Happy Thursday, everyone! This week we've released a monstrous 33 updates which include a bunch of cool upgrades. Let's go through the changes!
The update I'm most excited about is one you can't actually see in the interface! Well, you sorta can... 🧐
For a long time, our CRM area (ie. the menu where you go to see and manage contact records) has had many duplicate contact records. This is because every time a guest books your property or sends an inquiry, OwnerRez would create a new contact record even if the person had booked or inquired previously. The same is true for channel bookings. I'm happy to announce that contact records are now automatically merged for new bookings and inquiries if OwnerRez sees obvious indicators that the guest is already in the system.
If you're curious, the auto-merge process works like this... When a new inquiry or booking comes in (from a widget, inquiry email, API channel integration, etc) OwnerRez checks the phone number, email address and mailing address and compares that to your existing contacts that are already in the system. If it finds one, it then checks for a similar contact first and last name. Only one of the phone number, email address or mailing address has to match (not all three) but the name has to match exactly. When a match is found, that contact record is used for the new booking or inquiry, and no contact records are created. This should greatly reduce the number of duplicate contacts in your account.
If you still see duplicates records, and you might because slightly misspelled names or missing contact info, you can still select the records in the CRM > Contacts list and manually merge them yourself. That process works exactly the same as before.
In the above example, those three Maria contacts would not have been auto-merged because the names do not exactly match even though the email and phone numbers are the same. We designed the auto-merging process to be conservative so that contact records are not merged too aggressively. We feel like it's better to have extra duplicates than accidentally merge together family members or friends with similar contact info that might result in confusion down the road. We are planning on adding some merge tools in the future that will help you find records that look similar so that you can quickly find and merge contacts.
If you do run across a situation where a contact was accidentally merged and should be split out again, you can do that by going to one of the contact's bookings or inquiries and using the Guest Record > Associate with different guest to find or create a new guest record.
While we were in there working on auto-merge for contact, we also fixed a bug where manually merging was dropping parts of the contact record. You can read more about that about that in the Bug Fixes section below.
A couple weeks ago, we overhauled our security deposits, fixing the accounting and adding "refundable" types. At the same time, we added a new Security Deposits detail report, but it wasn't super useful as it was. This past week we upgraded the Security Deposits report to have new filters for amounts and statuses and fleshed out the details to show better information.
You can now search for specific "kept amounts" or look for security deposits that are Collected, Fully Released, Partially Released or Pending. The report rows show more information as well including all the dates, statuses and amounts from what was reserved, released and kept.
The rate calendar also had an "update after the update" this week. A few weeks ago, we worked on the rate calendar, significantly overhauling the colors, formatting, click behavior and more. The user response has been super positive, but we noticed a few things and wanted to take care of them.
First, we noticed that users really appreciated seeing rule-based virtual blocks (the gray lines) that showed no one could arrive or depart on certain days, but there are other things that prevent a day from being booked, like missing rates, so we wanted to add that too. The rate calendar now shows a red warning icon on any day with a missing rate to clearly mark that day as unavailable.
Then, we added a virtual block for the booking window so that minimum days before arrival will show up as not bookable on the rate calendar just like gap rules.
Have you ever wanted to find bookings that are channel connected? Now you can. The main Bookings list has a new filter that lets you search for channel-connected bookings.
To be clear, channel-connected bookings are bookings that were pushed directly to OwnerRez via an API integration and did not require you to send a quote or answer any inquiry. So, for instance, if you have Houfy or FindRentals connected as API-integrated channels, the bookings from those channels would not be be considered "channel connected" because those channels send inquiries that you answer with a quote before the guest books with you directly. Vrbo, Airbnb and Booking.com are examples of channels that send channel-connected bookings.
Speaking of channels, we also changed our property mapping process for channels to follow common business workflows instead of combining the connecting, disconnecting and mode-changing operations into the same page. When you open a channel now, you'll notice that the "Change Property Mappings" button is now a drop-down with with workflow options. The drop-down options are different depending on the channel you're working on.
For Airbnb, you have six options which is the most of any channel:
Clicking on any of those options will take you to a page where you are solely focused on that one thing (un-publishing, disconnecting, changing modes) and nothing else. We did this because we realized that users never need to connect, publish or change modes at the same time, so it was better to be clear about each of those things then combine them all together.
