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I just read about the HomeAway Secure Communication changes that are in the works and expected to be implemented in the fall. This is a significant change to the process of responding to inquiries and communicating with travelers. Unfortunately, this results in HA/VRBO not only controlling/monitoring but also in adding data on our communications with travelers and the travelers' data to HA/VRBO's database. AND travelers will have to log in to HA/VRBO in order to respond to our emails (will result in loss of business). Let's give our feedback and input before this is implemented!!!
Q. Does HomeAway Secure Communication mean I need to take payments using ReservationManager?
A. No. We believe that you should have the choice to take payments by check, credit card, PayPal, or any other payment method as you see fit. When HomeAway Secure Communication is available, you will have your choice of payment methods.
Q. Will I have to log in to respond inquiries?
A. Yes. In order to protect your email address and to protect you from phishing, you must log-in to your dashboard to respond to inquiries. Inquiries will no longer have the traveler’s email address in the body of the inquiry email, and if you reply to the inquiry using your email client, it will be sent to DoNotReply@homeaway.com.
Q. How will I know if I have an inquiry from a traveler?
A. You will receive an email notification and an SMS notification on your mobile phone that you have an inquiry. In addition, if you are using the mobile app, you will receive an alert as well.
Q. Will travelers have to log in to respond to each message?
A. Yes. In order to ensure the legitimacy of travelers, and to protect owners and managers from phishing attacks, we will need to require travelers to log in.
Q. Will I be able to see the email address of my travelers?
A. Yes. Our current plan is that you will be able to see the email address after you have logged in and responded to the traveler’s inquiry. We look forward to working with our customers to refine our plans for HomeAway Secure Communication.
I do not like being FORCED to use the dash board. I really don't want HA or VRBO in my business. My main beef with this new system is the fact that I cannot see the inquirer's email!!!!!!! That is one of the things I use to check on potential renters before I reply. I want to know more about a renter so I know how I WANT to reply.
Furthermore, we will be at the mercy of any site malfunction on the part of the dashboard, ie any delays in getting and receiving notifications.
They nedd to rethink this, but they won't. Afterall, WE are not HA's customers, the Traveler is!
It does say that we, as owners, will be able to see the inquiry e-mail address once we log in. I agree, I much prefer having the inquiries go to my e-mail directly. I will not click on any links after being deceived once already. This makes it very difficult to respond on my phone and will use up more of my data plan having to leave e-mail and go to the web browser to view the inquiry and respond. I think I will initially reply through RM and then if the guest replies indicating a serious desire to book, I'll do the rest through my e-mail. I do get a lot of tire kickers who put out those initial blanket inquiries, get my price and then I never hear from them again.
"Our current plan is that you will be able to see the email address after you have logged in and responded to the traveler’s inquiry
I'm not happy with this change. It adds a step to my process for every inquiry. Instead of just responding to the email, I have to log into the dashboard, find the inquiry, and respond from there.
It also means that I no longer have a complete record of my exchange with each guest in email -- some of it will be in the dashboard, and some will be in email.
And, finally, I don't want HA/VRBO to have access to my communications with my guests -- that violates both my and my guest's privacy.
Exactly! After initial contact.
I base my reply on several things, including the "tone" of the inquiry, and information provided by the person etc. If I get "bev" (lower case mind you) whose email might be luvtoparty @yahoo and want 2 nights on July 4th, 0 people filled out, I already know that is someone I would not want in my house and will tailor my reply accordingly. With so many inquiries already not providing a phone number on intitial contact or even a last name I like having at least something to go on.
But the issue for me primarily is I don't want to conduct my business within the Home Away structure. Now if you decide to move out of the dashboard and communicate via your own email your potential guest will automatically think you are up to something by wanting to bypass the HA dashboard, specially since HA is strongly suggesting they not only book, but also pay through the HA system. That's great if you like using dashboard, but if you are perfectly happy with your own secure CC processor and booking methods, not so much.
It will be a lot more dificult for us who do not want to conduct business through the dashboard to get bookings as more people will become weary of doing so.
The part about not being able to make the initial response by email is my biggest concern.
If the system supported text formatting (bold, italic, color, bullets, font type - including fixed width) it wouldn't be such a big deal to me. I have a number of templates that I cut and paste into emails when I respond - but formatting is CRITICAL. To make this even potentially feasable, a good editor like TinyMCE, or preferably something that is Android / IOS browser compatible, is a must.
I agree - this change does not make me happy. While all efforts to prevent fraud, phishing, etc are greatly appreciated, this does not seem to be the optimal solution. HA/VRBO needs to do a lot more homework before mandating that Owners and Managers switch to this system. If the percentage of phishing is a low as they claim, there should be no need for such radical re-organization of the site framework.
Many of us have had trouble soliciting Reviews from clients who refused to log in and provide information to HA/VRBO. This will undoubtedly trouble the waters even further. Many of us have clients who don't ever want to meet an Owner, Manager or Housekeeper - they would probably refuse to submit a Traveller Profile. As a frequent renter myself, I know I wouldn't appreciate being required to do that, and would not rent a property that required it.
HA/VRBO appears to be snatching ideas from FaceBook. All well and good, to some extent. However, if I wanted to market my property on FaceBook, I would do so. I'm getting tired of the bells and whistles. What I want and what I need is a fairly-priced website that allows me to list my property, provides a gateway for communication between me and my clients, and which provides easy navigation tools for the renter. Background checks, payments, internet security and all the rest should remain my business.
