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Vacation Rental Management Conference: How to optimize vacation rental safety, quality and cleanliness

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This article is part of our Rental Scale-Up vacation rental management conference series. This is an extract from our April 2020 conference: “Get Your Business Through the COVID-19 Crisis By Discovering How Local Property Managers Resist the Global Coronavirus Epidemic.”

Vacation Rental Management Conference: Breezeway’s Tucker Cohen

Tucker works with Breezeway, a company whose platform helps property managers coordinate and ensure quality, safety and cleanliness across their properties. He will tell you why he thinks that you need to audit your operations today, as the back-end of your business needs to be even more professional. Cleanliness and the quality of operations will become key criteria for guests and homeowners willing to trust your company. Adding to this actionable advice a more personal touch, Tucker will also share with you how he got infected by COVID-19 and managed to get back on his feet after 3 weeks.

Vacation Rental Management Conference: Video From The 2020 Local Property Manager Conference

  • Tucker traveled back to Boston from Spain shortly before the US closed its borders and experienced coronavirus symptoms for about two weeks after his return. He has now fully recovered.
  • Breezeway is about 5 years old and helps 60,000 properties manage cleaning and day-to-day operations.
  • Tucker is sharing some tips on managing and optimizing operations since Breezeway recognizes “we’re all in this together” to make it through the coronavirus crisis. Their expertise lies in helping property managers make their operations and cleaning processes more efficient.
  • When people start to travel again, property managers can earn their trust by being transparent about cleaning operations and holding a very high standard of cleanliness. Property managers should be transparent about which additional steps they’re taking to keep properties as clean as possible.
  • Tucker and Breezeway are predicting that drive-to destinations will be the first ones to bounce back, rather than urban markets.
  • Vacation rentals have an advantage over hotels in that they’re private and more isolated; at a vacation rental, you’re not sharing common areas (lobbies, etc.) with many other guests.
  • If vacation rentals can provide the same level of cleanliness and trust as a chain hotel, then guests will feel even more comfortable booking new reservations.
  • Some vacation rentals might find that they’re spending more time and effort on cleaning operations, maybe performing deep cleans more often, so it’s very important to optimize the cleaning process so it’s efficient.
    • Breezeway has a full deep cleaning and disinfecting checklist available for free on their website.
  • Another tip is to streamline communication with your cleaning staff so everyone knows the new processes and can communicate with you (the property manager) when needed.
  • Consider performing a cleaning audit if you are looking for tasks to give to your cleaning staff during this slow period.
  • Overall, the short-term rental industry should focus on developing a high standard of service, especially when it comes to cleanliness, in order to better compete with hotels.
  • Breezeway’s task management software can help property managers organize and prioritize their daily operations. 
  • Tucker recommends being transparent and sharing cleaning checklists with guests (even posting them on your website or listings) so guests understand the lengths you’re taking to keep them safe.
    • The short-term rental industry can follow the restaurant industry’s lead, in which some restaurants are posting videos of their staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), which reassures guests about the restaurant’s hygiene and safety measures.
  • Learn more at Breezeway.io.

Vacation Rental Management Conference: Full Conversation Between Tucker Cohen And Thibault Masson

Thibault:

Dear Rental Scale-Up members. We’re now joined by Tucker Cohen from Breezeway. He’s in Boston right now. So we’d be talking about how the London is like in Boston and who’s worried about his personal adventures being, you know he, I was in Spain, had to rush, come back to the U S for the travel ban and it had to deal with Corona virus. So it was interesting story, but I worked, so what Tucker could share with us is also what his company does. If you don’t know we’ll be talking a bit about the company itself. Which is a vendor in our, you know, vacation rental industry. But they’ve been around for a few years, more than a few years now. And they’re very good with coming up with a checklist. So we’ll be talking about the topic of checklist and especially how this can help with you, your property, a good you as a company to deal with the COVID-19 core providers. So we’ll be talking about new deep cleaning processes. How can that, how can this help your, you know, your staff, your guests, also talking to the homeowners. It’s very interesting. Also, we took how this is also something that’s very important now because did he safety, which is again a topic very dear to it. Tech, his company, cleanness is safety and it’s a system that you can mark it now. So we’d be talking about about this, but with further ado, how are you, yeah, thanks Tucker.

