Advice From A Vacation Rental Owner: Easy Guest Surveys Are Invaluable

Amy Sept —  January 4, 2014

"Question mark" on flickr by the Italian voice (CC BY 2.0)When it comes to guest surveys, the old “K.I.S.S.” motto works best—”Keep It Simple” and you just might get a few insightful comments in response. Make it complicated and, like this 20 question survey deconstructed by Rafat Ali of Skift, you’ll risk irritating anybody who stops to consider responding.

Sandy Bayes, owner of Sandy’s Cabin in Flagstaff, AZ, opened her vacation rental last March and has been surveying her guests since Day One.

“Especially as a new owner, I’ve tried to think of the places I’ve stayed and consider what would have been nicer,” she explained. “But you can’t think of everything, and everybody is different. It’s been a real learning experience for me.”

How to write your survey

Inc. magazine offers some great advice about creating a customer survey, noting that there are five points you need to figure out:

  1. Have a goal for your survey. What do you want to learn?
  2. Write quality questions. For example, they should be easy to understand.
  3. Choose the best format. Should you email it, or leave a printed copy on-site?
  4. Work to get a great response rate. (While this advice from Inc. is less applicable to a vacation rental survey, there are still valid points. For example, if you email the survey, write a meaningful subject line so it doesn’t get flagged as spam.)
  5. Interpret the results. Be prepared to act on the recommendations wrapped up in the survey results.

Putting your survey in action—Sample Questions

Bayes greets her guests at the door when they arrive and asks them to take a few minutes to complete her nine-question survey before they leave. She leaves a printed copy at the cabin and has found that most guests do take time to respond.

"pencil and eraser on paper" on flickr, by Shawn Campbell (CC BY 2.0)What questions does she ask? The first few questions are formatted as multiple choice:

  • What was your favorite amenity offered? (Lists key amenities like wifi, quiet neighborhood, books.)
  • How would you rate the comfort of the bed you slept in? (Scale runs from “uncomfortable” to “excellent”; she also asks them to specify which bed they slept in.)
  • How would you rate the general cleanliness of the cabin? (Scale runs from “unclean” to “excellent.”)
  • How would you rate the ability to regulate the temperature within the cabin? (Scale runs from “impossible” to “easy.”)
  • Overall comfort level? (Scale runs from “very uncomfortable” to “very comfortable.”)

Asked why she asks so specifically about temperature control, Bayes says many of her guests come from Phoenix. “Coming to the mountains can be very different if they’re not used to it, because of the temperature difference up here. They can find it too cold.”

Her final four questions are more open ended:

  • Would you stay here again? If no, why not?
  • Would you recommend the cabin to others?
  • What did you expect that wasn’t here?
  • Do you have any suggestions to make this cabin a better and more enjoyable place to stay?

Be prepared to act on suggestions

Sandy’s Cabin in Flagstaff, AZ

Sandy’s Cabin in Flagstaff, AZ. Used with permission.

“I’ve made some changes, a lot of little things: An alarm clock in each of the bedrooms, a recycle bin,” Bayes said. “Someone asked for a toothbrush holder! I hadn’t thought about that. Most of the changes were inexpensive, just details.”

The open-ended questions at the end have garnered unexpected responses, too. “I didn’t initially have a BBQ or a table at the back [of the house],” she said, noting she purchased both after someone asked.

“I also learned that the curtains in one of the bedrooms didn’t block out the sun enough, so I bought some lined drapes on sale and was able to darken that room. It makes it a nicer place to sleep.”

On the whole, Bayes says the survey isn’t just a way to connect with her guests; the feedback itself matters. “To read these after people leave, it does my heart good,” she smiled. “It makes me feel good that they’ve really enjoyed their stay, got more for their money than they expected, and that they really enjoy certain aspects of the property.”

Do you have a survey for your vacation rental? What are the key questions you ask? Share what you’ve learned in the comments below.

photos by the Italian voice, Shawn Campbell

Amy Sept

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Writer and marketing pro Amy Sept is a regular contributor to the MyVR blog, to help answer your vacation rental marketing questions. Say hello via Twitter or Google+.
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