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The OwnerRez Blog

A blog about our thoughts, services, upcoming features and the industry at large.

The OwnerRez Blog

FlipKey inquiries are back, and the inquiry workflow has expanded to include status and resolution

Inquiry parsing for FlipKey/TripAdvisor has been restored

Over the past few weeks, you've probably noticed FlipKey inquiries being sent to you as "Unrecognized email" from OwnerRez.  The parsing/discovery code in our system has been updated and those emails are now, once again, being inserted as proper inquiries into OwnerRez.

What about the guest contact info?

For many users, FlipKey no longer shares the guest contact info (email address and phone number) anymore.  That information is completely locked down behind your FlipKey login. When that occurs, a "MISSING CONTACT INFO" status will appear on the inquiry with resolution options for you to login and copy the guest info out of FlipKey.  We've made the process as fast as possible where you can click a single button to open the inquiry on the FlipKey website directly and copy the guest info back to the OwnerRez inquiry.

New Inquiry statuses and resolution

We are expanding inquiries in the near future and developing a method to retrieve all information from the walled-garden listing sites (FlipKey, Airbnb, etc.).  To that end, we have laid the groundwork for inquiries that have partial information, malformed information, rule violations, etc. so that you have a clearer understanding of the status of the inquiry and the steps you need to take to resolve it and respond.

You will notice that there is now a Status column on the Inquiries grid and a new Resolution section on the overview page of the inquiry.

The Status of the inquiry changes as activity occurs throughout the system.  The Resolution section will always show action buttons relevant to the current status.

Here are the inquiry statuses:

  • Missing Contact Info: The inquiry has no email address or phone number for the guest so there is no way to respond or send a quote until you find that information
  • Missing Info: There is guest contact information, but the inquiry has other missing information (no property, missing departure date, etc.) such that a quote is not possible
  • Unavailable Dates: The requested dates are already taken by one or more other bookings
  • Rule Violation: The dates are available but something about the inquiry violates one or more rules for the property
  • Quotable: Everything (dates, rules, info) is fine for the inquiry but no quotes have been created
  • Quoted: One or more quotes has been created for the inquiry
  • Booked: The inquiry ended up converting into a booking


Reporting: Analyzing your booking data, forecasting, and increasing bookings

At OwnerRez, we track a lot of data about your bookings -- where they come from, when they were made, how many guests were there, how many nights they stayed, etc. We believe that you own your data and should be able to export it at any time, so we provide Excel and CSV exports of all main data elements -- Bookings, Quotes, Inquiries, Properties, etc.

We're taking a step further and providing reporting views for these statistics about your vacation rental properties, analysis that will give you actionable metrics to help increase bookings and increase profit per bookings. This is the first in what will be an ongoing series of posts about how to slice and dice your data to get a look at different perspectives.

Today, I'm going to show off the booking statistics and occupancy reports, particularly the Days in Advance and % Occupied reports. You can find these reports in your account under the Reports tab -- the Bookings statistics and Occupancy reports. Separately these reports are full of good information, but together they can help analyze your current bookings and future bookings to see if your rates are about right, too high, or too low.

The Days in Advance report provides a measure of how many days before the arrival date the booking was booked. It shows the average number of days between booked and arrival. A last minute booking might be 2 or 3 days, while a large planned event might be booked months in advance.

Here's an example report for this year:

Notice the variance between properties in the same month, and between different times of the year. Larger properties tend to book farther in advance, because larger parties have more planning to do and think farther ahead.

Very high days in advance numbers (note those 150-200 days in the example) indicate that your prices might be too low. If people are booking hundreds of days ahead, you're probably the lowest comperable price in the area, so you can increase that price. If its nearing high season and you haven't booked up, you can always discount the rates back down to fill up the calendar.

In this example, the owner would be well served to add a super high season in summer and nudge up the holiday rates.

The % Occupied report shows the percentage of booked nights to not booked nights. You can break this down by different time periods to give an idea of which months or years book more solid than others.

Here's an example report for this year:

This is a pretty typical level of occupancy -- more in the summer on season, less in the winter except holidays. Notice how the same properties with high days in advance from the other report (names removed to protect the guilty) also have high occupancy percentages. This confirms that raising the rates is a good idea.

