18 Replies Latest reply: Apr 21, 2019 10:40 PM by koko RSS

    New ads are working too well?

    koko Contributor

      I see the new commercial back to back on cable and have developed a real dislike for it - advertising execs should have to watch a commercial 200 times in a row and then decide if it  can be  released without negative impact.

      To boot I just got a review which made me cringe and I am hereby handing the 4 stars on to Home Away..

      vr review.JPG


      Why do I cringe you ask?

      Well first of I never considered my rental to be a "VRBO facility". We listed on Vacation Rentals.com almost 20 years ago and never changed...but we got transferred into a world where we now are a "facility" much like a storage place or a Motel 6. We became "unified" with the millions other properties to be a facility of VRBO and to make sure we get this straight we just are bombarded by ads telling us in British English that we are now verbo, whatever that means. Why does VRBO ads have to sound like Viking River Cruise ads?

      I am not sure what  I could have done do make this review 5 stars to hand on to Home Away but they just have to live with 4 as I do, because people in the here and now demand more!

      This is a more philosophical question and I think as owners we should carefully set the $ signs aside for a moment and think where this is all going and how this will influence the future of our society. So while I am dismayed with 4 stars I am more dismayed with he underlying messages we are all bombarded with daily. The "streamlining" of individuality into internet conglomerates. Is that what we wanted with the embrace of technology?


        • Re: New ads are working too well?
          ohst8er Premier Contributor

          There isn't a booking platform in existence that will EVER get you the personal touch you long for, unless it's your OWN booking platform, or website.


          And there isn't a booking platform or website that is your own, that will EVER get you the exposure VRBO provides. 


          So as I see it, we have two choices.  Use the booking engines out there (VRBO, Air BnB etc), or go solo (or any combination thereof.)


          I hear what you are saying, and you are of course preaching the choir.  None of us want to be Unit #34404-BX83 in the giant machine that is VRBO.  So if you choose to use VRBO it's up to YOU to create that personal touch with your guests from the beginning of the booking till the day after they checkout when you ask for their review.  If your guest calls your VR "VRBO facility,"  you and only YOU can change that perception. 

            • Re: New ads are working too well?
              wildiris Active Contributor

              ohst8er wrote:

              If your guest calls your VR "VRBO facility,"  you and only YOU can change that perception. 


              What, precisely, do you suggest that koko do to change the perception?  It sounds to me as though koko is a very helpful, hands-on owner who offers personalized service.  The guest specifically names "koko" in the review, states that the hosts "... were very pleasant hosts and attended to all our needs.  They also gave us good advise [sic] about the local grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations."

                • Re: New ads are working too well?
                  ohst8er Premier Contributor

                  wildiris, good question!  There isn't any one magical pill to change the perception, it's an ongoing process.  You can start by naming your home or condo, much like someone names a boat, and refer to this in the listing, in your correspondence to your guests, etc.  That might cause your guests to leave a review referring to your place by name rather than "VRBO facility."


                  I don't know the specific reason why this guest chose to refer to this VR in this manner.  Maybe it is the guest.  Since we cannot get into their heads, and since we cannot change how VRBO will do business, we can only react. 


                  Here's my "reaction," for whatever it's worth.  My methods have grown and evolved over time, and I must say, I'm at about a 99% response rate now for reviews, and all 5 stars. 


                  Whenever a guest books (I have IB) I immediately reach out to them to thank them for their booking, and let them know I will be calling them shortly (or sometimes I just call them immediately.)  I almost always get, "wow I wasn't expecting, the last I owner I booked with never, wow, that was fast.." etc.  I introduce myself, say something like "I know it's so impersonal booking online, atleast you get to put a voice with the booking," I talk with them, relate to them, ask them if they have been there before, etc.  Sometimes it's a quick 3-5 minute conversation, sometimes it's 30 minutes depending on how chatty the person is.  I let them know I'm going to send them a contract and a list of things to do, and I do just that.  I send the contract, then a PDF of clickable links of things to do, dining, shopping, etc.  I let them know they now have my cell, my email address, feel free to call, to text, to email.  My emails all have a signature line with a picture of my thumbnail photo and the name of our condo.  We are constantly pushing that in all our correspondence.  When we get 30 days in my husband sends a lengthy email with maps and photos and all sorts of info, driving directions, etc., the wifi password, keyless access code, etc.  We send a hand addressed envelope with their parking passes in them, with a cute little return address stamp.  We answer every question in a timely manner.  A few days prior to their arrival I reach out to them, do you have any questions?  Don't forget your welcome packet and your parking passes.  When they check in I reach out to them, welcome them, tell them about any local happenings they might be interested in, and invite them to let us know if they need anything.  If I don't hear from them during their stay I assume all is well.  Day of checkout I reach out them, wish them a safe trip home, etc.  A few days after our housekeeper has cleaned and checked the place out I send them back their security deposit, invite them to review us, and mention in that review request that I've sent back their security deposit.  Sounds like alot but we have it down to a science, so it's pretty easy.   I do this all from 12 hours away.  No fancy baskets in the condo, just genuine, sincere personal contact, or atleast as personal as you can get with all the electronic methods we have in place. 


