Lessons from the short let market: the small changes that can bring big wins

Short term let providers are making all the headlines of late, for good and bad reasons. One thing is certain: they have captured the imagination of a swathe of holiday makers and business travellers alike with shiny features, simple booking systems, and mobile-first services.

Aleš Špetič, Klevio’s Co-Founder and CEO, shares his thoughts on what inspiration longer term letting landlords and property managers can gain from these bustling companies.

There are a lot of lessons that the long term lettings industry can learn from its short term counterpart. With a growing list of short term management agents using tech to underpin their services, such as our recent partner Hostmaker, you can gain a competitive edge by adopting some of the tactics and solutions they use for guests, but for your tenants.

Companies may already use management software such as FixFlo for maintenance reporting, or Reapit for its CRM offering for lettings, but it doesn’t end there. There is plenty that the new management firms for short stays can teach us about how to view your customers, feed them the right information, and provide add-on services that will become the new standard.

Communication is King

Players in the short stay market have managed to get one thing right from the start. With their mobile-first approach to lettings, short stay providers instantly appeal to the on-demand generation. People can communicate with their property managers or hosts on the move, ask advice, and sort out any issues they might have. Their quick and friendly responses go a long way to building a relationship that leads to a long-lasting, happy customer.

Short stay companies have managed to build entire ecosystems in simple and easy-to-use apps. Through Airbnb for example, hosts can manage every single element of their latest guest’s user journey. By outsourcing management to solutions like Hostmaker all other facets of running a short stay are dealt with on their behalf from one provider and platform. Advertising the property, making bookings, payments, checkouts, cleaning and maintenance reporting can all be handled from extremely simple platforms.

All of this is linked to messaging, as everything you ever need to do with a tenant needs communicating. So why for the most part are all the services separate? We get lost in paper trails of emails, WhatsApp’s, voicemails, texts and letters.

In the traditional letting market in which you operate, the huge networks are using platforms that do this. What is less obvious is that this is available to all, and is cheaper than you might think. Countrywide for example, uses PropCo, a leading platform for managing your lets. It allows you to manage all elements of your property portfolio, from online advertising and arranging viewings, signing of contracts, tenant referencing, to managing and chasing rents, booking contractors, and more, from one easy-to-use platform.

You can easily streamline operations for your staff and improve your bottom line.

Think mobile first

When we talk about mobile first, we aren’t talking about mobile only. It’s important for short term letting companies to be where their customers are; and that’s on their devices.

When you’re planning on taking a trip or visiting an area, most of those conversations start while a phone is within reach. That means that the first impression of your company is usually on a mobile device of some kind. Short let companies have known this for years, but it’s also true for long term letting and managed property searches. Even Google has prioritised a mobile first strategy in their search algorithm.

So when you’re building your online presence for your company, it’s important to test across many devices to make sure that the experience is a good one for your potential customers. With attention spans dropping below eight seconds, ensuring your website loads smoothly for a mobile experience can make a big impact.

Keys are expensive

Access to properties is also important. Short term letting agencies spend a lot of time setting up meetings and waiting for guests so they can hand them a key, but the meet-and-greet is still one of the biggest bugbears for the letting industry, however long the tenancy.

Solutions like Klevio allow digital access to a physical space, so you don’t have to trek across town with a key (or pay for someone to do it for you). The high turnover in short letting makes it an important investment that can really pay off. It isn’t just for short letting companies though.

If you have a long term letting business, or especially a management business, you’ll have the same issue, but with regular or one-off contractors more often than customers. Constantly letting in maintenance teams or health and safety inspectors costs you time (think of the site visits) and money.

If it’s a shared building, how many times have you had to change all of the locks because a tenant lost a key? That can get expensive and it isn’t a good experience for anyone. With digital access, you can securely and permanently revoke access from the digital key in question and share a new one, all from a mobile device or desktop dashboard from anywhere at anytime.

You are a local expert as well as a landlord

These days, many people research their new or future areas of living online.

It’s important to have a digital presence, not only to help advertise your business and gain customers, but also to see issues and trends that may arise in real time. Simply being there for people to see is handy - they might be looking for something else and see your company’s brand.

Short letting companies have become very good at telling people what they can do once they have arrived. Where to go, what to see, and what to avoid are all things that a host will share, helping people feel at home. This shouldn’t be any different in long term lets. Building that feeling of belonging and welcoming to an area can make people feel happy at home. That comes with the inside tips that you can share with people moving into your properties.

Try adding some top tips to your listings to help customers feel welcome. You could set up a neighbourhood or building message board where people can welcome newcomers and give them the lay of the land. It’ll help with community cohesion and should increase your retention. You don’t have to go deep-tech on this - private Facebook groups can be a good place to start. But if you do it, make sure to manage and contribute regularly: if neglected, it could become an echo-chamber for complaints. Were you not to go for Facebook as an option, there is a brilliant setup created by the team at Nextdoor, a community built for just this, as a private social network for communities.

Easy Wins

Managers of long term lets could adopt a couple of tactics from the short term lettings market, and see these as easy wins for smoother operations, where the time and money saved can be passed on in kind to your customer. Smoother operations can lead to better relationships, and better relationships help spread word of mouth and a positive view of your brand, which will help develop those longer term relationships and advocates needed to help attract your future tenants.

Aleš Špetič is CEO of Klevio, a smart intercom enabling property managers, homeowners, and more, to open doors using a mobile phone. You can use and share digital keys from anywhere in the world, saving time and making access simple and secure.

Aleš has cofounded and run 4 startups (Klevio, CubeSensors, DeckReport and Zemanta). All of them were international startups, based in Europe.