VRBO User Communications

Part
01
of two
Part
01

VRBO Communications

Both post-booking pre-trip customer communications and on-trip communications with VRBO are done via email, phone, and the company's website. Many customers Have complained about the quality of communication between them and VRBO or the hosts.

POST-BOOKING PRE-TRIP COMMUNICATION

CUSTOMER REVIEWS

  • Based on customer reviews, it appears that customers are able to make contact with the company after a booking has been made but in the case of someone requesting a cancellation, this may not be forthcoming as one customer complained of not being able to access a refund due to the company's policy even though it was requested six and a half months before the date of booking.
  • After a booking is made with a property, it appears that cancellations on the part of the property owner are done via email from VRBO which may not have any information pertaining to reasons for cancellations.
  • Several customers have complained about receiving what appears to be an official email from VRBO regarding their booking or down payment which in some cases turned out to be alleged scams.
  • One homeowner confirmed the issue of a disconnect in communication "between VRBO, the owner of the property, and the potential renter".

CHECK-IN

  • Instructions for checking in are provided in welcome emails.
  • Customers have access to clickable maps which can assist them in finding directions to the homes they've rented.
  • Some homeowners are flexible in setting a check-in time that's suitable for customers, for example, if the customer wishes to check-in early.
  • Homeowners are able to cancel customers' reservation on the day of check-in, rent to other customers, refuse to refund customers and VRBO doesn't provide the support promised.
  • Homeowners are expected to make contact with renters to provide check-in details before their arrival date but if not, renters are recommended to make contact using "My trips" to access the homeowners' contact information.
  • If this fails, making contact with VRBO's customer support team is the next option but they will only email the homeowner 2 weeks before the arrival date and/or within 24 hours of the arrival date.
  • Making contact for checking details seem to be heavily weighted on the customer.

EASE OF COMMUNICATION

  • Guests are usually greeted with a welcome email 2 hours after booking a property and this email provides additional information about the location, rental, and writing reviews.
  • Post-booking pre-trip contact is made via email or toll-free.
  • The customer support team is available 24/7 and the website is made mobile-friendly so it is easy to make contact ready using their platform.
  • Homeowners are using software to organize their scheduling and communication with guests.

SECURITY

  • VRBO offers emergency re-booking assistance to customers without an additional charge.
  • The company provides a secured channel to communicate with homeowners and to wire funds using its platform and travelers are advised not to make transactions outside of the VRBO's marketplace to ensure privacy and security.

QUESTIONS ASKED

  • Customers who are looking to rent properties near the beach may ask homeowners about the availability of beach chairs, umbrellas, bicycle storage, parking, and supply of towels and/or sheets.
  • More general questions may be about security, rooms, play area for children, Wi-Fi access, pets, and check-in as well as check out times.

ON-TRIP COMMUNICATIONS

CUSTOMER REVIEWS

  • On-trip offline communication is done with traveler support but is seemingly problematic due to outsourced customer service, language barriers, reluctance to allow customers to speak directly to a supervisor.
  • One customer experienced difficulty in getting back their deposit because the contact information was difficult to find and VRBO gave the run-around.
  • Another customer complained that the property rented was nothing like that which was advertised and VRBO, when contacted, denied having knowledge of same but requested contact information from customers and a detailed account of what transpired.

EASE OF COMMUNICATION

  • The customer support team is available 24/7 and the website is made mobile-friendly so it is easy to make contact ready should an issue arise using their platform.
  • Clickable maps are available on VRBO's website, which can help guests to find places of interest nearby.

SECURITY AND CHECK-OUT

  • If there has been a display of misconduct by the homeowner, VRBO pledges to provide rebooking support and to carry out an investigation once the customer makes a report.
  • Some homeowners are flexible in setting a check-out time that's suitable for customers, for example, if the customer wishes to check-out late; this could be arranged.
  • Instructions for checking out are provided in welcome emails.
Part
02
of two
Part
02

HomeAway

Post booking pre-trip communications include a series of emails through their mobile website or app, which includes an invitation email received within two hours of booking, a follow-up invitation generally three days before the first day of their stay. On-trip communications include a welcome email on the day of check-in and a review request one day before check out. Below is an overview of the findings.

