As the booking season moves into high gear, emails are coming in and the phone is ringing off the hook, it’s important to have a well-organized system to manage all the inquiries. If there is more than one person responding and taking bookings it’s easy to overbook or promise a rental period to one family, when another is expecting it to be held for them. People will make tentative bookings, change their minds, confirm dates on one day, then cancel the next, which can be very confusing
There are a number of proprietary booking systems available online that deliver very robust reservation solutions. Many of these provide a calendar that you can install on your website to record every booking; automatic email functions that you can customize with your own messages, and financial tools to manage payments. These are great and can save a huge amount of time and effort, however they do come at a cost and many owners don’t feel the expense is justified with a single property.
If you decide to manage your rentals manually you will need systems in place to monitor availability, track payments, collect feedback, and evaluate how well your marketing is doing. A simple spreadsheet can take care of this and, providing it is updated regularly to reflect the booking process, can save you precious time and money. It is really worth taking time to do this properly. The processes that will need to be managed are:
- Handling inquiries
- Creating and managing a database of inquiries
- Updating availability
- Collecting payments and security deposits
- Information dispatch
- Key handling
- Collecting feedback
A system could comprise a simple folder with tabbed dividers titled Inquiries, Pending Reservations, Confirmed Reservations and Feedback with a single sheet calendar at the front. Use the Outlook Task function to remind you when deposit and final payments are due. The forms you will need are:
Simple Inquiry Form
This should have fields for date of inquiry, contact details for the potential guest, requested dates, and any special requirements such as baby equipment or early check in. If the inquiry converts to an actual reservation this form gets moved to Pending Reservations until payment is received at which point it becomes a Confirmed Reservation.
A well-structured rental agreement, together with a list of the terms and conditions of rental is a legal contract that should be carefully prepared. You can do this yourself but have the wording checked with your lawyer or legal advisor. The Agreement should include contact details of the lead renter, dates of arrival and departure, and your policies on cancellation, occupancy, pets, garbage disposal and cleaning. It should be signed and dated by both parties.
You will need to send your guests a statement of their deposit and final payment so both of you have a written record. It’s easy to create these on Excel.
Collecting feedback from guests is vital as this gives them the opportunity to tell you what a great time they had, and you can then use these as testimonials on your website or listing (with permission).
Having a clear structure to your booking system will help keep your reservations organized and reduce the risk of overbooking. Your guests will also see you as a professional owner and that gives them confidence in booking with you.