Invariably it is how you handle the first shot of communication from the inquirer that makes or breaks a deal for you as the owner of the vacation rental. Unless you are there to take that first call or reply to the first email instantly, there are chances that you might lose out on a booking to your nearest competitor. Ideally once the traveler has decided on the location and the dates, he tries to wrap up things fast, be it his travel tickets or booking an accommodation. So time is of essence here. The luxury of taking time to attend to the call or replying to an email is very less – the traveler wants the owner to communicate fast so that he can get the entire process of booking done in a brief lead time.
While as an owner you would like to screen the guests before you say the final “yes”, but you should set yourself a time-frame within which you will decide whether you will rent out your property to the inquirer or not. Lengthening the entire communication unnecessarily will help none. For this, prepare a list of questions you are going to ask. Nothing can probably be as unprofessional as to be sending the traveler multiple emails asking about his antecedents. It will not only add to the frustration of the traveler, but you will also unnecessarily be spending precious time.
I think preparing for the inquiry – be it a telephonic call or an email is absolutely necessary. Here are the answers to some questions, which ideally owners ask about how to prepare and respond to the first inquiry:
I THINK I’M MISSING CALLS FROM TRAVELERS – WHAT SHOULD I DO: Many travelers complain that they had called an owner, but instead their calls went to the answering machine. This is a common issue, with many owners not being at home during the day because they are in their offices or away from their homes for most of that time. Many bookings are actually lost due to non-availability of the owner when the traveler calls. Ideally I recommend owners to put their secondary number (which should be their mobile number) too in the property listing in case they are not at home. However if you have not given your secondary phone number, then the best way to do away with this problem is to record a message that gives the alternative number to the traveler to call. If you don’t have an answering machine, it is advisable to get one. These machines are easily available in the market and do not cost much. You can, in fact, buy them online too. Meanwhile if you don’t want to reveal your mobile number to travelers, you can always go for a call divert. All telecom companies give this facility, wherein you can divert calls coming to your landline or home phone to you mobile. This way you will not miss any calls, plus your privacy is maintained because your mobile number is not known to the traveler.
SHOULD I CALL OR E-MAIL: The thumb rule is: if the traveler has called you, then it makes sense to call him back. The trick here is to go by what he is comfortable with. So if he has sent you an email, it is best to reply him by email. In any case if you have a free listing on a vacation rental website, you will need to login and go to your dashboard and reply back. I ideally feel that communicating via email is a better option at least in the initial stage of communication because by sending an email you will have a record of the string of communications with him. However at a later stage, it is a good option to call him which will help you to know him better.
SHOULD I SETUP AN AUTO-REPLY TO RESPOND TO INQUIRIES: Unless you yourself are on a vacation or have no access to the internet, try not to setup an auto response to the email inquiries sent by travelers. It hardly adds any value for the traveler. Instead try to reply back at the earliest. When a traveler sends an email, he expects the owner to respond to his queries, instead of getting an auto reply saying that you will attend to his email shortly.
HOW DO I RESPOND TO INQUIRIES SENT AS A TEXT MESSAGE: Text message sent on mobiles are not enough for both you and the potential renter, because reading long messages on the handheld phone or mobile is very difficult and renting your property is a serious business that should not be done by back and forth short text SMSes. The best way to handle such inquiries is to politely text back your email id and ask the travelers to send a detailed inquiry as an email.
I hope I have covered most of the questions you might have when you are about to start a communication with a prospective renter. Invariably, if you have any query(s) other than these, do write to us. We would be happy to answer them and also share with our other owners.
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