Tucker:

Great. And I think an adventure is certainly the appropriate term for my experience with the coronavirus so far. As you mentioned, you know, we were, I was actually flying to, to Spain as the U S made the announcement that they were going to be shutting the borders. So you can imagine I landed in Madrid to about 80 text messages, Slack notifications, emails, the whole, the whole nine yards saying you need to try and get back as soon as possible. So we had a quick turnaround there, ended up flying back Friday and made it back at 1115 through customs just before the midnight curfew. So certainly a, an experience I’ll never forget. And then shortly thereafter started to experience few symptoms definitely some which are mild in terms of what you may or may not be hearing on the news. So you know, we had a little chest pain, some coughing, some fever and all in all the, the a more prevalent symptoms. Those ones lasted about four or five days. And then there’s just sort of this lingering feeling of dizziness and shortness of breath for a, you know, the next week or so after the fact. So I’ve been telling folks that the, the entire experience was about 16 days, but you know, all things considered, I think we had a very mild experience and you know, grateful that it wasn’t something more severe.

Thibault:

Yeah. That’s great to hear. And then thank you for, for sharing. Cause I think so, so message where, I mean it’s obviously it’s, it does exist and so there, but the good news, I love people who do go through it to get out of it. And then 

Tucker:

You hear. Yeah, exactly. It was unique timing because in Madrid there, it was a almost commonplace to have, have the coronavirus and in the U S it wasn’t just yet. This was around the middle of March. So just about a month ago March 14th to be specific and sitting somewhere right in between that fine line of everyone having imagery and no one having it in the U S was really unique because, you know, we’re talking to folks in Madrid, they’re like, this is what you can expect. It’s not that it’s not that big a deal unless you’re feeling this and you know, you should you should be okay. And then you tell people in the U S who a lot of folks up until that point or the following weeks after that were saying, Oh, it’s just the flu. It’s not a big deal. Everyone’s going to be fine. You’re young, you’ll be fine. And then you go ahead and say, Oh yeah, by the way, you know, I tested positive and they’re like, Oh my gosh, that’s a positive.

Tucker:

And you’re like, wait a second, didn’t you just say it wasn’t a big deal? Cause that’s not how you’re acting right now. But yeah, so, you know, again, just super grateful that it wasn’t worse, worse. Mmm. As for breezeway though, you mentioned we have been around for quite some time five years, five or so years to be specific. We were, you know, hands on with over 60,000 unique properties, helping folks manage those properties from a, from a cleaning standpoint, at daily operations standpoint and really just gaining tons of efficiency, predictability and clarity into there day to day operations. And as you mentioned, right. We’ve been doing this for a long time now more than ever. Cleanliness and safety, they are going hand in hand and you know, we’re, we’re poised to really help our customers are property managers, you know, meet their goals and come out of this thing a better than they went into it.

Thibault:

And so, thank you. Thanks again for being here. And because obviously most of our people watching now are local property managers. But that’s a global epidemic is what a pandemic means. Right. And but so we all running into issues right now at our is the same virus in a way. It’s also same issues for companies, right? Cutting costs or deciding how to adapt service or investing in cleaners and making sure penis also something that people know about too, so they can feel safe about booking this. So thanks to you, we’re going to bring this sort of like global responses or global, a checklist of things to do that local punk teenagers

Tucker:

Can bring. And I think you, you, you’re the head of the onsite sales [inaudible] right? That’s right. Yep. So so with your knowledge and with your role, I think you’ve made it for us a little slide deck more concrete. I’d use what we should be doing. Thanks for bringing that. Yeah, of course. I’ll share some stuff that we’ve been talking a lot about internally and feel comfortable sharing externally. And you know, this is a, I think now more than ever is a time where people say it a lot, but we’re all in this together, right? Like we’re separate, but we’re together and everyone, regardless of where you are, which to your point, you go it’s a, it’s a pandemic, but it’s impacting people in their local areas. So regardless of where you are, you’re, you’re likely challenged with a lot of the same things as someone in the next state or the next County.

