Today’s vacation rental industry demands prompt replies to vacationer inquiries. In our recent Vacationer Survey, the number one criticism vacationers voiced, by far, is that homeowners either do not respond at all or do so too late. Many of you are doing an excellent job of responding, but unfortunately, some are not. In order to compete successfully in the industry, we have to improve the responsiveness of some of our homeowners. Thus, we have implemented a few changes to our Vacationer Inquiry System.
Rest assured, you still have immediate access to the name and email address of the inquiring vacationer, but the initial inquiry email you get from us will look a little different.
What changes did you make to the process?
The inquiry email you receive from vacationers is now being sent from an email address unique to each inquiry. Inquiries used to come from inquiry@WeNeedaVacation.com. They now come from the @message.weneedavacation.com domain.
You can also now see your full email correspondence with a vacationer on your Email Inquiry History page. Homeowners have often requested that they be able to maintain a complete correspondence thread with vacationers.
Are you filtering out the vacationer’s contact information?
Certainly not. You are still in control of the communications with your guests. We will not be filtering out any contact information or requiring that responses only be sent through our platform. All of the information provided to us by vacationers is still passed along to you in its entirety.
Why did you make the change to the inquiry process?
Vacationers want and expect immediate responses to their inquiries. They’re busy and want to make a decision quickly.
We receive numerous complaints from vacationers indicating that they are not hearing back from owners promptly, and, in some cases, not at all. Delays in response, or lack of a response altogether, cause vacationers to lose trust in your listings and our website.
Other vacation rental sites have been tracking responsiveness for years. Some booking sites even withdraw a request to book if there is no response from a homeowner within 24 hours. And, although we’re opposed to a “Book it now” process, which denies homeowners the ability to screen and communicate with prospective guests, we understand the desire for vacationers to expedite the inquiry and booking process.
Plus, the sooner you respond to an inquiry, the better your chance of securing the booking. Remember that a vacationer may be inquiring about not only your home but several others as well.
The new system also allows homeowners to track all their inquiries and responses more quickly and easily.
This enhancement will also allow for the Inquiry Response Rate and Response Time for each owner to be calculated.
What is the difference between Response Time and Response Rate?
Response Time is the time it takes you to respond to the initial inquiry. Response Times are categorized as “Within 24 hours,” “Within 2 days,” or “More than 2 days.” Vacationers are looking for quick results. The longer you take to respond, the less likely they’ll wait around to hear from you and instead will pursue other options.
Response Rate is the percentage of inquiries you respond to. The goal is to achieve a 100% response rate. Every inquiry should receive a response, even if your home is booked or the inquiry is inappropriate (e.g., your listing says you don’t consider pets, and they ask anyway).
How do I now reply to a vacationer’s inquiry?
There are several ways to reply:
- The quickest and easiest is to reply the way you would to any email, by hitting “Reply.” Your response email will go through our Inquiry system, capturing it on your Email Inquiry History page before forwarding it to the vacationer’s email address. A copy of your email reply would also be captured in your “Sent” folder of course. It does not require you to log in to your listing but still notifies us that you have responded to that inquiry.
- Use the “Reply to Vacationer” link in the email to access the Inquiry Response form. It will require you to log in if you are not already. When you respond this way, your Response Time is also captured on your Email Inquiry History page.
- If you receive Text Alerts, use the link in the Text Message Alert. Like the above option, this will direct you to the Inquiry Response Form, where you can reply from there. (Read more about Enabling text alerts .)
In all of the above cases, your replies will be captured on the Email Inquiry History page linked to from the Guest Tracker section of your Homeowner Center.
What happens if I email or call the vacationer privately rather than go through your system?
You can reply to an inquiry privately via email or phone call. But if you don’t respond to an inquiry in one of the ways above, the system will not know that you have responded.
Thus, we suggest that you send a quick email reply initially, e.g., “Thanks for your inquiry. I’ll give you a call shortly.” Or perhaps after you connect directly with them, e.g., “It was nice speaking with you.”
Another option is to go to your Email Inquiry History page and click “Yes” next to the “Already responded?” button:
There is a number next to the Email Inquiry History link on my Homeowner Center page. What does it mean?
If you have any inquiries you have not responded to (or you have not let us know that you have), they will be noted to the right of the link like this:
How can I avoid having my inquiries go into my Spam/Junk or Promotions folder?
On occasion, emails may get sent to spam/junk folders. To avoid this, be sure to add @message.weneedavacation.com and @weneedavacation.com to your Safe Senders list or Safe Domains.
