Summary: Following-up is an easy yet oft-overlooked way to generate bookings. Instead of obsessing over new guests, why not cultivate former guests into repeats and referrals? This post goes in tandem with The 4-Part Incoming Guest Nurture Sequence to build trust and respect with our clients.
I stay at a lot of vacation rental properties…
And one thing that always confounds me, no matter how nice or convenient or perfect the property is…
9 out of 10 times, I check-out, I leave the keys in the house, and I never hear from the owner/manager again.
No follow-up email. No nothin.
Now I know I fall on the extreme spectrum of the marketing pool (the side that engages in email marketing, referral engines, and constant social contact).
But how hard is it to send a follow-up email saying something simple like “Hope you had a great time, please stay with us again!”
Well, apparently it’s very difficult because almost no one is doing it.
Follow-up emails are not only a courtesy of the hospitality industry, but they can generate real direct repeat guests when done properly!
Below, I’ve asked 10 of my favorite vacation rental professionals to chime in on what makes a perfect follow-up email. Their ideas may inspire you (and at the bottom, I show you how to implement the follow-up email itself)…
1. Request Permission To Feature Guest In Your Marketing
“We’ve seen the number of guests leaving reviews of their stay more than quadruple simply by making feedback a part of the checkout process. Why? Because guests are simply more likely to leave reviews while still physically on-site. That being said, the post-stay follow-up email is a great way to elicit additional “social proof” from your happy guests. If someone already rated their stay 5 stars and/or left positive feedback, the follow-up email is a perfect time to ask if you can feature them in your marketing. If they agree, you can make their recommendation even more powerful by requesting a photo of the guest (during their stay is even better), or if you want to see fantastic results, try to arrange to get a video testimonial. Authentic, rich media recommendations from your guests will go a long ways in convincing that next guest to choose your rental over your competition.”
Brent Jacobsen, http://guestnetix.com
2. Integrate Guest Experiences With Facebook Campaign
“Feature the guest on your Facebook timeline! In your follow-up email, ask your guests to share with you their favourite photo whilst holidaying at your vacation rental along with a small description. Then share the photo with your followers and offer a 50% OFF the first night when your guests rebook!”
Chloe Young, http://kigo.net/
3. Focus On One Main Call To Action
“The most effective follow-up emails include one (not several, but one) main call-to-action (CTA). While there are several ideas on what that CTA could be, we consider a call-to-write a guest review the most important one. It’s a great way for you to collect positive reviews on your most important booking channels. Follow-up emails are also an easy way to increase your social media “Likes”. Add a one-liner at the beginning of your follow-up email with a link to your Facebook page, for example: “If you enjoyed your stay with us, please like us on Facebook :)”
Naveen Sharma, http://www.lodgify.com/
4. Leverage Time-Sensitive Offers
“For an effective follow-up email, we recommend a time-limited offer that expires in a few days to encourage impulsive consumer activation. Of course, this email should be written and sent by the owner making it less promotional and more personalized.”
Lester Kang, http://www.pandabed.com
5. Conduct A Mini-Survey
“Here is a template we recommend our clients to edit and use as necessary:
Dear [first name],
I trust you had a safe trip back home after your stay in [destination].
I would appreciate your feedback and comments on your holiday, [property name] and the services provided. It is important for us to receive your opinion in order to maintain consistency and help improve our guests experiences.
I would also welcome your rating from 1 to 10 (10 being best) on the following criteria:
* (in house chef or nearby restaurant)
Was the property as described in the web site:
Was the booking easy to do:
If you have enjoyed your holiday and the service, please feel free to connect with us on Facebook and Google+ and share your experience and holiday images.
Lastly if you have your own travel blog and would like to add some high quality photos of [property name], just let us know so we may send you some of the great images we have.
In advance, thank you and I look forward to hearing back from you.
With best regards
Marc Ribail, http://klikasia.com
6. The Biggest Follow-up Mistake? Forget To Actually Send One!
“Obvious yes, but are you sending follow-up emails every time? We decided to invest a little time upfront and automate our follow-up emails. When a reservation is made, we schedule the follow up email. We wanted to make sure the follow email was still personalized and well crafted, so we use things like the guest name, the property they stayed at to ensure it still has a personal feel.”
Mike Moser, http://www.splitvr.com
7. Smartly Solicit 5-star Reviews
“First off, ask your guests how their stay was to get feedback and find out whether you can ask them to leave a 5 star review or you need to refine your service. This way, you are kind of ‘in control’ of what your guests may write publicly. Use a 2-message sequence:Message#1: Ask how their stay was.Message#2: Copy/paste the part they wrote on message#1 that you want to appear in a review and send them a kind request to write a review of your property providing them with the appropriate direct link to your listing site’s review page.The idea is you make them really easy to do such thing as 1…, 2… done! Top it up with a discount offer for their next stay and…tell them you extend the discount to any of their referred friends. Works like magic!”
Antonio Bortolotti, http://www.vacationrentalsecrets.com
8. Make Guests Feel Like Their Opinions Count
“Everyone wants to feel like their opinion matters, so always use your follow-up email to ask guests what they loved the most about their stay and if there is anything that could have made it even better. This approach can elicit ideas and suggestions you may never have thought of. If you are able to make a change as a result of the suggestion, it’s a great opportunity to communicate with them again and let them know you acted on their feedback. Then send an Amazon voucher to thank them. This works on several levels by helping to upgrade your amenities and services and by creating an army of loyal repeat customers.”
Heather Bayer, http://www.cottageblogger.com
9. Tweak The Timing
“In addition to the content of your email, the timing of the follow-up email is very important. You want to find the optimal time to reach your guests when they will complete the call-to-action in your email (whether it is a Review or liking your Facebook page). Try sending the email the day after a guest checks out. Try sending an email 4 days after the guest check outs. Did you get a better response? In general, you should always A/B test your email campaigns in order to get the best results.”Sarah Brubaker, http://www.webchalet.com
10. Ask For Pictures
“Yes… PICTURES! Pictures of them vacationing and having a good time at your property. It could be the big “catch” or a family reunion picture with a beautiful sunset, a birthday celebration, or just something meaningful to them and their memory of their vacation. Simply ask for their permission to publish and post them on any of the free on-line photo galleries (Flickr, Photobucket, Shutterfly, etc.) that you would link to from your web site and even put the gallery link in the THANK YOU letter. That way they can see where and how you would post them.
Over time you would be surprised how meaningful it would be for your past guests as well as future ones to check out the photo gallery and share it with friends and family creating even more reach for advertising your vacation rental. This extra attention to details and the opportunity to convey value that enhances the traveler’s experience. Oh and be sure to thank your renters and have them share their experience with you and others through pictures!”
Bob Blum, http://www.rezernet.com/
What To Do Next: If you are using an online booking engine, it should have the follow-up email capability. That is to say, in the settings panel, you simply designate that “X days after a guest’s departure” you’d like to send “Y template.” This automated process is the easiest ‘set it and forget it’ approach. If you don’t have this feature available, I would recommend setting reminders on your calendar, and then manually sending a template respond (customized of course) to each recently departed guest. Both options have their pros and cons.