Tucker:

And here in Boston it’s, it’s not as strict of a lockdown as in let’s say, Madrid for example. Where they’re finding people who are leaving their, their apartments and you know, I’ve heard stories of people walking around with fake dogs just for an excuse to get outside of their house, but you know, we’re still taking it very seriously. Folks are wearing masks now. Hopefully it’s not too little too late, but yeah, it is one of those things where, you know, you’re learning stuff that could be worth sharing with me and us pushing out to, to folks in their own unique area. It’s a situation more than ever where folks I think need to be learning from more than one another’s experiences and you know, just staying humble that there’s a lot of uncertainty. Yeah. As you mentioned, you know, breezeway, we’ve been around for upwards of four or five years, again, tens of thousands of [inaudible] unique properties being managed with the system.

Tucker:

So our core competency is around cleaning and disinfecting properties and allowing our, our managers to do so in a way that’s more predictable, more repeatable, and frankly just all in all much more efficient. So we, you know, we really have this experience that’s becoming increasingly more relevant and more useful in these sort of uncertain and crazy times, right? Like you hate to say it. It’s been, it’s been says it said it enough that these times are very uncertain, but we’re optimistic that people will start traveling again. They will come back to your properties and when they get there, we want to instill trust more than that, more than ever. And that trust is going to come from a couple things. It’s going to come from having diligent cleaning programs and operations programs and, and telling them what you’re doing and telling them how detailed you’re being and following the guidelines of the organization’s, right.

Tucker:

Whether it’s the [inaudible] who the CDC, the EPA doesn’t matter. You want to make sure that you’re holding your cleaning staff, whether they’re in house or party to this standard that the guests will not only hope for, but ultimately start to expect, right? So that’s, that’s what we’re you know, that’s the, the drum that we’re beating. And again, we’ve been doing this for for a long time and this is sort of the philosophy that we’ve had all along is that if you can, if you can create a repeatable, effective, a process around your daily operations with regards to cleaning and maintenance tasks and inspecting the properties to make sure that they’re properly inspected and excuse me, properly disinfected you know, you’re going to put yourself in a much better position to not only maintain this high expectation, this high bar of expectation with folks, but also you know, give them an experience that they’ll come back for again.

Tucker:

So [inaudible] a couple of things that go into that quality, especially as we’re thinking about, you know, doors opening back up drive to markets are probably going to be one of the first ones that we’re, we’re, we’re seeing reopen and already in some States here in the U S we’re seeing folks migrate out of urban areas and go to the mountains and go to the beach and rent a vacation rental or short term rental for a longer period of time. I’m sure you’ve picked up on that trend that’s starting to happen. You know, Airbnb made an announcement around it and makes an abundance of sense, right? I don’t want to be in a city surrounded by hundreds of people every single day I want to go somewhere where I’m isolated and have my own place, my own property. So along with that, there’s also this unique factor to vacation rentals that that provides a very distinct advantage over something like a hotel or some sort of traditional accommodation, which is that there’s no common space, right? You’re not sharing an elevator with a hundred other families from a hundred different cities, right? And you’re not sharing a lobby and you’re not going to the same checkin desks. You have keyless entry, you’re rolling up to a property that’s going to be yours for some amount of time. And again, just making sure that when, when they get there, they know for fact, right? There is no room for their imagination to wander that this property has been cleaned and disinfected up to the L the level of standard where they can feel safe.

