16 Replies Latest reply: Mar 19, 2018 2:05 PM by homeaway_community_manager RSS

    "Ask owner a question" button=one more flaw with ranking metrics

    ohst8er Premier Contributor

      Yesterday I received an "inquiry" for a week in August.  I was very excited about it... now that schools are going back earlier and earlier, August has become a tough month to book.

       

      I opened the inquiry and the  question was odd.  It was a question that someone would ask if they were already booked.  The week was wide open.  I thought at first this person might've clicked on the wrong listing by mistake, but before I responded I checked all my upcoming reservations and sure enough, there was a res in June for someone with the same uncommon last name. 

       

      I asked if she was with the June booking, and proceeded to answer her question, something about they were bringing one less person and wondered if the amount changed, and also when the next payment was due.  Perhaps it was grandma, I really don't know, and it does not matter for the sake of this discussion.

       

      What DOES matter is that harmless little "ask owner a question button" on our listing, is actually a "3 alarm fire button" on our end, requiring us to respond as immediately as possible, with an attempt to sell how wonderful we are and book the week, lest our competition do it instead and if we DON'T then it goes against our ranking metrics AND our marketplace feed will tell us "remember Susie Q?"  She inquired with you recently but has not booked anywhere. 

       

      I brought this up on this forum probably 2 years ago because I saw it as a problem, and recall I was met with some indifference, basically, "what difference does it matter what the button is called, and why is it a problem to have to answer someone's question?"  That situation I still remember, someone sent me an "inquiry" to ask whether we had an iron and ironing board.  Except he wasn't an inquiry I could convert, he was a guest of one of my upcoming renters.    My point was, and still IS, it may meet Webster's definition of the word inquiry, but does not meet VRBO's definition.

       

      Well fast forward 2 years and here we are, with Ranking Metrics.  NOW... the game has changed.  NOW it matters that someone can click that little "ask owner a question button" and if we can't convert that question about an iron, or whether we get a discount because Aunt Sally can't come, then we are dinged. 

       

      So again I ask, what can be done so that a future guest, or the guest of a future guest, can ask a question without it counting as an inquiry that we did not convert? 

        • Re: "Ask owner a question" button=one more flaw with ranking metrics
          greggt Senior Contributor

          Good question, I was dinged for that very same thing a while back. I answered by E-mail instead of through the Dash Board, I was dinged for being Non Responsive.

          • Re: "Ask owner a question" button=one more flaw with ranking metrics
            twomoreyears Senior Contributor

            ohst8er - if you suspect the inquirer is part of an already-booked group, just get back with "I apologize - I can't answer your questions right this moment, but I'll get able to get back to you ....(this evening, etc)"

             

            How could HA possibly know this person is already booked as part of a group?

             

            I take our guests off-platform after they book and communicate with them directly.  It doesn't always work (some want to stay on-platform), but it cuts down on the number of "3-alarm fires" I have. 

             

            I also believe that a booked guest asking a question after booking doesn't count as an "inquiry" into your metric as long as they are in their account when they ask.  Erinn (homeaway_community_manager) - can you verify this?

            • Re: "Ask owner a question" button=one more flaw with ranking metrics
              feibus Senior Contributor

              The standard answer is: you're not alone and because you're not alone, it's happening to your competition as well, so it will eventually all even out.

               

              But, yeah, people gotta stop focusing so much on the metric boxes and instead focus on booking your home any way you can using more than one marketing channel.

                • Re: "Ask owner a question" button=one more flaw with ranking metrics
                  hill5185 CommunityAmbassador

                  Thank you!

                   

                  I prefer to invest time on things I can directly influence not obsessing over a metric which may or may not be correct.

                  Success is judged through full calendar and happy guests- not an up of down ranking metric.

                  • Re: "Ask owner a question" button=one more flaw with ranking metrics
                    georgygirl1955 Senior Contributor

                    If you cater to families or have smaller groups it will not happen much.

                    If you have a large house adult oriented house, with unrelated people, ...and adult reunion, or couples gathering together,

                    then it happens much more often.

                    It is very annoying....but not major.

                    Success is judged by earning maximum return from an investment property.

                      • Re: "Ask owner a question" button=one more flaw with ranking metrics
                        ohst8er Premier Contributor

                        Well, I guess I will just decide be happy to be in the "caters to families or smaller groups so it doesn't happen much" category.    Moving on......

                          • Re: "Ask owner a question" button=one more flaw with ranking metrics
                            anja Senior Contributor

                            ohst8er wrote:

                             

                            Well, I guess I will just decide be happy to be in the "caters to families or smaller groups so it doesn't happen much" category.    Moving on......

                            If owners continue to use their platform, it's good for HA to continue to hear from the owner side to what extent their system fails to service the owner side optimally. This little flaw should be fixable with better programming. We should be able to "answer questions" on their platform without the "metric sword"  hanging over our heads.  

                             

                            Getting the occasional "non-convertible" question does happen to us owners.   I, too, have had people -and even- reserved guests use the platform --again--  just to "ask the owner a question" even after I'd moved our conversation off platform once the reservation was confirmed by payment (so-called, 'booked" ..for clarity -- I dislike the term "booked"...just say'n here).   I'm very clear, in all my follow up correspondence, how to connect with me ...and why....after someone has confirmed their reservation (post payment made). 

                             

                            I've even had prior guests who've stayed once contact me again through VRBO ...not to reserve again for themselves -- but to ask me a question for a friend or relative of theirs who "might be planning" a visit to my location.  I'm always happy to help anyone, especially a past guests, but I was plenty annoyed that they used the  "ask the owner a question" for those purposes....they were not questions or "inquiries" to convert...and their "friend" and "relative" never did contact me, later.  I had a personal issue which took me away from my inbox so I didn't get to answer one of the "non-convertible questions" quickly (enough) but my past guest didn't suffer waiting a couple of hours ...but there's that HA-trusty response metric.  Frankly, my servicing to my customers is all that matters to me and I'm confident in how I handle my business, in my twelfth year. I refuse to suffer metric anxiety.   

                             

                            I stress to all reserved guests to contact me, the responsible owner, using my business's email address once they have it. .  It works with the overwhelming majority of them --- and they always tell me, in turn, that they find it easier to communicate with me directly instead of having to log in to a third-party's clunky platform ...especially when they are using a device other than their home computer.  I've heard that feedback again and again from my reserved guests...and I agree with my guest customers

                      • Re: "Ask owner a question" button=one more flaw with ranking metrics
                        sunnycs CommunityAmbassador

                        ohst8er wrote:

                         

                        What DOES matter is that harmless little "ask owner a question button" on our listing, is actually a "3 alarm fire button" on our end, requiring us to respond as immediately as possible, with an attempt to sell how wonderful we are and book the week, lest our competition do it instead and if we DON'T then it goes against our ranking metrics AND our marketplace feed will tell us "remember Susie Q?"  She inquired with you recently but has not booked anywhere.

                         

                        I think you make a valid point.  There are ramifications attached to even the most routine inquiry or question.  This is just another distracting and annoying issue with ranking metrics and the feed.  I don't think there's squat that can be done about it though.  If we can't get the cancellations and declines metric repaired, HA's not going to jump on this.  At least those of us who keep up with all the hoopla aren't in the dark about it.  We can choose to give a flip or not. 

                         

                        The real impact that I perceive...   is that HA holds us accountable for EVERY little thing.  And they are heavy-handed with the black marks, sparing no opportunity to slam and and even censure our listings, attempting to shame us into submission.  Yet when we literally beg to simply be treated fairly, HA is not accountable.  That's where the vexation is coming from and that's why minor things like this are escalted into an affront.