We are all on the same page that customer service begins as soon as a customer begins to browse your website or listing. It’s the same way when we circle around a rack of shirts in the department store. The way the store is arranged, and the presence of sales associates, their demeanor: all these factors make up our experiences as consumers.
But understanding the customer experience — as we see it in a shopping mall — has become complicated since the internet enabled us to buy stuff. What works for one person can be interpreted in totally different ways by different people. Let me use an analogy.
Remember this old illusion?
There are the two ways of seeing the image above. One is as a rather realistic young woman looking over her right shoulder. The other, a caricature of an older woman with a long chin seen in profile.
Which one do you see first?
Ever since I was in Ms. Hunsinger’s second grade class and marveled at this picture for the first time, I always saw the young woman first and while I can see the older woman it’s difficult for me to focus on the image for long.
When it comes to investigating technology’s influence on customer service, we need to appreciate that there are two ways of seeing customer service. We should do whatever is easier, more intuitive, and better for business, while never forgetting that there’s more than one way to do it.
We’re talking about booking online. In the vacation rental industry, there are two major schools for vacation rental professionals. Many businesses wish to book more like hotels do — that is, instantly and online. On the other side, many businesses say they wish — because it is, after all, their home — to operate entirely over the phone and accept payments with checks.
There is still a group of successful hosts who prefer this traditional method of approving guests and accepting payments by calling in and paying with a check. I’m not saying this is an old technique, because even around 2012-2013 — this is how it was done. When we say customer service has changed in recent years we really do mean recent. However the group of people that can get away with the call-in/screen/book-sans-credit-card method is getting smaller every day.
While talking on the phone has been the best way of showing attention and careful professionalism, many consumers want to book right away.
Commerce, especially e-commerce, is about convenience and speed.
But hear this. Internet technology has enabled more powerful booking engines, but that doesn’t preclude fantastic connections to be made on the phone. Booking a vacation rental is a bigger expense than most other online purchases, and in some cases the consumer needs to be helped across the finish line with terms and conditions. A study of Navis hotel and resort clients found that a phone conversation was 27% more successful than simply booking online. Not only that, but guests who talked on the phone were willing to spend 37.8% more than guests who booked online alone. See Navis Blog, July 27, 2015
What do we learn from this?
Making good connections is about options.
We can understand that not everybody is on-board with the Instant Book method–and we don’t mean to push anybody beyond their own comfort–but if you don’t accept payments on your website, what’s the point of having it? We need to remember that the technology is a lot easier to use now and any consumer who has taken to the internet to book a vacation rental knows that and expects more than just photographs of a home. That said, we can also can understand that conversations over the phone can cultivate a strong relationship, perhaps leading to happier bookings and more substantial revenue.
WebChalet is interested in finding an easier method for our clients that creates better connections. We want you to have the option of marketing yourself with a beautiful website and still lay an easy path to booking. Whether this is a Book-it-Now option, or simply a Request-to-Book option that can easily turn into a booking after a phone call, accepting online payments for a vacation rental is the most important innovation for this bustling industry.
1. Enable Online Booking
Guests need to have the option. If they’re holding their credit card in their hands and want to book, let them request to book. The fact is most people feel more secure making payments this way. So why turn that business away?
2. Include Your Phone Number
Including a phone number establishes trust with potential guests hoping to make a reservation. Have your phone number in your header, or right there on the booking page. Make it easy to find. If a guest wants to talk, that conversation could close the deal.
If you’re interested in learning more about what OneRooftop can accelerate the direct bookings on your vacation rental website, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have ideas about perfecting customer service for 2015 that you’d like to share? Leave us a comment below!