Can property managers deliver a five-star guest experience and drive direct bookings? Mike Anderson from Oprato Technologies discusses the importance of efficient housekeeping and maintenance operations. But what happens when a major maintenance issue arises during a Christmas booking? Tune in to find out.

Delivering five star guest experiences means five star reviews, which means more bookings. More bookings mean more opportunities for referrals and repeat guests. It becomes a flywheel that just produces a lot of success. – Mike Anderson

In this episode, you will be able to:

My special guest this week is Mike Anderson.

Mike Anderson, the Director of Enablement at Operato Guest Technologies, brings over five years of experience working closely with property managers. With a deep understanding of the challenges and successes in the industry, Mike is a pro at helping property managers deliver exceptional guest experiences. His insights on systematizing processes, fostering teamwork, and maintaining healthy owner relations are invaluable for those looking to scale their accommodation businesses. As a trusted expert in hospitality automation platforms, Mike’s advice is sure to provide property managers with the knowledge and strategies needed to enhance the guest experience and drive direct bookings.



Get 25% off for the first 3 months with Operto: https://info.operto.com/dbss

The key moments in this episode are:

00:00:36 – Role of Director of Enablement

00:02:34 – Importance of Great Guest Experiences

00:07:08 – Maintaining Healthy Owner Relations

00:10:27 – Choosing the Right Tools for Property Management

00:15:01 – Importance of Digital Checklists

00:17:14 – Importance of Maintenance Tracking

00:20:09 – Importance of Efficient Communication

00:22:22 – Streamlining Operations and Owner Relations

00:24:44 – What Direct Booking Success means to Mike


Show notes are available at: https://directbookingsuccess.com/podcast/

Follow Jenn on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/directbookingsuccess

Join Jenn’s free group – the Marketing Hub Free Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/marketinghubforholidayrentals


00:00:32 - Jenn Boyles

Hello and welcome to another episode of the direct booking success podcast. I'm your host, Jennn Boyles, and today I have Mike Anderson, the director of enablement at Operato guest Technologies, with me. Hi, Mike.

00:00:46 - Mike Anderson

Hey, Jenn, how are you?

00:00:47 - Jenn Boyles

Good. Good to see you. So we have to first ask you, what does director of enablement mean?

00:00:54 - Mike Anderson

Yeah, it's quite a mouthful when you throw it together with our extended company name, with the guest technology and all that. I feel like it means something different every day of the week. But overall, it's essentially how do I support our company? Primarily our customer facing teams, our customers themselves, and then our partners. How do I support them and enable them to be successful in all the different facets of their role? So a lot of that is just helping our customers get the most out of our products. And a lot of that depends on me to understand exactly how they're using them and what their day to day looks like.

00:01:28 - Jenn Boyles

And what exactly is Alperto guest technology?

00:01:34 - Mike Anderson

There's a million different words that you can use to describe it, but let's call it a hospitality automation platform. We help property managers deliver five star guest experiences and we really take over where your PMS leads off. So we integrate with your PMS and then everything from pre arrival through the guest experience itself, through the checkout and the operations and the turnover. We handle all that through different types of technology and software and hardware automation.

00:01:58 - Jenn Boyles

Cool. Can't wait to get into it today. And today we're going to be speaking about some of the fundamentals that you really need to have in place in your accommodation business before you can focus on direct bookings. And one of those things is making sure that you not just have a good guest experience, but a great one that will bring guests back again and again. So can you tell us, Mike, what are some of the common pitfalls property managers should avoid? Ensure that guests not only book once, but become those loyal fans who keep coming.

00:02:34 - Mike Anderson

I mean, just to briefly touch on what you said there, it is really about delivering great guest experiences because the days of good being good enough, unless you're somewhere pretty rural, there's not that many options necessarily. Then they always say, don't let great be the enemy of good. But for property managers, it's like, don't let good be the enemy of great.

00:02:53 - Jenn Boyles

Unless your guests have never stayed anywhere.

