Increase Inquiry Volume by Collecting Reviews

Written by: Vanessa

At FlipKey and TripAdvisor, we’ve seen first hand the monetary success that coincides with having reviews. Properties that have reviews earn higher rankings and placement in search results. Think more visibility, more inquiries, and more bookings! Having reviews for your rental properties is so crucial that we want to share some essential tips to make collecting reviews easy for both you and your guests.

The Importance of Reviews

A listing is not complete until you have collected at least one review. Reviews provide a sense of trust, credibility, and confidence amongst consumers searching for a vacation rental. In fact, nearly 80% of travelers say they are significantly more likely to book a property if they can read reviews from past guests(1).

In order to appeal to the 80% of travelers who heavily rely on reviews from past guests as a signal of your property’s credibility, you must consider the process of collecting reviews as a fundamental first step in renting out your property.

Here are some helpful tips to make collecting reviews easy and stress-free:

  • Encourage Your Current Guests to Leave Feedback After Their Stay. Set the tone by letting guests know that if they enjoyed their stay, you would greatly appreciate them sharing their feedback with other travelers by leaving a review.
  • Explain The Review Process. Let your guests know that you’ll need their email address in order to send them a review invitation, but that their email address will exclusively be used to solicit feedback in the form of a review. One way to indirectly remind guests to leave a review is to add a small note or written request in your rental contract.
  • Initiate the Exchange of Email Addresses. Start by giving guests’ your email address. In return, ask for the email address of two or more people in your guests’ party (just in case you have trouble collecting a review from one person). Sharing your email address first not only makes it easier to ask them for their email address, but is also a good way to make sure that they have your contact information in the event that they choose to return.

Swapping contact information with your guests is easy:

  • Make Business Cards For Your Property. Create business cards with your contact information and your property links on FlipKey and TripAdvisor. You can also leave a stack of cards on the kitchen counter or coffee table (we’d recommend conveniently placing them next to a guest book that has a column for guest email addresses).
  • Create Pocket Sized Area Maps with Contact Information. Create a pocket size map of the local neighborhood. Include your home, great restaurants, and key attractions on one side of the card and your contact information on the other. Give it to your guests in exchange for the email addresses of multiple guests in the traveling party. A tourist is always looking for a map to make sure they hit all the “hot-spots” in the area.
  • Remind Guests to Leave a Review During Their Stay. Design an attractive sign with a catchy logo reminding guests to leave a review on FlipKey and TripAdvisor. Place the sign in a high traffic area, like the inside of the front door or kitchen where guests will see the sign frequently.
  • Set a Time Frame. Tell your guests that you will be sending a review invitation almost immediately after their stay. Sending a review invitation while your visitors are still relaxed from their wonderful vacation and while your property is still a vivid memory will increase the likelihood of positive feedback. As time passes and as they get caught up with the chaos of daily life, they will forget that you even asked them to leave a review. So be sure to request your review in a timely manner.
  • Time is Money. Send follow up emails within 48 hours after the initial invitation. Guests are significantly less likely to respond if too much time passes in between their actual stay and the time that they receive the email review invitation. Since reviews are central to property rankings on FlipKey and TripAdvisor, and higher rankings mean more viewings, inquiries, and bookings, you want to make sure that you successfully add a review at every opportunity you get!
  • Send a Personalized Email. FlipKey makes following up with past guests very simple by allowing owners to send a personal email directly to past guests. When sending an email from your personal email address, include the unique URL to the review invitation so that your guest can easily click on the link and leave a review. Including a memorable part of your home in the subject line will make them more inclined to open your email immediately. Make sure to distinguish your email from all the other emails that are clogging up their inbox.
  • Create a Thank You Note. Write a basic thank you note that you can tailor to each guest. Many owners require a refundable deposit, so this is a perfect opportunity to let your guest know that you are returning their deposit and to slip in a link to have them leave a FlipKey review.
  • Increase Your Odds by Emailing Multiple Guests From The Same Party. Since you have collected multiple email addresses from the various guests who stayed in your property together, send a review invitation to each guest that shares their email address with you. In your personal email feel free to sympathize with your guest about the rough adjustment back to normal life, but remind them that feedback about their stay would be sincerely appreciated, and that they are welcome back at anytime (repeat business)!