                  Hope this helps you and others who may be struggling with this, for whatever it's worth to you!    Happy Easter and Happy Passover, whichever you celebrate. 

                    • Re: New ads are working too well?
                      kiawahbill Contributor



                      Thanks for walking us through your process, this is really great stuff.  It takes a little extra effort to create customer relationships in the age of IB but it is 100% worth it.  Not just for reviews but also I think there are less issues during the stay.  Guest have confidence going in.


                      When you say you get 99% response rate on reviews, I'm curious to know how many reviews your property(s) have? 

                      We have approx 90 reviews, mostly 5-star and a couple of  4-star.  We are booking about 35 parties per year and appox. 15 of those leave reviews.  At this point I think we have enough reviews that I don't feel this need to ask for them.  Just letting it happen organically now.

                      I'm curious to know your thoughts.

                        • Re: New ads are working too well?
                          ohst8er Premier Contributor

                          kiawahbill, we currently have 99 reviews, 4 are 4 star, the rest are 5.  My review response rate has gone way up since I started being more interactive with our guests.  It most definitely has made a difference.  If it were me, I'd never ever stop asking for reviews.  Future guests care less about what you have done in the past than they do what you do NOW. 

                            • Re: New ads are working too well?
                              kiawahbill Contributor

                              5-star reviews are never a bad thing and you definitely need recent reviews.  That said there is a threshold when the total number of reviews become less important and future guests move on to other selection criteria.

                                • Re: New ads are working too well?
                                  ohst8er Premier Contributor

                                  kiawahbill, yep, I totally agree!  If you have 100 reviews and they are all pretty much amazing, a future guest might read to the bottom of the first page only, then quit looking.  But if you have 100 reviews and the first 3-5 are great, then the next one or two are stinkers, a guest might be inclined to read more, and even look to see if there are more stinkers.  I read my competitors reviews frequently and what I look for is a) how current are they, and b)how do the owners respond to the less than stellar reviews.


                                  The best things we as owners can do is keep our listing fresh and current, keep our pictures current (if you make a change in your VR your pictures should reflect that change,) keep dogging our listings to make sure we have all of VRBO's ever changing and revolving boxes checked, make sure our calendar is current, our rates are competitive, and our response time is great.  Lather, rinse repeat.

                                    • Re: New ads are working too well?
                                      kiawahbill Contributor

                                      Great strategy discussion, thank you!


                                      Since we are also nearing the 100 review count, I like to think of the our reviews as a discussion forum, our owner responses focus on aspects of the review that highlight differentiators of our house to future guests. "so happy you enjoyed the beds" or "the house was designed to host parties with multiple families"


                                      I would respond to koko's above 4-star like it was intended to be a 5-star:  "thank you for the wonderful review.  We're so happy you enjoyed the home and decor, we are constantly improving the property " .  Roll right into the next 5-star review and this has no negative effect on future books.

                                      Once you have 20+ reviews, use the guest reviews and owner response to tell your story to future guests.


                              • Re: New ads are working too well?
                                wildiris Active Contributor

                                You and I have a very similar approach.  I actually do all the things that you do with one addition - I phone each guest the day after they check-in to make sure that everything at the rental is satisfactory and to see if they have any questions that I may answer.  For all we know, so does koko.  I don't think it's fair or accurate to assume that it's koko's "fault" that the guest referred to his or her rental as a "VRBO facility."

                                  • Re: New ads are working too well?
                                    ohst8er Premier Contributor

                                    wildiris, respectfully, I would suggest going back and reading my posts.  I didn't mention anything about fault.  So many of us, myself included sometimes, get caught up in the moment of complaining about something, like NOW what is VRBO doing to us?   Sometimes our complaints are valid.  Sometimes they are not.  Sometimes VRBO fixes things we feel need fixing, sometimes they do not. 


                                    For me, if I feel like something isn't right, or used to be right but isn't anymore, whatever, I am ALWAYS looking for things I can do, personally, to make things better, to find that workaround that doesn't leave me out in the cold with bookings.   These are merely suggestions, and koko has free will to use them, or ignore them.


                                    Have  great day! 

                                  • Re: New ads are working too well?
                                    floridarob Active Contributor

                                    That was really nice the way you put your whole entire process out there. It was very generous of you to share it with everyone, and I read it with great interest. You and I haven't always seen eye to eye on this forum, but I suspect we agree on far more than we ever disagree, and would get along great in person. Well done.


                                    Have a great weekend!

                              • Re: New ads are working too well?
                                scowol Active Contributor

                                I would be equally frustrated and upset if I got a 4-start review and a guest referring to my private home a "facility" (of any brand).  But, I don't see that there's really anything cited in the review that suggests that the rebranding of VRBO to Vrbo is the root cause.


