Owners and guests should not be communicating through VRBO messages. As many owners know by now, VRBO has turned extremely hostile towards guests and owners alike. First we had the acquisition of VRBO by Expedia for $3.9 billion, a disastrous decision on the part of Expedia. VRBO may be worth a lot, but Expedia got ripped off in that deal. I wrote about this back in 2015 in my article titled, “Expedia’s Acquisition of VRBO and HomeAway – owner beware!“. The article made many predictions about what may come, and indeed is has. In 2016 VRBO knocked guests upside the head with an additional “service fee” on top of the reservation fees. The minute the service fee was rolled out guests and owners hated it. They hate it even more now that they know the service fee is nothing more than a valueless money grab on the part of VRBO. Onward to the topic of this post:
Don’t use VRBO Messages – Use Your Own Email
VRBO is stealing your customers in plain sight, it’s just that simple. Two ways they do this are through their hospitality suite and their mobile app. Another way is VRBO steals your customers through their messaging system. VRBO keeps your guests’ email away from you, and likewise, VRBO keeps your email away from your guests. They allow you and your guest to communicate through their messaging system. VRBO does not want you and the guest talking to each other directly. Below is an example of an email I recently received from a guest:
If you look at the email you’ll see it comes straight from homeaway.com (vrbo, homeaway, same thing). Now let’s take a look at what would happen if I replied to that email:
As you can see the reply adress in this email is “firstname.lastname@example.org”. The identifier, a9jnlksnkjfjlncv, in front of “@messages.homeaway.com” is a unique id that VRBO has linked to your guest’s email account. When you reply to this message the email is sent to VRBO, then VRBO forwards your message on to your guest. When your guest receives email from you the address will look similar to the one I showed you, with the unique identifier in the front.
- This gives VRBO total control over the conversation between you and your guest.
- It keeps you from seeing your guest’s email.
- It keeps your guests from seeing your email.
- VRBO can remove this identifier which will prevent you from contacting your guests after their reservation.
- It destroys your brand by misleading the customer into thinking the transaction is between them and VRBO, when in fact the transaction is between you and your guest. The guest feels like the experience is with VRBO when they need to know the experience is with YOU! When the guests want to revisit your property in the future then need to come looking for YOU, not VRBO!
- It’s a security risk. Given their history of being hacked and compromised, VRBO the last place that needs to be trying to pass themselves off as a good steward of people’s private information.
Kick VRBO out of your Conversation
VRBO is a lead generaton service, at least that’s how they pitched themselves to me a decade ago when I signed up. Since then they’ve started accepting people’s credit cards for reservations, and those people’s credit cards were stolen by hackers. So now VRBO wants to be the gatekeeper and online storage for conversations between my guests and myself? Not gonna happen.
Kick VRBO out of the conversation between you and your guests. The conversation between you and your guest is confidential, and it should be treated as such. The guest is your client, and you owe them this basic fiduciary duty. Let your guests know that the transaction is between you and them and nobody else. When you get emails like the ones I’ve shown you above, find the guest’s email and replace “email@example.com” like this:
As you can see I dedicated part of the email to reminding the customer that this transaction is between us, and not VRBO. I also informed the guest that the fastest way to get ahold of me is through my direct email or text. If you as an owner respond directly to your guest’s email address instead of VRBO messages:
- You will improve the customers experience because they’ll be talking straight to the owner, not through some go-between like VRBO
- By making it a priority to respond quickly to emails and texts you will demonstrate to your guest that emailing you directly is always going to give them the best experience.
- The direct communication between you and the guest will increase the likelihood that they will contact you directly on their next trip; they may even hit you up without ever shopping on vrbo next time.
Do these things to build your brand as an owner. Let’s show the rental community that it’s best to #dealwiththeowner.