00:02:57 - Mike Anderson

Yeah, they're like, I just want a roof and an air mattress on the floor and I'll be happy. But most guests are not like that these days. If you go, you search Airbnb, the listings that are going to come up, even in lower price brackets are going to be 4.91, 4.92, 4.88. So the bar is just so high, and it's the really small details that can make a difference. And even one five star review that turns into a four star review can really impact your overall rating. But yeah, to answer your question, in terms of the biggest hitfalls, and I know that there's a lot of people that listen to your show. For all the amazing advice you provide on helping them kind of grow their businesses and scale up, it seems like everybody in this business starts kind of managing their own Airbnb, and then they take on another one, and they take another one, and then all of a sudden you're running this portfolio and it's turned from a hobby to a career. And the biggest pitfall, I would say, is trying to run things the way that you've always run them as you grow and as you take on more units, both in terms of the processes that use, but then also, just like your dependence on yourself, you're going to be doing absolutely everything when you have 12345 units. But as you grow, you really do need to take on staff. And as things sort of get out from underneath the direct control under your fingertips, you need to have the infrastructure and the processes in place to make sure you're getting the same results out of your team members that you would if you were still running around doing everything yourself.

00:04:24 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah, no, I completely agree. Things are not the same when you are managing one property versus 510 20. Okay, so how can we do this if we're wanting to scale? And I think something is like, you can't do everything yourself, especially when you're starting to scale, things look different. But how can we keep everybody on sort of that same page, the different groups of people, the different departments that you need?

00:04:57 - Mike Anderson

Yeah, there's probably a million different ways to come at that answer. But, I mean, first and foremost, don't depend on knowledge that one person carries in their head, especially if it's, you get everything documented. A lot of the issues, because for over five years now, I've been working with property managers and kind of hearing their stories and hearing their tales of woe and their successes and sort of everything in between. And one of the things that people struggle with is that as they grow and their cleaning team, maybe it expands from themselves initially to a couple of people who they work really closely with, but then all of a sudden they take on, maybe they start operating in another city or further out or just more properties, and they bring on more people, they bring on contractors, they bring on cleaning companies, and things change very quickly. And a lot of that just knowledge about the way the things we do and what this house specifically needs and all of that knowledge can start to dissipate as it kind of goes further out from the center. So the other thing that I've heard about is people who have, those super important employees, those housekeeping managers, those operations managers, your first hire, literally your right arm, and eventually those people will move on. And it's awful when it happens, but you need to be prepared for it. And if one person kind of holds all the keys to the kingdom in their head and they're the only one who knows how to work the systems and how to build the schedule, and all of a sudden they're not there anymore, then it puts you in a really difficult position. So I think there's just definitely a need for property managers to systematize in a way that's not dependent on any one person. And that includes themselves, which means a lot of cross training, a lot of documentation. And as you hire new employees, new cleaners, et cetera, have them learn from the best. So that a lot of those best practices are carried forward as you expand your team.

00:06:51 - Jenn Boyles

And it's about fostering that teamwork, isn't it? So everyone is working together. And another part of this puzzle, because you've got those people on your teams, like maintenance, house, teamkeeping. But then there's also the owner relation. Now, you might have started just hosting your own guests on Airbnb, your own place, but as people want to scale and grow, they start managing other people's properties. So what strategies have you seen successful property managers do to sort of maintain that healthy and productive relationship with property owners? Because we'd rather have collaboration than conflict, don't we?