If you use Gmail, inquiries may get redirected into your “Promotions” folder. If so, you can drag any inquiries you’ve already received from your Promotions folder into your Primary Inbox. And when you do, for a few brief seconds, you should see this message:
If you click Yes, future inquiries from us should appear normally in your Inbox.
Also in Gmail, a Filter may be the equivalent as shown in this screenshot:
NOTE: To avoid missing any inquiries, be sure to enable the Text Alert feature on your account so that we can send you automated text alerts every time you receive an inquiry. To enable this feature or confirm that it is enabled, go to your Contact Info page.
How can I keep track of my responses in my own email account?
There are many ways you can track or retrieve your email communications. If you use the first option above to respond to inquiries by simply clicking “Reply” in your email system, a copy of your Response will be captured in your Sent folder. You can also blind copy (BCC) yourself on all correspondence or create folders in your email account for each guest. If you leave your communications in a single folder (such as your Inbox or Sent folder), then you can search for the vacationer by name in your “Search” field.
How can I make replying easier for myself?
To facilitate your response process, prepare a document with templates providing more details about your home, along with answers to the most common questions you receive from prospective guests. Then when you get an inquiry, you can quickly copy and paste the language, modifying it to suit the inquiry. And if you find that you’re being asked the same questions over and over again, you might enhance your listing’s Property Description.
Can vacationers see my Response Time and Rate?
No, not yet. Only you can see your Response Time and Rate. But in the future, vacationers will see them, too, so that they will know if you respond within 24 hours, 2 days, or more
Do my Response Time and Rate affect my listing’s rank in the search?
Not at this time, but they will be factored into the search ranking at some point.
What is the timing for making my Response Time and Rate visible to vacationers and its impact on listing ranking?
Step 1: Our initial goal is to inform our homeowners of the current changes to the Email Inquiry process that have already been made. We hope that soon you will feel comfortable with the new system and are using it appropriately so that your Response Rate and Time are being updated on your listing.
Step 2: The next step will be to make everyone’s Response Time (e.g., “Within 24 hours,” “Within 2 days,” or “More than 2 days”) visible for vacationers to see. This will help set expectations about when they will hear back from the homeowner. Also visible will be their Response Rate (percentage of inquiries responded to).
Step 3: The final step will incorporate Response Time and Rate in the search ranking. Only homeowners who consistently take a long time to respond, or have a low Response Rate, will be adversely impacted by this.
Note: We will not move on to a next step in this process until we feel that the previous one has been successful.
In the Email Inquiry History, what do “Expand all” and “Collapse all” do?
You can click on “Expand all” or “Collapse all” to view or hide all of your email correspondence with each vacationer. Or, just click on the arrow to the left of the name to view the correspondence with just that one vacationer.
In the Email Inquiry History, what does “Archive” mean?
After you’ve responded, you can “Archive” any inquiries you don’t want to see any more. This will remove them from your visible list of inquiries. To make them visible again, check the “Show archived” box.
Can I still attach a lease or other documents to my reply?
Yes, you can include attachments such as a lease to your inquiry replies. But you would need to do so by replying to the email directly and including an attachment as you normally would to an email. You can also use a storage service (e.g., Dropbox, Google Drive) and then share the public URL to the file with your guests. Currently, there is not a way to include an attachment when replying through the Owner Response Form.
Do I need to respond to every inquiry, even if it’s not appropriate?
Yes! Each inquiry deserves a response. If your home is inappropriate for them (e.g., they have too many people in their party or want to bring their pet), tell them that so that they can move on to other listings. They have taken the time to submit the inquiry. Give them the courtesy of a quick response.
If your home is already booked for the week inquired about, use it as a marketing opportunity for a future booking. Invite the vacationer to reach out to you again in the future – or perhaps they could be convinced to select a different week that is available.
What if I get a duplicate inquiry?
Multiple inquiries from the same vacationer on the same day are considered duplicate inquiries. We have a process to identify and exclude duplicate inquiries from your Response Rate/Time. If you see one that is not flagged as a duplicate, then feel free to contact us.
Do follow-up communications count towards my Response Time and Rate?
No, only your initial response to the inquiry impacts your Response Time and Rate. Although we expect you to always be prompt in your back and forth correspondence with your guests, those times are not tracked.
I list more than one property with you. Are my Response Rate and Time based on ALL of my listings?
Yes, your Response Rate and time are calculated at the Lister level, not per Property.
What’s the most important thing that I should keep in mind?
Respond to every inquiry just as quickly as you can. And keep your calendar date stamp as up to date as possible. Both of these are vital to your marketing success. Read more about Successfully Converting Inquiries to Bookings.