PM Perspectives

1 Post authored by: bfurlong

Looking Back on 2012

Posted by bfurlong Jan 18, 2013

A Letter from Bill Furlong, VP of HomeAway Software®

 

Before 2012 becomes a distant memory, we wanted to recap a few of the many things we focused on during the past twelve months. Our goal is to be nothing less than the best software provider in the vacation rental industry. We work towards this goal by paying attention to details, innovating, continually improving our customer support, and streamlining how you interact with HomeAway®; and our partners. In 2012 we focused on a number of initiatives to create the best possible software and services for our customers.

 

Sweating the details

Providing the best possible software means focusing on hundreds of small things. One of the consistent pieces of feedback we’ve heard from you is that you'd like for us to maintain our focus on supporting, maintaining, and improving the products you use to manage your businesses every day. We take that responsibility very seriously and are committed to that work.

 

We have made more than 700 enhancements to our software products. That’s more than two enhancements to our products every business day of the year! And while any one of those features may be small, each of those enhancements has to be designed, defined, coded, tested, and released into production.

 

These enhancements represent improvements to every product we have in the HomeAway Software portfolio. In addition to product feature enhancements, we also addressed hundreds of issues that you reported.

 

We also spent time on things that you may have barely noticed. For example, we moved hosting for V12.NET® to our world-class hosting facility in Austin, Texas. This move was a huge and complex project! We see it as a big sign of success that almost no one noticed the change. Over time, our customers will reap the benefits of improved speed and performance and higher reliability.

 

Another area where the payoff is often unseen by customers is our investment in enhancing the security of our applications and payment transactions. Data security is important to your business, as you store sensitive information on a daily basis. The work we do to fortify our credit card security and login information is designed to protect you and your customers.

 

Bright, shiny, and new

In addition to hundreds of minor improvements, we also invested significant development effort into a number of major enhancements. Examples include accounts receivable management, occupancy-based yield management and budgeting in V12, and account period closing, bulk unit, and owner contract setup in Escapia®.

 

What makes product development people like us especially excited is diving into big problems faced by customers and building something cool that can make a positive impact on our customers’ lives.

 

After listening to you, we discovered that many of you needed help managing a dramatic increase in the number of inquiries you receive. While receiving a flood of inquiries is a good problem to have, it is a problem nonetheless. As a result, we put some of our best minds on the job and designed the largest new feature module added to our software in many years: Lead Management. This new module helps you prioritize, track, and respond to all incoming inquiries from all marketing sources, thus helping your reservations agents maximize conversion rates like never before. We released this module as a beta, and it will soon be generally available for Escapia users. Support for V12 users will be coming thereafter.

 

Another major change in the way vacation rental managers manage information is the increasing use of mobile devices. Last year we released a mobile housekeeping app for V12 on both Android and iPhone.  By partnering with leaders in the industry, we provided interfaces that enable mobile solutions for guests and members of your staff. We also had a great time collaborating with customers at RezFest® to envision mobile solutions that would make the biggest impact on your businesses. As proof of our commitment to mobile technology, we’ve hired a new Vice President of Mobile Development to ensure that we have the best mobile solutions for our customers in the future.

 

“How can I help you today?”

Vacation rental management is a complicated business; we hope our products make the management a lot easier. Still, there are plenty of times when you simply need to talk with someone who can explain how to use your software to get something done.

 

There are few things more gratifying than going to RezFest and seeing customers hugging a support technician who has been there for them time and again. As any of you who have called or emailed our customer support staff know, they are incredibly knowledgeable and dedicated experts who combine product knowledge with an understanding of the day-to-day needs of vacation rental managers.

 

Some of you may have had the pleasure of meeting Dan Rourke, our Director of Customer Service. Dan, who was hired last year, has already made significant progress laying down the foundation to improve our customer support organization. He rolled out a new phone system, which allows us to track and improve the performance of our support staff. He’s focused on providing coaching and feedback for our support team so everyone continues to polish their skills and drive for continual improvement. We’ve also brought onto the team a documentation specialist who helps us create stronger support information for our products so that customers can access solutions, tips, and other information on demand.

 

Our belief is that the only way to serve customers well is to listen closely to what you are telling us. This year we launched a feedback survey, which lets you grade us after you receive service from one of our support representatives. We also do regular surveys to learn more about your needs. We use this input to make well-informed decisions about what will best serve your business. Thank you for taking the time to provide feedback. Whether it's praise for someone on our team, or a request for us to focus in a certain area, we appreciate your input. Your honest feedback is critical to helping us do our best.

 

Connecting you to others

One of the wonderful things about the vacation rental business is the wide range of companies, large and small, committed to serving vacation rental managers. 2012 marked another year of significantly adding to the broadest partner portfolio in the industry. We connect to so many companies so you can access the programs they have to help you build your business. 

 

Many of those partners are in the vacation rental listing and distribution business. We added more than 20 new channel partners in the past year, bringing the number of distribution sites accessible through a data interface to over one hundred.

 

Our partnership portfolio also includes partners building websites for vacation rental managers, providing mobile solutions, housekeeping features, travel protection programs, credit card processing, guest services, target marketing programs, keyless entry programs, and more.

 

Connecting you to HomeAway

Our goal at HomeAway Software is to make it easier for you to manage your vacation rental business. As a division of HomeAway, we have a unique opportunity to make it easy and attractive to take advantage of the marketing programs that HomeAway offers on our listing sites.

 

A recent step we made toward this goal is enabling you to integrate your software with listings on VRBO.com™. This improvement allows you to take advantage of one of the most powerful lead-generating sites in the world. In addition, we rolled out a pay-per-subscription model for Escapia customers, which includes Brand Boost and access to tiered pricing on HomeAway.com®, letting you maximize your visibility and brand presence on HomeAway. While we still have work left to do in order to make this process operate perfectly, we know it will help reduce the time it takes to maintain listings on our sites.

 

One of the benefits of being a property manager is that you qualify for the lowest rates available today for listing properties on HomeAway.com. We recognize the volume of listings you have and we reward your decision to place a high percentage of those listings on HomeAway.com by providing reduced prices relative to those placed by individual homeowners. We also have a new program that recognizes property managers who use HomeAway for their software as well as to advertise their properties. Vacation rental managers can now earn a discount on their annual software fee by increasing listings on HomeAway sites. If you are interested in growing your listing program on HomeAway.com or VRBO.com, reducing your annual software fees, or taking advantage of the new interfaces, let your relationship manager know.

 

By maintaining and supporting the products we have today, creating breakthrough solutions to serve new needs, providing world-class customer support, connecting you to a vibrant industry, and helping you take advantage of the world’s best marketing sites for vacation rental managers, we feel that we’re focused on what it takes to be the best software provider in the vacation rental industry.

 

Thanks for letting us serve you in 2012 and in the year ahead.  Those of you who were at RezFest in Las Vegas this past September may remember a quote I used in my comments that is attributed to one of the pioneers of technology in Silicon Valley: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” We’re looking forward to another year working with you and our partners to “invent” the future of the vacation rental industry together.

 

Best,

 

bill_sig.jpg

 

Bill Furlong

Vice President, HomeAway Software for Professionals®

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