                                IMO, there's an opportunity to potentially make it better, and learn from the guest or educate the guest.    "Thanks for taking the time to post the lovely review of your stay at the house.   I'm so glad to hear that you were delighted with the house and the service I provided.  However, I see that I fell short based on the actual rating you assigned.  I would be very grateful to know where I might make improvements so that I can make it better.  Thank you!"


                                If the guest writes back, you have an open venue to start a dialogue.  If the guest truly had no negatives, and you politely and respectfully inform them of how a 4-star review can impact your success, they may be inclined to call CS to have the review removed (since they cannot be edited).

                                • Re: New ads are working too well?
                                  margaret CommunityAmbassador

                                  I understand your frustration having your home referred to as a "VRBO facility". It really annoys me when people refer to my homes as "airbnbs"

                                  I might be tempted to respond with something like

                                  "So glad to hear you had such a lovely time and enjoyed your stay at our home. We truly love spending time at our vacation home, it holds so many wonderful family memories.  We take great joy in sharing our home with others when we can't be there ourselves "

                                  • Re: New ads are working too well?
                                    ashevillelookout Senior Contributor

                                    As long as HomeAway persists in auto-messaging and communicating with our guests on a impersonal basis, we are going to be perceived as a facility.


                                    Who sent the request for a review?  HomeAway.  Who has control over the wording of the request?  HomeAway.  Unless we, as owners, communicate with the guest from our own email, phone, or by greeting the guest in person, we will be at the mercy of HomeAway acting as the "host" and being labeled as a facility.


                                    It is our responsibility to put ourselves in front of our guests and make sure that they know that we are not a "facility" and that we are not host "employees" of HomeAway or VRBO.  It is a very hard road...but I hope that all of my guests remember that they stayed at Dick and Jane's lovely house in Vacationland....and not at some soulless facility.

                                    • Re: New ads are working too well?
                                      koko Contributor

                                      Wow thank you all for your input! I was gone for Easter and had time to think about this - I made a mistake in mixing two topics together which I should have kept separate. The one the review I did not request myself and the other the ads which are getting on my nerves.


                                      As to the review and all the suggestions - I sent a Thank You card to the guests as I always do after I get a review and left it at that.

                                      I have an Interior Design business for 30years and I am used to dealing with the public at large on a very intimate level. People do what they do for their own reasons and these guests were perfectly nice and sweet and I did not want to dig for the "why" of the four stars.kiawahbill I did not want them to feel badly about what they" had done". It's only my second 4 star review among all the other 5 star (which I still did not count  cause they are over 4 websites)


                                      As to the rental , and there I agree with ohst8er to a large degree, it has a name, letterhead, registered logo and all the business cards, brochures and email forms and signature lines for 20 years, the same length it is on the web. Since it is located on a large property we also call home, we greet all our guests in person, open the gate for them and show them around the place, check them in and tell them where the main house is if they need something. I do not have codes and instructions on how to turn on the heat, cause I show them, have a "manual" with every help down to how to pull the Duette shades up and down. My approach to customers is a bit more subtle, cause that is the "clientele" you get in remote areas where photographers, painters, poets, writers, hikers, nature lovers and lovers at al use your place to relax and get away from it all.  Over the years they needed just about everything from laundry done, cooking oil, flowers and birthdays cakes to flat tires replaced and jump starts. They got everything and filled 4 guestbooks full with the nicest Thank Yous. That should explain why the four stars did not bother me as much as the "facility". (Which I now contribute more to the age of the guests because they remembered our personal name)


                                      And this is part two of my initial comment I should have separated out.It is not that the ad currently running caused this comment scowol, it causes a mindset and that's why I connected the two. These guests were IB, 99% of our guests are not and come from different sources,HA being the one with the least amount of leads this year.

                                      I felt that the "strategy" of the renaming and the new ads leads to the owner being more and more pushed into the background and made the "working arm" of the websites. The owners are the customers of HA, not their employees. HA calls them "partners" and behaves like an employer.

                                      We as owners would have a harder time getting our rentals out there without the platforms - the platforms would have nothing to put out there without the owners and their properties. Who carries the risk in all this? It's not Home Away for sure, therefore my dislike of starting a renaming and ad campaign WITHOUT the input of owners, they just are informed that they now have a stupid name without meaning. (except in Spanish)

                                      It is not on us, the owners, to find "workarounds" and chase down changes on the platform - it is the responsibility of HA to inform their customer of changes to the platform (much like a bank has to inform you of changed TOS) and get their customer's input if they are doing things in their name. It is not that HA can dictate and the owners have to accept and obey. The owners can present a unified front and demand cooperation and options. Last I checked we paid a tidy sum to list the property and are being continually charged through fees. All this was IMPOSED on the community here; now is the time to think where this could lead and will if owners are just accepting all and every change HA dreams up. The answer is not to leave the platform, the answer is to force the platform into a true cooperation with partners who independent business owners taking a sizeable risk of sharing their own property for the benefit of being hosts to travelers.

                                      I felt I had to explain my point of view to make the "philosophical aspect" of my statement more clear and understandable.

                                      Thank you for everyone's indulgence and  very thoughtful responses. I really appreciate it.