the next step where it will show the total with taxes and fees. Question Four: Ask this:  As I’m checking rates, what questions can I answer for you about the location or amenities? There are several advantages to asking this question. First, it establishes a "conversational" as opposed to "transactional" engagement style. It positions you as someone who is knowledgeable about the accommodations, amenities, and local area. Finally it moves the conversation away from price long enough for you to talk about the benefits and therefore establish value before you quote a rate. Question Five: Instead of this: "Do you want to book it?" Ask this: "Let me secure this for you right now while it’s still showing available..." By phrasing your closing technique this way, you leave the "burden of action" with you the seller, versus them the buyer. For example, if you say "Do you want to book it?" they essentially have to make an either/or decision, but if you say "May I secure it for you?" it is easier to just say yes. Also, by adding the new extension to this traditional closing question "… while it’s still showing available …" you are creating urgency for them to book now before the option sells out or the rate changes. While it is always important to create urgency, it is even more so now because most resorts and vacation rental companies are experiencing unusually [...]

Track and Beyond: Navigating The Future Of Short-Term Rentals With Revenue Management Platforms

With constant change and growing competition, one must stay ahead of the curve by being proactive with their pricing strategy to increase revenue and occupancy. In this webinar with Alline Arguelles, President from Exceptional Stays, Matt Renner, Principal Solution Consultant from TravelNet Solutions and Track Software, and Ryan Saylor, Revenue Management from Beyond (formerly Beyond Pricing), we talk about how to leverage technology and insights to manage your portfolio effectively. We discuss: Why Beyond and Track PMS have the best integration in the industry How to manage the health and performance of your entire portfolio How to understand your performance against market data