Thibault:

Yeah. Because to your point to [inaudible] what’s interesting is that I agree that short term rentals, because rentals are the right format but still lingering, lingering on the nine of people is like, yeah, it’s far away but is it clean? And who was there this morning right there to be seen who checked out in the morning with somebody. So that’s why on top of that, it’s a good format. Vegas rentals are a good format for example, but cleanness and guaranteeing this can be very key. But even I think in some urban rent markets, right? Because I can imagine if you want to have two wide visit friends and family, different, you will also want to run rented apartment is possible. But the question would be the same and, and maybe are out there, you know, hotel chains and things where people could think maybe at this log point, the hotel on the other hand they do have clean air standards. So if you can come up with an offer, even in your urban markets where you say you have the right format, she’s a short term rental and the keen has standards that you can find in hotel chains, then it’s a win. I think.

Tucker:

Totally agree. Totally agree. And I think that one question on folks’ mind is how do they how do they instill that confidence that they are meeting and in fact exceeding in a lot of cases the type of standards that someone would expect at the Marriott, let’s say. And, and we’re talking to folks who are like taking screenshots of their cleaning protocol and adding it to their VRBO and Airbnb listing. They have full pages on their booking website, on their direct website where it’s like, you know, our cleaning procedures. So we’re seeing people take this expectation of the guests and these customers and have that in mind as they think about how they’re gonna approach reentering the market in a way that not only accommodates these needs, but also just leaves no room for, for confusion about what they’re doing.

Tucker:

So that’s some of the stuff that folks we talked to are doing right now. They’re taking the time to have a hard look in the mirror and say, okay, where’s the room for improvement with regards to our housekeeping protocols and how are we going to potentially do more work? Right? There’s higher expectations. So there, there could end up be being more work, right? You’re going to be doing deep cleans more frequently, let’s say. And, and now on the other hand, unfortunately you may have lower head count, you have, may have less staff and resources on your team do more work. So having an efficient program in place for coordinating this stuff is gonna just be paramount to, to actually achieving that stuff without putting in gap days between your bookings, for example. So really taking a hard look and understanding like, do we have the process in place, the protocols in place to to instill this trust, but also to effectively meet those goals that we have.

Tucker:

So from an actionable standpoint, we, you know, we want to make sure that customer, not like property managers are all sort of in the same boat. I mean, there’s just this unifying feeling across any industry, which is that everyone’s stuck in their house right now or their apartment and you know, we’re all in this together. So everyone doing the right thing will ultimately lead to the outcome that everyone wants. And one of those things is, in our world, in our little world, right to vacation rental, short term rental property management world, one of those things is what we’re talking about, which is appropriately accommodating, cleaning and disinfecting needs of guests to feel confident and for our industry as a whole, to go out into the world and say, Hey, listen, these things, vacation, rental, short term rentals, they’re safe. And in a lot of cases they’re safer than staying in a hotel because of the lack of exposure to big groups and what have you.

Tucker:

So we do have a full resource center on coronavirus on our website, breezeway.io/kobe-nineteen. And one of the pieces on there is a disinfection and deep cleaning checklists. Folks can feel free to use that, whether you want to use it in the platform or not totally fine either way. But the good thing is it’s, you know, it’s a, it’s an accordance with these guidelines. You know, that people are going to be wondering about when they do come back to your properties. And having a, an a fishing and repeatable checklist allows you to do more deep cleans in a shorter amount of time, right? And then to know that people are actually carrying them out.

Thibault:

So to get back a moment. So what you say is that basically on your website, people can go now and find this, this checklist which is just here and they can download the checklist basically, and then they can use it as, as we of course, the coastal used with Neo platform because you have also some, a software solution I think. But it’s actually free to access for this, this, these different checklists. I think you have several checklists anyway, right? Yeah, exactly.