00:07:36 - Mike Anderson

For sure. And when you tell your friend that you're making all this money from the Airbnb that you're running, and they say, oh, can you do that with mine? Your best friend is going to be a lot different from your 20th or your 50th client, who 's a business relationship at that point. And they have expectations and standards. I think you need to be very transparent and upfront with owners in terms of setting expectations. Set expectations about what they need to provide for the house when you're taking on a new client. Set expectations about how much visibility they're going to have as to what you're doing. Set expectations about what you're planning to do with things like preventative maintenance and things of that nature. I think a lot of the friction that arises is when somebody, a homeowner, things don't marry up to what the expectations that they had coming into the arrangement are. And being such a competitive industry, it's not enough to just send somebody a check every month. They want to know that their property is being taken care of. They want to know more often than not, that their guests are being taken care of. It amazes me how much a lot of homeowners, it's not just, here's my keys, like, send me a check. It's like they check every single one of their reviews. They're deeply passionate about the experience that guests have in their home, because it's their home. And in many cases, maybe they've built it, they've designed it, they put the furniture in, they've sort of developed the aesthetic, and it's very important to them. And I've heard from property managers who say they have clients who live overseas and they hear from them once every two years, but those tend to be the minority. And the other end of the spectrum is the ones that call you every single day looking for answers or asking questions. And I think while it tends more towards that, I think setting expectations can be a really powerful tool to make sure that those are positive and collaborative relationships.

00:09:30 - Jenn Boyles

Like you said, I think you're in a really unique place with Operto to view sort of all the different areas on the operational side, that guest experience side. Now we all use a PMS. Now, I shouldn't say we all use a PMS because there's actually people out there, and I talked to someone this week who is trying to do it all themselves with Google sheets. Oh, yes, it's kind of scary. But the property management system that PMS is essential for keeping everyone on the same page, for managing your channels, the actual property, your guests' communication, everything. At what point should property managers start to think about using a dedicated tool for one of the aspects?

00:10:21 - Mike Anderson

Yeah, that's a really good question. I mean, it depends what pms you have as well and what their capabilities are. Everybody will eventually outgrow the capabilities of their PMS in all sorts of different categories, but kind of looking more specifically at that operations lens that housekeeping and maintenance and owner relations. I think it's when the team starts to grow and you start to get a sense that things are starting to fall through the cracks. And a lot of people depend on group text messaging or sending an email, tracking paper, receipts, texting the cleaner to let them know that their schedule has changed. And when things start to fall through the cracks, and that can show up in a lot of different ways, maybe you just feel like you're running behind every day. You're kind of in this mad shuffle to get people to the right places. A booking gets extended or canceled or changed, and it just throws the entire day into chaos. You hear from a cleaner that there's no clean linens at the property because they weren't delivered. Just these types of things. Even there's other warning signs, too. Like if the standards of cleaning themselves are dropping because people are rushing, or because you have a lot of new employees who maybe don't necessarily know what the protocols are, those are just kind of like warning signs. So I guess I would just encourage property managers to sort of be their own canary in the coal mine and start to notice when things are starting to get a little bit harder, because that's usually an indication that the systems and the processes that you have in place currently and potentially whatever tools you're using with the pms are maybe not doing a good enough job of keeping everybody on the same page. And that's when it's time to make a switch to a dedicated tool that will sort of just automate the chaos and just sort of put an end to kind of chasing your own tail around when things change. It's kind of like what Mike Tyson pulled. Like everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. So the right tools can automate. You get punched in the mouth, but the tool is automated. What happens afterwards?

00:12:37 - Jenn Boyles

Exactly. It's how you recover, isn't it? Yeah, but I like to make them.

00:12:42 - Mike Anderson

Am I okay to make a Mike Tyson quote on your podcast?

00:12:43 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah, that's fine. That's fine.

00:12:45 - Mike Anderson

Okay, excellent.

00:12:46 - Jenn Boyles

No, you never know. That's what I love about doing this podcast. You never know what people are going to say, even myself. But I like what you're saying about when things get harder. That is a really big signal that there's time to look at your tools and technology and what can help. Now, you were also talking about housekeeping, and we know, oh, my goodness, cleaners, housekeepers, they're worth their weight. And, you know, you go into any, you know about Airbnb short term rentals and people are talking about, I need a new cleaner. How do you know? Because they do such a lion's share of the work and making sure that that guest experience is just top notch. So do you have any tips to give that switched on property managers are using to keep their housekeeping teams running like a well oiled machine?