HOMEAWAY'S CUSTOMER COMMUNICATIONS

POST-BOOKING PRE-TRIP COMMUNICATIONS

  • Post-booking communications generally include a contract document with HomeAway that is received via an email and has a HomeAway signature.
  • The guests receive a series of emails through their mobile website or app, which includes an invitation email received within two hours of booking and a follow-up invitation which is generally received three days before the first day of their stay.
  • The guest is also able to access "general rental information, location of the rental, reviews, writing a review and/ or inviting other guests to the experience" through the mobile hospitality app.
  • The Mobile Hospitality Manager dashboard also includes check-in and check-out instructions (e.g. access code) and a Wi-Fi code.
  • The app also uses Google Places which powers the Local Suggestions by Google content and will include directions to the property.
  • As per Tina Weyand, HomeAway’s CPO, the “Inquiry Assistant” tool will help get bookings. Whereas the “Arrival Assistant” tool can ensure that guests can get there and get in easily.
  • Many guests also use the HomeAway Community Facebook Page to ask questions related to their stay, check-in, and other concerns before their travel and have received a prompt response from the company.
  • Many guests have recommended checking for the "hidden" items in the renter's agreements, for anything that is not disclosed in a listing and is later made known after having completed a reservation and paid for everything.
  • There were a few discussions on whether there are ways to automate sending check-in instructions. According to previous guests and community members, there are no automated check-in instructions but this can be accessed from the Hospitality system.
  • Many guests have complained about their stay getting canceled without any prior intimation or communication from HomeAway or the property owner.

ON-TRIP COMMUNICATIONS

  • Based on the times a single guest uses their app, the company sends them details regarding concierge services or activity packages.
  • HomeAway also monitors the links, images, and pages each guest looked at in the app to send tailored marketing emails so guests can re-book via HomeAway.
  • The company also offers discounts and rebates on local food based on the traveler's search like, “guest looking for directions to nearby wineries or fine dining? You can offer a discounted rate for the week of your local food and wine festival.”
  • On-trip communications include a welcome email on the day of check-in and a review request one day before check-out.
  • Guests have complained on Trustpilot about HomeAway customer care being rude and deceiving regarding the listed properties.
  • Tina Weyand, HomeAway’s CPO says that the upcoming changes in the communications of HomeAway will be based on AI technology.
  • The Arrival Assistant “will also use AI to provide answers or connect the traveler with an agent,” as per Tina Weyand, HomeAway’s CPO.

POST-TRIP COMMUNICATIONS

  • If the guest booking was made via the website, both the host and the traveler receive an email three days after check-out, which gives them a chance to leave a rating for their guest or the property.
  • Guests can also leave personal comments along with the star ratings.
  • "Hosts and travelers can provide a review for a year from the date of the stay. However, if one party (i.e. host or guest) starts the review process, the other has 14 days to complete their corresponding review."

MOBILE HOSPITALITY APP

  • According to Erinn, HomeAway Community Manager, the different sections i.e. the least popular sections on the hospitality app were removed about two years back, and no recent changes have happened since then.
  • The changes were communicated to the users via the app itself at the time they were removed.
  • Erinn also mentioned that the company is in the process of updating the emails that go to travelers about the hospitality app and that the changes will be released soon.
  • The comments were provided in March 2019, hence it is possible to conclude that the app is still in use by many customers.

COMMUNICATIONS FROM HOMEAWAY

  • The reply from HomeAway regarding post-trip concerns/issues on review websites has always been “HomeAway is an online marketplace that does not own or manage the rentals listed on the site, all content including rental pricing, descriptions, fees and calendars, is the property owner’s responsibility and only the property owner manages this.”

RESEARCH STRATEGY

To identify and describe HomeAway's customer communications, focused on post-booking pre-trip, and on-trip communications that help make the travel experience easier, we scoured through industry blogs, community websites, and forums from MyVR, VRMintel, Trustpilot, Expedia, Tripadvisor, HomeAway community, Lodgify, Travelocity, ReviewTrackers, ConsumerAffairs, among others. The idea was to locate the communications and the level at which these communications take place between the company and the traveler. Though the information was limited and the focus was on the process rather than on the communications, we were able to locate the majority of the information from the third-party sources like MyVR, VRMintel, and Trustpilot which helped describe the communications between the traveler and the company.

To provide a comprehensive search on the topic, we have included the community website/forum of HomeAway to highlight the insights on the communications and the 'Mobile Hospitality app' of the company. This has been used as no other third-party source provided in-depth knowledge on the same. We have also avoided details covered in the previous request to avoid duplication of information and assumed that this information is already known. Furthermore, we have included an overview of the kind of questions customers typically ask in the different stages of travel.

ASSUMPTIONS
We have used the reviews, discussions, and posts on industry blogs, community websites and forums as well as social media accounts as a part of Homeaway's communications as the community manager/page admin responds directly to the users/travelers.
We have also assumed the 'Mobile Hospitality app' is still in use as per the comments of Erinn, HomeAway Community Manager, in March 2019, stating the least popular sections among the hospitality app were removed about 2 years back, and no recent changes have happened since then.

Sources
Sources