The Internet has transformed many industries including, of course, the travel industry. A consequence of the Internet’s revolution is that online travel companies depend on guest feedback to determine their ratings. Although these ratings are not standardized, most are done in the form of stars, diamonds or rosettes. Even before the Internet was widely available and customer feedback was solicited and public, hotels were rated in travel books and guides by authors or teams who sampled the wares and awarded iconic symbols to reflect cost and amenities. The goal of these ratings was to help travelers choose the ideal lodging within their means.
Enter the Vacation Rental Industry
A growing trend with travelers is to choose vacation rental homes instead of hotels. These can be for short or long-term stays, for business or pleasure. After checkout, many online travel agencies ask guests to write reviews and use stars to rate their overall experience, one being poor and five being outstanding. These reviews appear on the same websites that market the homes and there are obvious benefits to these reviews: home owners are more likely to be forthright, hosts can use feedback to improve their properties, and possibly most importantly, guests can read the reviews and avoid disappointment.
Rating Hotels and Vacation Home Rentals is Not the Same Thing
The star system is simple and not problematic except when guests rate vacation rental homes as they would a hotel and in terms of cost and amenities. When this happens, stars can quite literally become a death sentence for a rental home.
It’s not that hosts want guests to lie. In fact, quite the opposite is true. As I mentioned earlier, feedback can help hosts transform homes into ideal rental properties that are in high demand year-round. The problem lies in guests rating a home’s amenities instead of the overall experience they had in the home they reserved. In other words, staying in hotels and vacation rental homes is different and so is the star system for rating them. While travel companies rely on customer feedback related to a hotel’s amenities, vacation rental hosts hang their hats on the guests’ rental experience.
Clear as mud? Let me give you an example. Guests rent a 2-bedroom, 2 bath condo in a mid-priced neighborhood. Some may think this home cannot be worthy of a 5-star rating. In reality, a 5-star rating is possible, and just as easily as with a million-dollar luxury home. How? If the guests’ experience included smooth booking, arrival and departure processes; the property was as advertised and met or exceeded the guests’ expectations; and any problems that occurred were handled both professionally and as expediently as possible. Less than 5 stars would imply the reservation process was deceptive or confusing, the property and amenities were not as advertised, or the host made little effort to deliver quality services and resolve issues.
Hosts cringe (and rental homes go away) when there is unwarranted deduction of stars. True stories include guests assigning fewer than 5 stars because the weather was too cold, too hot or too windy; the city had people walking around at night (the home was marketed to be perfect for city lovers); there was traffic on the drive to a local restaurant or guests’ flights were delayed resulting in a late arrival. Note that all of these problems are out of the range of control for any host.
My favorite star rating story (or is it my least favorite?) goes like this.… The guest called the rental manager and said she needed a crockpot for a meal she wanted to cook that day. The manager immediately sent a team member to the store to buy a crock pot. It was delivered to the rental home within an hour and with a smile. After check-out, the guest gave the home 4 stars and explained in the review that she appreciated the crockpot but it was too big. Several clichés come to mind here, but enough said.
Consider the Following for a Fair Star Rating:
- Did the reservation team provide friendly service throughout the booking process?
- Did you receive the information promised between booking and arrival?
- Was the home ready when you arrived?
- Was the property what you expected after viewing the photos and reading the descriptions?
- Did the host handle unexpected problems with a professional demeanor?
- Once you made your host aware of an issue, was it resolved in a reasonable amount of time?
- If you had questions or made requests, did the host make every effort to respond and accommodate when possible?
- All conditions being the same, would you reserve the home again if you returned to the area?
Arizona Vacation Home Rentals values their guests’ feedback and uses that information to improve their properties and services. When you stay in our homes if any problem should arise we ask that you contact us, no matter how small or the time of the day, so we can resolve it. Our goal is for ALL guests to have the 5 Star experience they deserve!
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