00:13:46 - Mike Anderson

Yeah, for sure. First and foremost, like you said, they're worth their weight and gold and we want to make sure that we're setting them up for success. And that can mean everything from giving them good training when they start, because they could come from a different company that had different expectations or different standards. And you want to set someone up for success by helping them understand what is expected and what is required of them when they do your cleans. But whatever chaos you're feeling in the office as you try to move around your pieces on the board to get everything done, if it's a really hectic shuffle, then your cleaners are feeling that downstream too. They're feeling the pressure and it's going to make them stressed out. And it just increases the chance that either they won't perform up to what standard they would otherwise be able to, or maybe they end up not working for you anymore. It's such a competitive environment. I've heard of cleaners literally going to work for a competitor for twenty cents more an hour because people are willing to just pay whatever it takes. And then with respect to the cleaners themselves, just make their jobs easier. Give them detailed checklists so that they know exactly what to do. Preferably digital checklists, because there's just so many benefits to both sides of the equation. Instead of trying to track paper forms, give them photos of correctly staged homes so that they know exactly what it's supposed to look like and take all the guesswork out of what goes where. Make sure all their kits that they're cleaning, that they're carrying around are easy to carry. Get them like a backpack vacuum that can actually make a big difference instead of lugging around like a heavy vacuum all day. If they're cleaning for six, seven, 8 hours, it's a very physically demanding job.

00:15:33 - Jenn Boyles

It is.

00:15:35 - Mike Anderson

Get their bags packed for them. Get their bins delivered with their linens and everything out. Pick up the stuff that's going to be laundered. Just try to offload a lot of the physical burden that these people have to deal with. Even stuff like just using commercial grade cleaning chemicals. We all want to use the cheap no name brand to save a couple of bucks but if that's impacting the cleaning efficiency, because the products just aren't up to snuffs, then that's going to be really frustrating for cleaners, because if the product isn't doing it, then it's going to be extra elbow grease that does it.

00:16:07 - Jenn Boyles

And these are the things that we need to be doing to have that amazing guest experience, which then drives repeat guests and great reviews, and then gets into the direct booking side of things. But these are the fundamentals that we really need to get a handle on that housekeeping. I don't know how they do it, and I don't know how they do it. When they're on their second 3rd property, how do they remember what they've done in that property? And I think having checklists and that are just a game changer, that's really a really helpful thing. So how can Operto help with all of these areas?

00:16:49 - Mike Anderson

I mean, there's a number of ways, but our tool is essentially designed to get everybody on the same page. Your housekeeping, your maintenance, your office staff, your admin, even your guests, really, if you want to look at it from that perspective and take away all of the burden of needing to manually manage the scheduling and shifting things around and sort of like tracking maintenance issues. So the tool is designed to just take a lot of the work off of everybody's plate. And the end result of that is that everybody performs their jobs better. So, like I said, if you're in one of those situations where it feels like things are getting harder, things are slipping through the cracks, that's the time to look at a tool like Operto teams, which really just automates. And there's almost too many things to list when it comes to just optimizing the way that your housekeeping teams perform. Your maintenance teams perform maintenance is like a huge overlooked thing in property management. And oftentimes you can end up chasing your tail a lot if you don't have a good system for tracking maintenance, and putting in a good system to track maintenance always comes seconds after getting your housekeeping in order. And some of the stories I can tell, like one was actually a colleague of mine on our team who used to be a property manager. So she said that there was this one Christmas, it was their biggest booking ever, one of their big houses, and they came and they sort of greeted the guests at the door, and they opened the door and there was a three story waterfall coming down from a leak in the roof.

00:18:24 - Jenn Boyles

Oh, my goodness.

00:18:26 - Mike Anderson

And they had to rewrap all of the guests like Christmas presents. And it was just like a whole nightmare. And that's the type of thing that kind of falls under the category of preventative maintenance. And preventative maintenance is one of the things that kind of just gets swept under the rug. It does.