In a perfect world, every guest would respond to your invitation, but the truth is that most guests are going to need a bit of a nudge. A guest may have a great experience staying in your home, but may never leave a review due to the chaos of every day life (work, laundry, kids, etc). In fact, only about 40% of people leave a review after their stay(2). Although it can be disappointing that more travelers are not the reviewing type, you can be confident that your guests likely had an amazing time. Most travelers have great experiences staying in a vacation rental, and nearly 90% of vacation rental guests would recommend renting a vacation home following their stay(3). Our own research confirms strong satisfaction from travelers across the entire vacation rental category, as the vast majority of reviews on FlipKey are extremely positive. By taking advantage of every opportunity to collect reviews and following up with guests you will certainly see a much higher success rate!

(1) Compete.com

(2) FlipKey.com

(3) PhoCusWright

From Worst Travel Nightmare to Dream Vacation

Written by: Dan Weisman

Today, join us for the first part of a series in which we pursue vacation rental perfection by combing through thousands of FlipKey guest reviews to gain insight into the mind of the self-catering traveler. In this installment, we examine factors that worry and scare guests, and what can be done to put them at ease.

Although most of us go on vacation to relax, the planning process for any major trip invariably includes some stressful moments. For some travelers, the decision to stay in a vacation rental for the first time can be daunting; others worry about practical issues such as the size of a home, proximity to the beach, and nosy neighbors. We broke down reviews and found that travelers’ three main worries are safety, privacy, and noise. Here’s what the travelers are saying, and what owners and managers can do to help them achieve travel nirvana.

Safe and Sound

Health, safety, and security are the biggest concerns for families with children and travelers in foreign countries. In some cases, a safety concern can be addressed with a simple repair:

The only thing that worried me was that the railings on the outdoor patio needed some type of netting or an additional safety feature. I was always worried about my kids (2yrs. & 4 yrs.) falling through even with us being right there with them.

This reviewer offers the rental owner/manager a helpful tip: repair the stairs and guests will feel more comfortable about their children’s safety. Other travelers grow concerned about protecting the rental home from their young kids. It is always wise to note a property that is not kid-friendly, and keep delicate décor out of reach of young ones.

In other cases, guests become concerned about the safety of an area and may need reassurance that they will be safe while on vacation:

No complaints. Only concern was the ample notices to lock doors, felt a bit paranoid, but I guess there may be a crime issue on the island.

The issue of crime on the island aside, the best response in this situation is to make sure that guests never become paranoid in the first place. Warn them to keep the doors locked, but try to do it without creating undue stress.

Private Hideaway

Vacation rental guests generally expect their accommodations to ensure a level of privacy above that of a hotel. Many guests who book rentals in more densely populated areas do so with trepidation, worried that they may not get the escape they hoped for:

We had a wonderful time at Buena Vista Cottage and can’t wait for a chance to come back to Key West and stay there again. Having accidentally scheduled our stay during Spring Break, we were a little worried about privacy. This cottage was the perfect oasis for us while still being close to activity on the main drag.

The good news is that the privacy concern almost always turns out to be unfounded. After all, almost any vacation rental provides a kind of privacy unavailable in hotels or other accommodations with populated common areas. In your description, try to assure guests that your vacation property is a calm haven (unless it is not – in which case you should be upfront about privacy issues), but chances are they will figure it out themselves.

Loud Noises

Guests who worry about noise fall into two general categories: those who want to make noise, and those who want to avoid it. Most of the rowdy crowd are concerned about disturbing the neighbors:

This was a great home for a family group of 16 people. The neighbors to the East worried me during our stay. We were told that they will call the police or rental company if we were too loud… I was stressed each evening of my stay that they would call. The homes are within 10′ of each other! How do you keep 16 people on vacation quiet each evening?

It sounds like this particular guest kept his group out of trouble, but he makes a good point: it’s hard to keep a large group quiet when they’re having a good time. Give guests a good sense of what will be tolerated in your neighborhood. Neighbors may object to raging parties, but will have no problem with a raucous family reunion. Other, more sensitive, neighbors may object to the slightest up-tick in volume. Again, the best defense is to give guests clear guidelines in advance.

On the flip side, many travelers come on vacation expecting a peaceful retreat. They worry that the neighbors (or even the scenery) may be too loud, thus ruining an otherwise perfect rental:

Initially, I was a little worried that the resort and beach would be noisy and crowded, as we were traveling at a very busy time of year, but it wasn’t… The resort itself was quiet and relaxing.

As you can see, worries have a way of working themselves out. This traveler’s confidence may have been boosted by the advice that “the beach never gets crowded – even in the busy season.” However, the truth is that vacation rentals tend to speak for themselves. As soon as travelers reach their rental home, their worries melt away.

In fact, we found that most travelers worry only about the most important thing: that the home they loved on vacation remains in good condition for years to come.