You can also see that dead winter months are lower (Jan, Feb). This could be a good target for discounts and/or newsletters encouraging repeat guests.

Is the Expedia takeover of HomeAway going to be good or bad for vacation rental owners/managers?

Big news!  HomeAway is now a part of the Expedia family. The official announcement by HomeAway explained that this would be a "good thing" for vacation rental owners and their guests. They anticipate more quality bookings, more travelers, peace of mind and a better value.

But there is a bigger problem here. You the vacation rental owner have to filter through more vacation rental inquires and it can be hard to manage your rentals across multiple sites. What causes the most headache for you - the book now feature or the task of going back and forth with the guests?

Furthermore, do we trust Expedia to understand the vacation rental market enough to address our needs?  Expedia knows the hotel and airfare side of the travel world.  They understand instant bookings where they can set policies for both sides - where have we seen that before (Airbnb!).  This acquisition could easily mean the locking down of guest data on HomeAway even more.

We would like to know what you think.  Is this a "good thing" or do you see more headaches, delays and hidden fees in your future?

Customizable form headers, smarter widgets & URL/phone fields

Personalize the top of your Quote forms

Under Settings, you'll see something new called Form Headers. Form Headers are just what they sound like. The "header" is the information that shows at the top of a form. You can now edit this information to contain your own message or styling.

Simple for now, but lots to build on

At the moment, only the top of the form can be changed, but we're working on extending this to other parts of the form.

Additionally, you can embed field codes into your content so that the form headers change based on which property is selected. Full editing, with the normal list of field codes, is possible right out of the box. If you want to get fancier, using HTML, you can do that too.

Book Now/Inquiry widget validates guest data and shows smarter quotes

You now have options for making the Booking Now/Inquiry widget check rule violations when sending inquiries. Also, when guests get an instant quote, the widget shows instant feedback on rule violations so they know what to correct before proceeding further. And there's a bunch more updates to the widgets that were made - for instance, the adult/child fields are now drop-downs which force guests to enter cleaner data. Check out the widgets on your website or go create one under the Settings area.

URL and Phone Number on properties and profiles

We've added a URL (website) field on your profile (the My Account area) so that you can specify what your personal website is, and we've added URL and phone numbers to the properties as well so that you can specify those things at the property level.

The primary purpose for these new fields is so that you can embed your website and phone number information into emails, legal agreements and form headers so several new field codes have been created:

  • MYURL: Added to display your main website (the root location)
  • MYPHONE: Added to display your primary business phone number
  • MYPHONEI: Added to display an informal version of the phone number
  • PURL: Added to display the website for the property
  • PPHONE: Added to display the phone number at the property (what the guest uses on-site)
  • PPHONEI: Added to display an informal version of the property phone number

Other Changes

Few other changes we slipped into this release:

  • Fixed the Google login connection under linked accounts
  • Added table support to the rich-text editor for legal agreements and form headers
  • Update the Travel Insurance settings page to show information about travel insurance
  • Top search bar updated to search when magnifying glass is clicked

New template for Booking Confirmation emails & new field codes

The Booking Confirmation email is the one that guests see right away after booking.  Its' the one that says "You've successfully booked...!" at the top.  It's now fully editable just like your other email templates.

If you had 'custom paragraphs' for the booking confirmation email before, that information has been preserved as a new field definition on your properties.

New Field Codes

The creation of the booking confirmation email template created the need for changed or additional field codes:

  • BGEMAIL:  Changed to display all of the guest's email addresses on the booking
  • BGEMAILPRIME:  Added to display the single primary guest email address on the booking
  • BBINFO:  Added to display billing overview information to the guest (used in the Billing Details paragraph in the Booking Confirmation email)
  • PADDRUG:  Added to display a link to the property address in Google Maps
  • PADDRUY:  Added to display a link to the property address in Yahoo Maps
  • PADDRUB:  Added to display a link to the property address in Bing Maps
  • PADDRUM:  Added to display a link to the property address in Mapquest
  • PXEMAILPARAGRAPHS:  Added as a custom field code to any user who had Custom Email Paragraphs for the Booking Confirmation email

These new fields codes are available anywhere you are editing a template or legal agreement.

In the near future, you will be able to use these within Form Themes as well.