How This Vacation Rental Operator Reduced Guest Phone Calls by Over 80%: A Lizzie Lu’s Case Study
Lizzie Lu’s Island Retreat runs vacation rentals on picturesque Anna Maria Island (AMI)
“We’re always trying to find ways to get our work done more efficiently. And we now have a handful of days where we don’t get a single needless phone call, because we’ve solved their issue with a text.”
So says Ben, the co-founder of Lizzie Lu’s Island Retreat, a vacation rental home company on Anna Maria Island, Florida.
By using RueBaRue’s guest SMS messaging software, the business has reduced guest phone calls by more than 80%, saving hours of time and stress, and a whopping $50,000 a year in extra staff costs.
It’s also allowed the company time and headspace to focus on expansion, eliminating the costly hours and staffing those constant phone calls required.
Staff are no longer wasting time and energy answering the same questions over and over (or spending time they don’t have chatting away to anyone who calls), and guests have all the information they need at their fingertips, improving their stay experience too.
So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by guest communications and fielding phone call after phone call, or repetitive message after message—you’re not alone. And, just like Lizzie Lu’s found, there’s a solution.
Here’s how they did it (and how you can do it too).
“Guests love the texting,” says Ben at Lizzie Lu’s. “Compared to making a phone call, which is such a pain in the neck, people can just text and say: ‘This is the issue, boop, boop, done.”
Delight guests, save time and money, and run your vacation rentals more efficiently with RueBaRue. Schedule a demo now .
The Goal: Grow the portfolio
Caption: Lizzie Lu’s has a wide variety of rentals on the island
With 25 rentals on Anna Maria Island prior to using RueBaRue, Lizzie Lu’s was already a local presence. But when it came to building on their expertise, forget it.
Too many hours spent answering calls meant expansion would have added an unmanageable workload, zero work-life balance and required tens of thousands of dollars to hire new staff. A challenging situation, indeed.
But with the help of RueBaRue, the company’s ambition now seems far more possible. In fact, the goal is not only to expand from its current 29 units, but almost double to 50 units, and become an ever greater presence in the area.
With less time spent in the weeds of admin and answering phone calls, the team has enough breathing room to focus on their vision and goals for the business, and the practical vacation rental tools to make them a reality.
The Problem: Phone call overload
Caption: Lizzie Lu’s office phone was ringing off the hook Credit: RODNAE Productions / Pexels
People may be more likely to text than dial these days, but that doesn’t mean Lizzie Lu’s wasn’t getting completely overloaded with unnecessary calls anyway.
And this one (apparently simple) problem was causing all kinds of issues across the entire business.
Overwhelmed with phone calls
On its busiest day (Saturday), the Lizzie Lu’s team was fielding more than 30 calls from 10am onwards, with guests first worried about whether their home was ready, and then calling later to ask questions about the home after check-in. Staff were run ragged, and answering the same questions over and over.
Not only that, but even quick questions would turn into 15-minute-long conversations, as guests continued to chat even after their inquiry about towels was answered.
As Ben explains: “The phone calls during the week weren’t too bad. But on Saturday, it was our major turn day. We’d get lots of questions. Our phones started ringing at 10am and continued right through the day.”
Less efficient management
With each phone call taking an average of 15 minutes each, the team was stuck on the phone for almost eight hours on the busiest day, making management of any other matters near impossible.
But as any vacation rental manager can tell you, guest communication is only one small part of managing rentals, especially on changeover day. Staff overwhelm, and time spent tied up with phone calls, was encroaching on the efficient time management and coordination of every other part of the business.
“The person answering calls on Saturday is also receiving around 1,000 pounds of laundry that needs to be sorted, and getting all our messages from our cleaners,” explains Ben. “They’re scheduling all the maintenance, sending out parts. In the office, a 10-minute phone call is critical.”
So if a guest called with a genuine issue or emergency that truly merited a phone call? Staff were less able to deal with it because of the sheer level of other calls coming through.
Caption: “In the office, a 10-minute phone call is critical”, especially on busy changeover day, says Ben
Credit: Thirdman / Pexels
High growth costs
Fielding this many phone calls with just 25 properties made the prospect of expanding to 40 or 50 units appear utterly daunting. While the rest of the business may have been ready, the bottleneck of overwhelming phone calls meant that expansion would have required extra staff to handle the inevitable extra calls.
This would have added hundreds of thousands of dollars in employee wages to the company’s expenses, and made adding more properties to the portfolio more stressful than successful.
More frustrated guests
Although the Lizzie Lu’s team was always happy to help answer guest questions and do everything possible to give callers the answer they needed, they were acutely aware that starting a stay by making a questioning phone call wasn’t the carefree start to a vacation that guests might want.
Plus, with information only available via direct call, guests were at more risk of becoming stressed or frustrated, and feeling the need to call to ask routine questions (such as where the beach towels are or when the property was ready for check-in).
The phone call system was inefficient not only for Lizzie Lu’s staff, but for guests too. Something had to change.
The Solution: RueBaRue’s text messaging software
Caption: RueBaRue enables you to answer text messages instantly and auto-schedule texts too Credit: RueBaRue.com
Enter RueBaRue. Its text messaging software addressed these issues almost instantly. For text messages alone, its powerful features include:
- Unified inbox so your entire team can access messages quickly as soon as they come in
- Dedicated number with local area code so texts don’t go to your business or personal phone
- Instant text responses, faster than picking up the phone to chat or refreshing an email inbox
- Easy to set up; start messaging in under 30 minutes on both Android and iOS phones
- Quick responses via smartphone text chat makes your business look professional and helpful
- Integrations with popular PMSs, so you have no need to look up guest details manually
- Guest dashboard enabling you to contact guests by SMS directly
- Send and receive photos as well as text so guests can communicate issues more easily
- Saved responses for super-fast replies to common questions
- Automated out-of-office responses for when guests text after hours, with emergency contacts
- Auto-archive messages to keep a tidy inbox and ensure important messages are at the top
- Message logs for accurate record-keeping in case the need arises in future
Harnessing the full power of RueBaRue’s SMS messaging ensured serious results for Lizzie Lu’s.