00:18:43 - Jenn Boyles

Because you think of maintenance as being a problem that you have to fix. It's almost like a reactive space, but, yeah. Being proactive with the things before they go wrong.

00:18:54 - Mike Anderson

Yeah. And even those reactive ones, so many people I've talked to, it's like, okay, what's your process for reporting an issue? And that could be anything from, oh, a lamp doesn't work to something more severe. It's like, oh, there's like a leak under the sink, things that need to be dealt with. And she's like, oh, I text the office or I send an email. And then you're just relying on a lot of manual relaying of communication and just manual tracking of things. And that would be one of my pieces of advice too, is like, centralize and document your maintenance issues and give your housekeepers a system to be able to report things because they are your frontline. They are going to see things along with the guests. And if you're depending on text and emails and just manually tracking things, then things are going to fall through the cracks. And that's how issues linger from one reservation to the next to the next to the next. And then your homeowners get frustrated and when things ultimately get fixed and people are tracking around paper receipts and then they don't know what house to bill it back to because they find this folded up yellow receipt in their pocket. So these are just all the things that property managers, like you said, who want to be switched on get these things in place before they become like a huge problem for you. And that's really where operato teams can help, because we bring the housekeeping, the maintenance and the owner relations all under one roof.

00:20:09 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah. Because we're human. And if we're just relying on ourselves and texts and whatsApp, it goes wrong so often. And when our core function is creating that amazing guest experience, having things go wrong, which need it to happen is a big problem. And it's also, I guess, how you react to things. So if something is broken in the property that somehow got missed or whatnot, it's how you react to that and how you get it fixed for the guest who's in there, right there, and not allow it to become a bigger issue, isn't it?

00:20:53 - Mike Anderson

Yeah. And if you're running behind all the time then that's how those minor annoyances, the things that, like, okay, I don't necessarily have to send somebody out right now because it's kind of in that category of minor annoyance versus, like, a broken pipe, which is like, you better get somebody out there real quick. But if you're behind on everything and everyone's kind of running around chasing their tails and the day is just chaos, then that's how those types of things don't get fixed. And then at the end of the guest reservation, they're like, wow, I've been here for five days. I told them about this on day two, and it's still not fixed. And I've just been dealing with it for the last three days. And that's the type of thing that can bump your reservation down from five stars to four stars, maybe three, and that has a huge impact downstream on your business. So spare yourself the chaos and implement tools that will put a little bit more order into the day and a little bit less running around.

00:21:48 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah. So if you're listening to this right now and you're thinking, this sounds great, you all want to know more, you can head to operato.com teams and you can find more information there to sort of help you sort of streamline what you're doing and get those processes in to help you. And I think it's great because it would all be in one dashboard, wouldn't it? These three areas in one dashboard.

00:22:14 - Mike Anderson

Yeah. So there's your housekeeping, maintenance, and the way you manage your owners and all of those workflows dovetail together. So the reservation syncing from your PMS, all of the scheduling is automated for your cleaners and your maintenance teams. If a booking extends, if somebody cancels, if anything shifts in that calendar, you're not needing to go to the whiteboard and make a change or text somebody. Like, the system just automatically shifts the pieces on the board around to suit. One of the other things that we haven't really touched on is opera teams actually have, like, an owner's dashboard. So your owners actually have somewhere to log in and they can see along with their booking schedule and stuff like that. They can also see all of the history of all the maintenance that you've performed on their homes. And that's how you give somebody the level of transparency and confidence that, wow, my home is really well being taken care of.

00:23:05 - Jenn Boyles

That peace of mind.

00:23:06 - Mike Anderson

Yeah, for sure. And at the end of the day, your guests may be the ones paying the stays, but the revenue is the homeowners, and they're the ultimate customer at the end of the day. And it's super important for any property manager to treat them with that sort of like vip experience and give them everything that they're going to need to know what a great job they're doing. So many property managers are doing a fantastic job, but they don't necessarily have an efficient or effective way of communicating this to their homeowners. So when someone else is coming around promising better returns, or I can make you more money, et cetera, et cetera. If all they're getting from you is a check every month, it's a lot easier to make a switch like that.