There - I've said it, and I'm glad!
I have great concerns about this change. My policy/procedure is to do a simple background check via various social media sites using the inquiry''s email address- at the very least to do a search of the phone number- before I respond. If this takes effect I will lose the basic ability to screen my potential guests at a basic level.
'I'm sure sure HA has a good reason for doing this, but it will not work for me and my business plan.I take pride in managing my rental home, and want my guests to have a certain level of security in knowing they are dealing with me directly, and that their information is not being shared with unknown parties.
Will HA/VRBO please add a clause that states ( to the Traveler) that their personal information will not be shared with other parties for reasons of marketing-- or at the very least that they will not share/sell this info to others?
This is HUGE change being made to my contract, and to Travelers - having to allow a 3rd party into private contract negotiations. I'm very leary of this.
I advertise on several non HA sites, and have not had this proposed ( thank goodness!).
This is enough for me to consider dropping VRBO. Private communications with guests have nothing whatsoever to do with VRBO. This is not eBay where direct communications bypass their ability to earn fees. Or perhaps that's where things are headed (commissions?)
Will VRBO monitor these communications? I had a crazy experience with iTravex a few years ago. I responded to an inquiry saying I did not understand how the iTravex points were valued. This was a communication between two VRBO owners through the iTravex site. I was stunned when I received an email from an iTravex customer service rep saying they read my response and wanted to explain how the program worked.
Not all of us have phones capable of letting us log into the VRBO site. That means I will no longer have the ability to send a quick note that I'm traveling/shopping, etc. to the inquirer and tell them that I will get back to them as soon as I can.
The oddest thing is that this is claimed to be in response to phishing? I have not had a single phishing attempt since I've been with VRBO. How would a phishing attempt even work since the emails come from VRBO now?
I agree with what everyone has said. This plan is absolutely UNACCEPTABLE to me. This extra layer of VRBO interference will likely lose prospective renters for me. First, I want to contact my inquirer immediately, not after the VRBO system passes my response around some server and software. There are too many problems as it is with glitches in their system. As of last week, we still couldn't edit our maps, a function that worked just fine until they decided to "upgrade" it well over a month ago. The EDIT listing function has gone down multiple times. The filter with 1+, 2+, etc "sleeps" number and bedroom number have not been fixed though they said that they were going to improve it. Some owners have renewed or purchased new listings that took days or weeks to show up on the site. For weeks, the "outdoor grilling" feature of the filter filtered out almost ALL homes though almost all homes in my part of the country had outdoor grills. There's more, but my point is that HA/VRBO hasn't gotten many of their new features working right, and I shudder to think what a nightmare the problems this new response system will cause.
HA/VRBO, PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS TO US! My inquiries for 2013 will start coming in by the end of the summer, and if all goes as it has for the past 2 years, I'll be fully booked for June-August by March 1. However, this was because I contacted my inqirers immediately. I have never had an inquirer question my legitimacy. There WILL be delays in communication. There WILL be times when we cannot communicate at all. I DO NOT want to be protected from myself (phishing). This is all beginning to look to me like a government run operation. HA/VRBO is taking more and more control over the way we run our business. And we all know how that's been working out.
One more thought. I wonder how property managers are going to feel about this new layer of inconvenience. Or will they be exempt from this govern..., er, big company interference, "protection", restrictions, "what's best for us", or whatever one chooses to call it?
dbmeyer, why not post this in the property manager section as well?
I second or third or tenth the objection to this new layer between communications. I too use gmail's threaded email correspondence to keep track of everything that has transpired between the prospective renter and myself. I do not wish to have part of the conversation tied to HomeAway/VRBO's system.
What if I choose to leave HA/VRBO? How do I keep all the correspondence that HA/VRBO has now stored on their servers that I no longer have a login to?
A little too much interference for my taste.
If you aren't careful, it'll be easier and less stressful for the renter to go to an agency than jump through more and more hoops to rent from an owner.
It's utterly unacceptable. I have my own ways of managing my contacts, materials I send them, ways I file the mails, etc. I don't need to be protected by Big Brother. Having them log back in to see my mail is beyond absurd as a business decision. Who came up with this hare-brained idea?
I am not a member of the private group "property managers" in order to post this there. If someone else reading is a member, please feel free to copy and paste my post. I would also like to make a further comment on this proposed change: why is it that I happened to find this by accident on their site, and that if they truly wanted our input why did they not solicit it via email??? I am also tired of HA/VRBO's responses to our various issues/concerns raised here, never addressing the reality but still giving "form letter" responses, their site is safe, hasn't been hacked, etc. etc. I was shocked to read a recent post by a traveller who was scammed for $1200, and HA assumed no liability and directed her to seek compensation from the "legitimate" owner. Her initial inquiry was responded to by someone who had intercepted the owner's VRBO account. How is that not VRBO's responsibility? The new log-in system proposed will make their site all the more "attractive" to such attacks. Heaven help us!
If you want it posted, I think you can go to the PM group, click on one of the posters' avatar, and send him a private message. You could simply copy and paste your original post in that message and ask him to create a discussion and copy and paste it in.