It’s all about the customer
Everything you do in your daily job should be done with the homeowner in mind. As an industry, we try to automate as much as possible and create standard solutions, which is great, but we should always have in mind that our owners are our most valuable assets and that we work in the hospitality business... it’s a people’s business. I feel we can sometimes forget that.
Most of the owners we work with at Belvilla [part of the Leisure Group] are people who have a second home and are very proud of their property and treat it very carefully. If business processes are going to be automated I believe the question we should always ask is, ‘Why we are doing this and for who?’ That’s one of my biggest lessons.
We have a customer service department of around 150 people, so these employees are our eyes and ears, that’s the most important way for us to gather information from customers
A guest wants to have instant answers to the questions they have. We’ve seen a shift from guests contacting us by phone and emails to social platforms and chatbots. We have a customer service department of around 150 people, so these employees are our eyes and ears, that’s the most important way for us to gather information from customers. One of the biggest ways I’ve seen Belvilla evolve over the years is in the area of data collection and how we use it to make improvements.
Use technology to reduce friction
You have different types of customers and homeowners. There are some who would like to automate everything to help with efficiency, but I think the largest group are homeowners who want to use technology just to assist with the process, rather than completely stepping away themselves.
If you take something as simple as an electronic key lock, for example, as an owner or a keeper you don’t have to come to the property to welcome your guest. But a lot of people are very proud of their holiday homes and they want to show guests around and give them advice on what to do nearby. This kind of tech just means that check-in doesn’t have to be between 3pm and 6pm. They can also come by at a later stage of a guest’s stay.
Technology should be there to remove the friction and the possibilities to do this are endless. It’s often the simplest solutions that are the most effective. We’re currently investigating connecting the key lock itself to a cleaning system we have, so if the guest checks out via the electronic key lock we automatically get a signal and the cleaning company can get into the holiday home to clean the space. That’s what we see as the advantage of these toolings - the owner effort is reduced.
Still the hub of the experience
If you want to travel to a certain place, most people still start with the search for an accommodation and then search for the things to do. The accommodation will always be the central hub.
The vacation rental business is very old. The ‘travel experience’ encompassing everything from where you eat to attractions you visit is nothing new, but what is evolving is the way in which this is delivered. In most holiday homes you will find a brochure of things to do in the area, online tools just now make this more easily accessible.
Where I see the industry heading is us, as the providers, getting smarter with the various services offered - a sort of menu card from which an owner can select the services relevant to them. This includes services like cleaning, key handling, bedlinen, but also more premium options, such as tax and legal services.
We have to keep innovating as one of the toughest challenges in this current world is to stay relevant in business with big Online Travel Agencies (OTA). But I have always been of the mindset, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them.’ The way to stay relevant is by finding a way to work together to deliver better services to our homeowners.
You might also like to read From foundation to acceleration: vacations rentals with Booking.com.
- Belvilla offers 20,000 holiday homes in 20 European destinations
- Technology should be there to remove the friction and the possibilities to do this are endless
- If you want to travel to a certain place, most people still start with the search for an accommodation and then search for the things to do
- Where I see the industry heading is us as the providers getting smarter with the various services offered - a sort of menucard from which an owner can select the services relevant to them