Simplifying Check-in: Keys and Locks

So you wrote an inviting welcome letter and a quick list of safety precautions and expectations for your new guests. You even prepared a welcome basket with a bottle of wine and several brochures for neighborhood attractions.

Good work, but did you sit down and think about how you’re going to let your guests into your vacation rental?

Checking in guests to a vacation rental is different from hotels as rental owners have a little more freedom as to how to they give their guests access to the home. If you live relatively close to your property, the easiest option is most likely to meet your guests at the door, give them a tour of the property, and make their transition to “vacation time” a little easier.

For the other owners who are not in the vicinity or simply do not have the time to check in guests, they have to figure out the best way to get keys (or codes) to the vacationers.

What are the options?

  • Mail the keys!

If your home uses a standard key lock, you may opt to send guests a copy of the key through the mail. Seems simple enough, but is it worth the risk of being lost in the mail? How about damaged upon arrival? Or better yet, arriving at the wrong address or just too late? After all of these considerations, you will still have to determine how the keys are returned to you.

Of course these are not guaranteed risks, but as a rental property owner, would you have the time (and patience) to deal with mistakes that are out of your hands?

  • Lock the keys up!

Snail mail out of the question? Then you can lock up copies of your key in a lock box on your property. You can easily find many inexpensive options online and go with a key storage box that has many positive reviews and fits your tastes. Leave keys to the rental in the box before the guest arrives and simply tell them the combo to open it. However, the downside to the lock box is that you will have manually change the combination after each guest for security.

When using physical keys for your rental property, there is always the possibility that an unscrupulous vacationer may make copies of the keys. The keys can be stamped with “Do Not Duplicate” to tell locksmiths to not make copies, but there are some key cutters who may not pay attention to this at all.

  • Get rid of keys entirely!

Why not remove keys from the equation and install a keypad for your home? The perks of using a key-less system include being able to store many multiples of codes that can be recycled, changed, etc. for every group of travelers. If the guest forgets the combination, they can easily call or email you for the combination without needing to wait for keys to arrive in the mail or for you or another authorized person to show up and let them into the house.

You will need to carefully research your choice in keypads. While some may store multiple codes, you may have to physically change them on location. More hi-tech, and generally more expensive, keypads have remote-access options which gives you the ability to change codes using your computer and set up dates for automatic code changes around your vacationer schedules. Depending on your computer savvy level, the programs could take some time for adjustment and setting up.

What then, is the best option for you?

Think about your level of availability for your travelers. A good rental property owner can be reached at most times if emergencies or other problems arrive. However, you can’t always guarantee that you will physically available for issues. Compare the costs of each key option and determine whether or not you can deal with a recurring cost – mailing keys – or a fixed cost – keypad installation.

The check-in process should be simple enough for guests, but definitely consider your own needs and limits in order to save yourself from unnecessary headaches.

Increase Bookings by Staying in Touch With Guests

Like most vacation rental owners, you’re probably looking for new ways to increase your bookings. An easy way to do this is by simply inviting back former guests with which you’ve had a positive experience. In general, keeping an existing customer is much cheaper than trying to find a new one, and there’s the added bonus of not having to explain the logistics to former visitors since they have already stayed in your home. Here are a few ways that you can increase the likelihood of a previous guest returning to your vacation home.

Send a thank you note after your guest’s stay

Let your guests know you value their patronage by sending them a nice email or a hand-written thank you note. Guests will appreciate you taking the time to acknowledge their decision to spend their trip in your home over the others in the surrounding area.

Create a feedback survey

After a booking, invite your guests to answer a few questions to see how you can improve your accommodation. Create a survey that allows visitors to give constructive feedback on what can make your vacation rental a better experience. You can use either a paper or email survey, like SurveyMonkey, and can ask guests a range of questions on topics like cleanliness, amenities, and comfort level. Not only will this feedback help you improve your service, it will also let guests know you care about providing the best possible experience.

Send a holiday card

When December rolls around, wish your guests a happy holiday season with a greeting card. While you can include a picture of your vacation rental, be careful not to make it a sales pitch. A holiday greeting card that’s genuine can make a great impression on former guests.

Offer a special amenity or discount

Offering a special deal or incentive to potential repeat renters is another great way to entice them back to your vacation home. You could knock off 10% of the total cost of the rental or maybe offer a special gift, like a gift certificate to a local spa, for a couple that has previously spent a week in your home. Adding amenities can often work better than discounts, not only because they can be cheaper as they are an investment, but also because they focus on enriching the entire experience of your guests.

So by putting in a little extra effort in maintaining a friendly relationship with your guests and keeping the lines of communication open, you increase your chances of securing their loyalty and quite possibly their future reservations.

Happy Bookings!




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