If you’re looking for ways to further automate your rental operation’s communications, you may want to look into chat bots. Doesn’t that sound like an awful idea? It does if you haven’t been introduced to these bots properly.
These things have made some pretty impressive advancements in recent days, and particularly for the vacation rental industry. In fact, there are a number of automated chat services built specifically for rental management automation. There’s a good reason for that as well!
First, let’s take a look at some of these bot options and see just how sophisticated they are:
Chat Bot Options
One of the first chat bots to come out focusing on the short-term rental management market. This bot can accept payments, capture customer data, and perform re-marketing after initial contact.
It operates on Facebook messenger, which could mean a little finagling is required to implement it – but the company sees it as a security feature (extra verification). Starting at just $12.99/mo.
Hostbot (by Burner)
Here’s an automated chat bot system that’ll handle communications via SMS. That makes it much easier to implement directly with booking channels like Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, etc. Most will offer SMS forwarding for inquiries to help you stay in touch.
This bot will require a Burner account, which basically just provides a proxy phone number. It sounds complex, but it’s not since it’s the same company – and only costs $4.99/mo!
Feature-wise, this bot seems to have taken heavy influence from the BnbChatbot. It also uses Facebook Messenger. They offer a free trial though, which is nice. Unfortunately it’s 95 EUR/mo.
A few words on rental management automation from a chat bot developer
What makes the rental management industry such a prime candidate for automation?
Vacation rentals on scale usually require answering the same questions over and over again. Every guest is different also and wants information at different times. This makes it ideal for chatbots as you can provide a solution with all the information pre-programmed. Guests then have the leisure to look at the information on their own time at their own leisure.
Regarding your bot’s mode of communication: why choose Facebook’s Messenger over SMS?
Messenger is incredibly powerful as a re-marketing tool as well as a place to communicate. Email lists have an open rate of 10% if you are lucky, messenger lists currently have rates of 80%+. Building the bot on this platform also enables some of the neat features like cards and galleries that simply don’t exist effectively in SMS.
Your company seems to be one of the originals to come out with a rental industry focused bot. Do you see room for more automation in the industry?
There is always more automation that can be done in pretty much all areas of vacation rentals. For this to be enabled API endpoints need to be opened to all channels truly providing an open playing field for passionate people to develop products.
What makes them so useful for short-term rental managers?
Anyone working in short-term management for a time knows the pain of being in constant dialogue with potential guests. It’s like a never-ending cycle of communication that you have to maintain to keep your bookings up. After a while, you may have noticed that a majority of your guest inquiries look extremely similar.
That’s because it’s true. The range of questions you’ll receive about your property will center around booking availability. Even though it’s right there on your rental channel’s calendar. Other common questions include subjects like pets, smoking, long-term discounts, guest allowances, and event policies – to name a few.
When a chat bot detects a question centered around one of these subjects, it’ll hit all the right notes. That’s because there’s a definite answer for pretty much all of them. A rental property has a lot of criteria, and customers often overlook this info on the listing (or it’s not there). Your chat bot will have all the answers loaded up and ready to go.
It can handle them more easily due to the fact that lines of questioning in live dialogues are broken into key issues. The bot isn’t having to process a ton of different queries and organize a response that’ll satisfy all of them. For the most part, it’ll be receiving one question at a time. In those instances, it can be very hard to discern whether or not you’re speaking with a human or a bot. The responses are well composed, the conversation is fluid, and the answers are extremely accurate.
Is there really a need for this?
There’s a need for it because it works. This business is one where speedy communication is imperative to maintain a profitable booking rate. The fact that rental properties have so much pre-defined information makes the industry a perfect candidate for automated communications. If you’re managing a large number of properties, you already need help in that department. The amount of money saved from automating these communications over hiring extra staff is more than enough to justify it.
The bottom line is this: the industry is heading this direction regardless of whether you join in or not. A quick Google search for “property management chat bots” will reveal quite a bit of evidence for this. The growing number of chat bot companies focused on rental management automation is evidence as well.
You’ll even find major listing channels like HomeAway advertising for positions like “Senior Chat Bot Engineer”. And Booking.com is already having great success with their AI chat bot system.
If you’re not having any trouble staying on top of your communications, you should still be aware of your options. When the time comes to expand your business, you’ll have a solution at hand.