On Booking.com, the mapping options are limited to connecting, disconnecting and changing sync modes. On channels like Vrbo, Houfy and others, the full mapping page still shows as there is no way to change connection status or modes for those channels on the fly.
As we continue to update old pages and normalize the design, we are trying to clean up a few things each week so that we finally get the entire app on the same design palette and everything device-responsive. Accordingly, this past week we upgraded several areas that were still using old-design pages. We cleaned out all the old pages under the Properties, Account and Quote areas. The functionality and pages still exist, but the design is new.
If you're looking for an example, take a look at Third Party Alerts. Go to any property and drill in then click on Third Party Alerts on the sidebar menu. Notice the list and create/change pages.
All shiny new. Same with the account close page and everything under quotes. While we were cleaning up some of the quote pages, we moved the Notes tab to the overview page and made it a window that opens inline.
About those Third Party Alerts... While we were in there, we fixed the system alert that tells you "the third party has unsubscribed" to use the new email design, and the Settings > System Alerts area now shows it as an option to turn it off.
Couple last little tweaks to mention...
Most of you receive inquiries, like email and SMS, many times per day. Showing the "received" date is helpful but not as much as showing the time. In the past, we added received time to the communication history area, and we decided to add received time to the Inquiries list as well. The time will show in your account's time zone, so if you're wondering why the time appears ahead or behind, check out your time zone setting and make sure it's correct.
A long time ago, before we had direct channel integration with Airbnb and Vrbo, we built a "Rate Push" tool that crawls Airbnb and Vrbo's websites (if you're logged into those channels) and updates rates for your listings. The tool only pushes some rates (no period rates, no discounts, no fees, no taxes, no stay rules) and only works on some Vrbo and Airbnb accounts depending on where you are in the world and what type of rate settings you have on the channel. It was never designed to be a permanent solution or trusted forever. For now, the tool continues to work, but we have marked it as "deprecated" which means we will no longer upgrade or support the Rate Push tool moving forward. If you are one of the few dozen users that still relies on the Rate Push tool, we're sorry that you'll be losing something you use, but it's been a long time coming. If you're wondering why we're doing this, the Rate Push tool costs far more for to maintain than it's worth, it causes channel problems, and it's is a violation of the channels' Terms and Conditions - channels that we are official partners of. In addition, there is no long any need to use the Rate Push tool because our direct channel integrations sync rates with the channels via API which is a far better and far more-comprehensive solution than what the Rate Push tool ever did. We will leave the Rate Push tool up for the time being, but once it breaks or requires an upgrade (because of changes in the channels' websites) we will be removing it for good. To be clear, this does not affect the Channel Bridge tool in general - downloading bookings and reviews will still work, same as before.
Calendar sync clarity. We noticed that users are often confused when they see an error, coming from calendar sync, but then see nothing in the calendar sync event list, or they are confused when calendar syncs merges and they don't see that either. To fix this, we now check if the last success time is after the last item in the list and we add a dummy calendar sync event called "Synced Successfully with No Changes". And when associating a booking with a calendar sync by match, we now create a "Booking Merged" sync event.
Refunding kept funds on security deposits. A few weeks back, we did a massive update of our security deposit system to fix accounting and add "refundable" types. As part of that, you can now refund kept funds after the fact, so that if you and guest reached a different resolution, you can undo what you kept. However, we noticed a small error with how those funds are refunded for users that use Stripe for payment processing. All fixed now!
Payment receipt emails with wrong totals. We found and fixed an issue where payment receipt emails were being sent for Vrbo channel-connected bookings before the booking total was updated.
Rate multipliers not terminating. We saw a situation where a surcharge was set for every 2 guests above 4 up to 6, but putting in 8 guests made it hit twice instead of just once. The "up to 6" maximum amount should be honored even if there are more guests than the 6. This is now fixed.
Evil emoji? We see it all around here! We noticed a situation where emoji in the property headline (like "Owl's Nest Hideout 🦉") would sometimes blow up when pushing content to Airbnb, but only in very rare situations. We finally figured it out and fixed it. If you're curious, it had to do with how UTF32 characters were being truncated, making pat of the emoji code get cut off.
Double the host fees? Yikes! We found and fixed an issue where Airbnb host fees were showing up twice on the Line Item Pivot report. This only happened with deleted fees, but it still had to be fixed!
