Lior Nassi is the co-founder of Sea N’ Rent. With over 10 years of experience with vacation rentals, we ask about how to keep guests happy.
When it comes to the vacation rental market Lior’s experience goes beyond Israel property management. Lior has also taken on projects in Italy, Cyprus, Romanian, United States and is currently assessing the Portuguese market.
Mr. Nassi has created methods that are transferrable on an international scale, making his advice all the more important to listen to.
With that said let’s get cracking with these questions on what keeps guests happy.
How to Achieve Guest Happiness
We sit down with Lior in his Villa in Portugal. Over an espresso in his rustic farmhouse kitchen with a view overlooking the ocean. We dive straight in.
Scott: Hello Lior, how are you?
Lior: Shalom, I’m good Scott, thanks for asking. Happy to have you here today and what beautiful weather we are having.
Scott: Lior I know you’re busy and I don’t want to take up too much of your time, so let’s just start.
Lior: Sounds like a plan, let’s start
Scott: Ok then here’s question 1: At what point does good customer service start in the guest journey?
The guest journey starts the moment the guest decides on what type of accommodation they want to stay in, for example in an apartment or in a hotel. Once the guest has decided what type they will then decide on which platform that they want to book.
They may decide to go through a third-party website like Boooking.com Expedia, Airbnb and so on or they may decide to book directly with the host of the property whether it be an individual or a property management company like Sea N Rent.
This splits the guest into two different entry points for where customer service begins.
If the guest goes through a third party, the experience is greatly automated, whereas if the guest books directly hosts often value that and so the customer service journey starts much earlier.
That initial interaction is key to showing the guest that as a host or property manager that when they book directly they will get that high level of customer service, even before they commit to their reservation.
Scott: What are you looking for in guest feedback to know that you’ve succeeded in keeping your guest happy?
In the feedback and the review, I’m not looking for anything specific. Because I know many of our happy guests don’t go down to details when leaving a review. It’s very rare that a guest takes the time to give back detailed feedback.
Together with this, I notice that guests that had a less than perfect experience were still giving us those top reviews so I’m not looking for the feedback in the review but I’m constantly looking and striving to give the guest the highest level of service we can offer.
This means going down to the very, very small details. Even details that will not affect the review, but will definitely affect the experience of the guest.
Scott: How can technology aid the customer experience?
Technology aids the customer experience as long as you still have complete control and awareness over the technology. With so much automation the guest should always still know that they always have someone to communicate with.
There are not many things that are more frustrating than a guest that is struggling to get in touch with a real person.
Scott: Has customer service in the vacation rental market generally improved or gotten worse in the last decade. Explain your thoughts
To my experience and knowledge, it has improved dramatically and it’s still improving. To the point right now that many of the guests are just choosing to stay in vacation rental properties instead of staying in old-fashioned serviced hotels.
The people really really got the knowledge. It’s evolving although it’s a very young niche within the short term rental market.
If you like take a look at the film picture industry and the digital picture industry.
The digital picture industry improved dramatically the experience of the user in the way that they have instant access to what they are doing but on the other side of the picture film industry, you have greater experience and deeper knowledge which reflects that of the hotels.
The vacation rental industry is still so young and disruptive. Much standardization has to take place.
The film industry still produces better quality pictures but the digital industry is defiantly going there and doing so rapidly.
Scott: When you stay at a vacation rental, what three things are a must for you as the guest?
For me funny as it may seem it’s very important for me to know who I am booking with. Which company, which host/individual, who am I dealing with.
Secondly It’s very important for me to arrive to a place that I see is not like a cold place without a heart. It’s very important that the place has heart and soul and a feeling of coziness.
The third thing that it is important for me to feel that I am the owner of the place and that I have the privacy and freedom in this place to do whatever I want and put my character into it.
Scott: With that said can you highlight three things as a guest that major red flags?
Seeing the owner very frequently, if the owner is too needy and has many comments and too many rules, what to do and what not to do and who I can bring and who I can’t bring, those kinds of things. This is a red flag for me.
A second red flag for me would be a host that is not responsive. And not taking care of issues in the place, because there are always issues.
And thirdly, since I like to stay in place for a long time, it’s important for me that the host adapts and prices accordingly. A host that does not apply a smart pricing system in honor of a loyal guest highlights another red flag for me.
Scott: In your experience what’s the best example you’ve seen of someone going above and beyond to keep a guest happy?
Actually, I see it in my own company. Recently one of the members of the team really had to take it upon himself to comfort a guest while the guest was experiencing personal issues.
This for me is above and beyond. If a member of the team sees an opportunity to care and show compassion, this goes beyond their job description yet it’s what gives their actions impact and meaning.
Scott: What do you think the future has in store for enhancing the guest experience?
I think the industry in general needs to evolve more and to go down to the details even more. Look at the hotel industry, for some time it looks like the industry is going from nice to have to the must-have.
It’s clear that in this young industry of vacation rentals a lot of people are getting away with things that are nice to have. But as the market grows and becomes more competitive, the things that are nice to have slowly become things that you must have in order to survive.
So I see the general standardization of the industry being raised significantly, whereby it increasingly becomes more professional and the novices simply will die out.
The only places that will survive are the ones that give added value as a standard practice and not because they are special.
Eventually these nice to have things will become expectations of the average guest.
Scott: How can property managers offer a better guest experience than a standard yet reputable hotel chain?
Again we are going to the heart and soul of the place. For example, you can enter the place and feel like someone prepared it and cleaned it as a standard practice. Or you can enter a place and feel like someone took control of the space and made a unique guest experience just for you.
With vacation rentals, you have a real opportunity to give personalization and make a real soulful connection with your guests. Hotels generally don’t have this opportunity. They run more of a production line when it comes to processing their guests.
The soul is a tangible quality and it can be projected into the space of a property rental.
Scott: What is your guiding philosophy when it comes to keeping guests happy?
I wouldn’t say I have a guiding philosophy that includes the guest. My philosophy is more down to the operation of my team for the guest. Making sure we give the guest all the tools and all the options to be happy.
What I am talking about is staging the apartment in a way that everything is in the right place and that the apartment is staged. As it would be for an actor performing in a movie entering into an idealistic scene where every detail has been taken care of.
To enjoy the space to feel at home, that they will get a clean place and at that point its very important that in a way we leave the guest alone.
It’s like a coach of a football team. For me, the good coaches were those that always sat back, stayed quiet, and allowed the team to get on with the game.
They are not screaming in the match because they know their players came ready for the match. The good coaches see how the players are implementing what they have been thought in the game.
Once the guest arrives, if everyone did their hob, I just need to relax.
Scott: Wow Lior, my minds’ blown this has been such a terrific experience. I’ve learned so much.
Lior: Thank you, Scott. It was my pleasure. Until next time.
It’s not every day you get to sit down with someone with such a rich experience and in-depth professional knowledge and really pick their mind like this.
Lior has proven himself domestically and internationally in the world of vacation rentals. His wealth of experience hasn’t just kept guests happy but many homeowners happy as well.
I feel what’s most important about Lior’s insights into the guest experience and customer care is that he’s always turning his words into actions. Lior undoubtedly follows through on what matters and it shows.
Perhaps we’ll see Lior on stage at the next Vacation Rental World Summit.
Scott D. Renwick is the Head of Operations at Sea N’ Rent Ltd., working with them since 2015. His skills have helped the company structure its operations to ensure stability and future growth in the property management business.