00:23:50 - Jenn Boyles

So many hats and you've got an owner that emails you, asking you for an update and you're like, oh, I'll get to it, I'll get to it, I'll get to it. This is just a no brainer for me, really, because I think that's a great situation where people can just, homeowners can just log in and have a look in their time. They don't have to bother anybody. You don't have to worry about sending them reports and whatnot. It's there. I'll put that link in the show notes. But it's a team now. Mike, I'm all about unlocking secrets of direct booking success here. And in your role at appareto, what does direct booking success mean to you?

00:24:34 - Mike Anderson

I think direct booking success is about having an amazing guest experience. 30% to 40% of your reservations. This varies, obviously, but can often be repeat bookings. And I've talked to property managers who thought they were significantly higher. And if you ever get a repeat booking, there's a very good chance it's going to come direct. And at the end of the day, it's all about servicing the guests and delivering those five star stays. Because five star stays mean five star reviews, which means more bookings. More bookings is more opportunities for referrals for repeat guests. It just becomes a flywheel that just produces a lot of success. So I would say delivering five star guest experiences and in order to do that, you have got to have your operations really ironed out and really smooth and really streamlined, especially as you want to grow your business. Because the cracks that can start to seep in around things like a clean not being performed up to your standard or late, or a guest that can't check in right away, all these knock on effects, they can all start to impact the guest experience. And when that happens, it's sort of a pass to the wrong side of the equation. So that's kind of my take on it.

00:25:46 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah, no, that's great. That's great. Because the fundamentals of running an accommodation business are getting the operational side and it does change as you scale. It also changes from day one to day 50 and it's the same property. It's a moving business, I guess you can say, because every day can be something a little bit different.

00:26:11 - Mike Anderson

The other thing I would say on that too is it's amazing how much first impressions will dictate the guest perception of their entire stay. Even if it's a five day reservation. That first moment that they open the door and they either say to themselves, wow, this looks amazing. This is exactly what I hoped it would be. It looks exactly like the listing versus walking. And it's like, oh no, it's nice. It's a little bit not exactly what I expected. So it's like those kinds of micro differences. And then once you're on that wavelength, everything else just becomes confirmation bias. So when you come in that door and you have that amazing experience because the place is flawlessly cleaned and looks exactly like the listing, that's how you get your guest experience off to a five star start. And then the rest of the way is just about maintaining that.

00:27:02 - Jenn Boyles

Great. Love it. Mike, thank you so much for coming on today.

00:27:05 - Mike Anderson

Thank you very much for having me. It's been fun.

00:27:08 - Jenn Boyles

And Mike, while I've got you here, I want to thank you for being one of the sponsors for the 2023 Direct booking Success Summit, which was held in October. It was a success and I loved it. I love having you and Operto on board. And you have a special offer that you want to extend to those listening?

00:27:27 - Mike Anderson

Yeah, absolutely. The summit was great. I love just spending time on Facebook and seeing everybody fill out their bingo cards and it was just all the energy and enthusiasm around it. It was awesome to see so many people excited about improving their businesses. So we're actually extending the same offer that we had at the summit. It was sort of very positively received, so we decided to keep it rolling for the podcast. So it's 25% off any operator solution for your first three months. So if you want to give it a rip, to give your operations the overhaul that you've been hoping to and want to stop things keeping you up at night, then check out: https://info.operto.com/dbss and you can claim that offer alongside jumping to teams to kind of check out the offering a bit more detail.

00:28:17 - Jenn Boyles

Cool. And I'll put those links in the show notes. Thank you so, so much, Mike, for coming on today.

00:28:22 - Mike Anderson

Awesome. Thanks, Jenn.

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