Travel Insurance purchases when carrier is down. We found and fixed an issue where travel insurance were being dropped if the insurance carrier was down. Instead of trying again later, the network issue would cause the travel insurance request to think it was declined and fail back to the guest or user that requested it. We now detect the network outage and handle it gracefully.
We have an icon for that. While overhauling the Rate Calendar, we added a nifty little legend above the calendar. After it was released, we noticed that someone on our engineering team, who shall remain nameless, used a question mark ("?") on the legend link instead of the correct icon for that. That person pointed out that someone else, who also shall remain nameless, was unclear in specifying that an icon should be used. After much deliberation, the icon was put in place and order has been restored to the galaxy.
Enhance quote payment method testing messages. Recently, we noticed that users sometimes get confused when they do a test quote that doesn't show a payment method they've configured because the rule doesn't allow it. For instance, the user will have a check payment method configured but the quote doesn't show it because the quote is too last minute for the check method to apply. To help with this confusion, we added some messaging. If the user is logged on when looking at a quote, we now show any payment methods that are hidden by rule so that the user understands why the payment method can't be used.
Saint Martin. Times change. Looks like our country list needs to get with the times. We updated our country list to have the correct country code for Saint Martin as opposed to Sint Maarten. And yes, those are two separate countries that share the same island.
Update Airbnb cancellation policy descriptions. We've clarified the meaning of each cancellation policy based on Airbnb's latest documentation. Check out Airbnb's cancellation documentation on their website.
Quote holds work for Airbnb special offers. Want to send an Airbnb guest a special offer AND hold the dates for them? We gotcha!
Default rental agreement email template should use BUFIXUP. We have field codes that will insert a link to a guest form that the guest can use to do certain actions like make payments or sign a renter agreement. We notice that the default renter agreement email template was using a link asking the guest to sign the renter agreement which sounds... good, right? Except that there's a better form you can use - the "fix up" guest form. The "fix up" guest form will do multiple things including ask for POC info, get a signed renter agreement and collect a credit card for security deposits as well. It does this automatically depending on what is needed based on the booking's rules.
How do you describe this? If an event-based trigger didn't run because the relative criteria doesn't match, the message we show wasn't clear. We clarified it.
Fix property share styling. You don't need two page headers, do you? The new property sharing feature had two page headers showing for some reason. Fixed!
Make widget help article link clickable again. In the widgets area, there's a link to our support articles that explains how to use the Embed Code and other widget stuff. The link was hidden by something over top of it, but all better now!
Quoting historical dates? We strive to stay out of your way as much as possible, but we also try to be helpful when appropriate. If you have ever accidentally put in historical dates when creating a quote, you might not have even noticed, as the system allows that without a hitch (assuming your rules allow it). But this is a pretty uncommon scenario, so we added an extra confirmation step if we notice that the quote arrival date has already passed.
Delete more owners. If you assign an owner to a property, but then delete that property, what happens to the owner? Well previously we wouldn't let you delete that owner, but now you can!
Clean up "Floor" and "Situated In" types. Some minor validation was needed here, that's all. If you don't know where these property details are, don't worry - we'll show you if you run into it.
Merge more guest details. Ever merged a guest? Maybe you discovered that files and notes didn't merge. That's now fixed. We also added tag and custom field merging while we were in there. And hey, thanks to the new enhancements we talked about above (ie. guests now auto-merge) you shouldn't have to manually merge as many contact records anymore!
Recheck Vrbo listing status periodically. We recently added a Vrbo listing status column, that ties into the live listing status Vrbo provides to our system, but we forgot that it may not be up to date unless the user hits the "Check Status" button. We tweaked it to check if the status is empty and update it as needed so that the column can show correct information for all listings regardless of history.
Tell Vrbo the channel is inactive if they try to get the details or send a booking. Vrbo reaches out to our system many times per day and asks us about our users, listings, bookings and so on - this is all part of the awesome integration we developed to make sure you can update Vrbo directly and provide proper content, rates, rules and availability. However, we noticed that sometimes a Vrbo channel integration is disabled on the OwnerRez side, but we weren't saying that to Vrbo. We upgraded our API feeds with Vrbo to return the proper error messages for integrations that are disabled.
Clarify Booking.com connection confirmation errors. Previously, our error email would refer you to a missing confirmation step even though the process had you auto-confirm. We changed that message in the property mapping page of the Booking.com channel settings, and we put a note at the beginning of the error message instead of at the end.