Tucker:

You know, again, we’re, we’re not holding anything back. It’s one of those things where a rising tide lifts all ships. We want to make sure that everyone comes through this thing better than they went into it. And part of that is having these protocols in place and whether this is helpful for folks or not, we certainly think it is and hope that it is. But if they don’t find it helpful, that’s okay. Thanks. Absolutely. And there are, you know, there are abundance of resources on there, but one of the key things is, is communicating with your staff as well. So making sure that anytime you have a reoccurring task or something or someone goes out to a property and maybe you aren’t around by your phone or you’re on with a guest and you can’t account, you can’t attend to them while they’re there and they’re locked out.

Tucker:

Making sure that you have sort of process in place to you know, have those fail safes. This is the, this is what people are doing now to stay productive and you know, quick plug for us from a safety standpoint too, is that like we have full safety training for, for whether it’s managers themselves or you want to just inspect your property to say that it’s safe and market, it is safe. We, we enable both of those things. So other good uses of time for your staff right now if you’re applying for the PPP to, to keep people busy and I mean that’s, that’s where we have in America the the payment protect or payroll protection, is that the same over there to something similar in Europe as well? Right. So, so you know, there’s, there’s re like you wanna you wanna apply for that.

Tucker:

You want to get it and then you want to give your staff something to do while you’re, while you’ve gotten that. And then you know, safety as well as auditing your properties, audit in your operations. These are all good uses of time to stay productive in this time of vital hands. Communication is another thing that we’re talking about a lot. Leave no room for, for guests to use their imagination about what might’ve happened here, right? So over communicate the cleaning protocol both externally on the website but as well as when someone checks into one of your properties, you don’t, you want to let them know, you might as well let them know here’s exactly what we did, here’s exactly how long someone was there, here’s who they were. Here are photos of that happening. And just to leave no room for, for any sort of doubt in that. And that’s what’s gonna get us back to, to having that level of trust that maybe we took a little bit for granted beforehand.

Tucker:

And all these communication guidelines are also on the on the resource center as well. And, and really, I think just to, to sort of cap it off as this concept of professionalism and these higher standards. We’ve been talking about this stuff for a really long time between hospitality industry, sort of blending with the short term rental industry and guests having this sort of on demand and just high level of expectation that property managers have gone from you know, rental managers to really hospitality providers. And I think that’s going to become increasingly more true as this as a situation starts to fizzle out hopefully sooner than later. But all of those, all of those key points that we’re talking about for him, those bleed into providing this hospitality level experience and, and really just reclaiming some of that trust with your guests.

Tucker:

So, quick plug for breezeway you know, our dashboard will allow folks to, to prioritize their time based on what needs to happen as it needs to happen. So let’s say for example, you have 10 back to backs happening and 10 checkouts only, you, you certainly want to take care of the cleans for the back to backs before the properties that are only experiencing checkouts. So our dashboard will sort of float those ones up to the top and allow you to have a, a mission control for, for the daily operations as well as anything on a weekly or monthly basis as well. It’s very interesting because whereas am this view series for this conference from Southern [inaudible] and she’s really really clear about how task management or this kind of a a software she uses [inaudible] 14 other kinds of things. Task management tools are very, very efficient and very useful for her to be able to guarantee the quantity of places and suits. So too. And they’d say share

Thibault:

And enforce new standards that she has across her company now that things are evolving. So again it’s, it’s, it’s interesting I think checklists sometimes I see this a bit boring topic, but like, yeah, what are you checklist? When I’ve been in this for years. On the other hand, you know, when before take off, you know, pilots do go through checklists. The hospitals searches go through checklist even though hopefully they’ve done this before. So it just, it’s just a, we not need to enforce quality business. We just send me, things are changing. You are not, you have new standards. It’s a also a way to make sure that every [inaudible] has been updated.

Tucker:

Absolutely. Well that’s, I mean that’s going to be how you, how you claim this competitive advantage is to say like, we get it, you’re worried about this, understand and empathize with your guests and say, listen, this is how we’re leveling up our procedures to make sure that you’re safe. I mean, the last thing you want is someone to come into you one of your properties and get sick. I think that goes without saying. But ensuring that they are arriving to a place that’s clean and disinfected and safe is you know, it’s super important. And then telling them, telling them on top of that, like here’s what we’re doing to make sure you’re safe.

Thibault:

And, and so [inaudible] that’s put in this discussion today is that this has to be communicated and marketed. And that was clearly in your, in your, in your slide. Obviously I think you have people can do this on their own website through their own, I think messaging to guests. But I guess there’s probably a way to as soon as I know you can, people can tweak their listings on the description on Airbnb and verbal. I stopped that possible on, on, on booking. Unless you go to the host profile, add something there. But you can, I think booking.com has introduced a new tick boxes regarding a current virus, Covey 19 when Pocan tick and say yes as a partner can pop them taking extra measures when it comes to team cleaning. You have top of mind any other ways that as a proxy measure, I can market this to create more trust and get more bookings?

Tucker:

Yeah, I mean, just, just a knee jerk reaction to that would be, don’t be afraid to overshare in terms of what you’re doing. And you know, if you find that it’s not working or if you find that it’s falling on deaf ears or maybe it’s having a, an inverse reaction where they weren’t, where they weren’t thinking about it and now they are then you just peel it back and, and, and do away with it. But with any sort of marketing, it’s a, it’s a constantly an iterative process. So if it were me, I would be going ahead and sharing my, my checklists with my guests on my website, on my listings so you can check a box, but everyone’s going to check that box. All right. So take the time to, to, to leverage the, to have a competitive advantage. And 

Thibault:

Can you, because you mentioned also maybe taking photos of people applying the process of like photos, actual cleaning process, or even show video or to reassure, you can put that on the website. That could be another idea of showcasing.

Tucker:

Absolutely. I mean, one one really I think good parallel is the food service industry. And we, you know, we’ve been, we’ve been through the virus and we’re still paranoid about it for whatever reason, whether, whether that’s, you know, driven from the media or not who knows, but they don’t necessarily, they’re not, they’re not outwardly saying, okay, you’ve had it and now you’re immune. Just largely in fact, because I think it’s hasn’t been around long enough, but still we were not going out to restaurants. And you know, the one time that we have, we called and said, Hey, are you all wearing masks? And you are, all your employees are wearing gloves as well? And they said yes. And so now for, for, for a restaurant, it’s important that they market that, right? So there’s some, you’re seeing them some, some restaurants that I think are doing a good job or like shake shack and like pizza hut and they’re like making videos outside of like outwardly, like openly saying like, you can trust us because this is what it looks like in one of our kitchens.

Tucker:

Right now, all the cooks are wearing masks. All the cooks are wearing gloves. All the staff is totally dialed in with their, their PPE and rightfully so, because now I don’t have to wonder, I don’t have to call an ask and I have to tweet at them. Right.

Thibault:

That’s great advice. Transparency here. So we talked about these checklists and I think so what I’m going to do, of course, obviously below the video with link what this regional center that Raceway has their careers. Any other way people can reach out and talk with you?

Tucker:

Yeah, of course. I mean, our website you can, you can book through a chat or request a demo on there, but if anybody wants to reach out to me directly it’s just [email protected] please feel free. I’m an open book. Whether you want to see a demo or just have a quick question or you know, you want to ask me about the virus? Whatever you want to come to visit Boston let me know. No, no worries.

Thibault:

Oh, hopefully in the near future we could actually come, come over and, and talk to you in person. So thanks again for your time today and thank you for even sharing your own story and sharing as well. You, your email address for the community. Are you? Appreciate that. Well, all the best to you and I do hope to see you soon in person.

Tucker:

Likewise. Likewise. Thanks so much for having me. Great job.

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