No more long phone calls
With super-fast text messaging replies, guests no longer need to make a phone call to get the answers they want. Not only is this a more effective way of communicating the information they need, it also saves the team hours of time.
Lizzie Lu’s can make sure guests receive fast answers and are well cared for, without spending literal hours of time on small talk or less-urgent details.
“If our staff member is in the middle of something and the phone rings, they’ll have to answer it right then,” says Ben. “But if they get a text message, they finish up what they’re doing quickly, and then respond. It makes everybody’s lives a lot faster and more efficient.”
With text messaging via RueBaRue, guests text their questions and get the answers straight away. No hoping they get through to the phone line, no awkwardness in explaining the problem, no long conversations, and no delay when it comes to getting their vacation started, stat.
Guests have what feels like a VIP direct line to staff via their phone, and the Lizzie Lu’s team saves hours in manual communication. Plus, the unified inbox shares the load.
“Instead of the person in the office receiving a call and writing an issue down, four of us will see that text message come through,” explains Ben. “And then it will become a task, and we’ll be at the house in 20 minutes.”
Caption: Digital guestbooks are another powerful RueBaRue feature that helps answer guest questions
Digital guestbooks and local area guides
RueBaRue doesn’t only offer text messaging. It also enables hosts to send guests digital guestbooks and local area guides, to answer the questions they didn’t even know they had.
These are digital, easy-to-use guides right within guests’ smartphones, which include all the house rules and in-home instructions, as well as local recommendations and insider insights (handily mapped out on a view of the local area).
This makes guest communication even easier, and showcases Lizzie Lu’s local expertise too. Now, rather than asking how to operate the hot tub or where they can find the best gluten-free pizza, guests have all the information right where they need it.
This preempts further guest questions, reducing the burden of guest communications further, while also satisfying the guest with excellent customer service right from the start.
The Result: Hours saved and high efficiency
Caption: Guests now have all the information they need via text and can get on with enjoying their vacation
Credit: JESHOOTS / Pexels
RueBaRue’s powerful messaging features have had major positive effects.
Hours saved on routine questions
With at least 7.5 hours saved on phone calls (on Saturday alone), the Lizzie Lu’s team now has far more time and headspace to actually focus on what matters: Preparing their vacation rentals for excellent stays.
Their work-life balance has been restored, ensuring greater staff happiness and a less overwhelming experience for everyone involved. Let’s be honest: No one starts a vacation rental company because they love being stressed. RueBaRue’s texting system is key to easing the strain.
“A phone call has all the niceties around it,” explains Ben. “So you’re talking for 10 to 15 minutes on the phone. Whereas a text message takes, what, 10 seconds, 20 seconds?”
More efficient remote management
With texting set up for each property, Lizzie Lu’s is now much more easily managed remotely. Fewer people are needed on-site at the office (as there are fewer phones to answer), and setting up a texting system makes communication far easier to manage on the go. Instead of being chained to the phone in the office, staff are free to run their rentals with far greater efficiency and freedom.
Management that might have needed staff to be in the office every day is now done by mid-week, and office hours are now only 10am to 3pm. On Fridays, everyone is off work.
“It’s freed up those poor people in the office,” says Ben.“Their day goes a lot smoother. And there might sometimes have been instances when things got missed. Because the person who took the phone call was in the middle of something and didn’t have the right paper to hand. But now we have it recorded.”
Caption: Guests can still call the office if they really need to, and now the team has more time to help properly when a real issue arises
Credit: JESHOOTS / Pexels
Time to help when it really matters
Reducing calls and answering the most common, routine questions via saved texts means that when a real problem or genuinely tricky issue comes through, staff have the time to help. Setting up guest communication for your short-term rental business doesn’t mean you stop attending to guests properly.
Guests can still call if they really need to. But with only a handful of inquiries to answer, the Lizzie Lu’s team now has time to step in when it matters (and do a better job when they do).
“Just this morning we had a beach chair get broken in the wind,” says Ben. “So we got texted a list of things that got broken in the storm, and we can get a fix sent out. There was no phone call needed.”
Added professionalism and authority
You may think that answering guest questions via text might reduce guest satisfaction and make your paying visitors feel ignored, but the absolute opposite is true. As Lizzie Lu’s found, answering guest inquiries more promptly actually goes a long way to improving guest relations, as they have all the answers they require, with no need to find a phone number or take time out to chat.
They can quickly check details and rest easy knowing that the vacation rental company they booked with is professional, knowledgeable, and replies promptly—even after the office shuts.
“We’ve had a lot of good feedback,” says Ben. “Guests really liked it when we switched over to texting. It’s helped make sure we’ve never had anything less than a five-star review.”
The Future: Scalable growth with lower costs
Caption: Lizzie Lu’s can now run a much leaner operation, expand, and give guests a great time (A view from the porch at the Southern Belle three-bedroom property)
Here’s what’s possible for Lizzie Lu’s now and in the near future.
Major cost savings on staff
With less need to have staff standing by for endless phone calls, Lizzie Lu’s can run a much more lean and efficient operation, with no pressure to keep hiring more staff to deal with ever-increasing numbers of phone calls.
With RueBaRue, more properties do not equal more work. Texts can be set up once for each property and can be sent to guests an unlimited number of times. Write a message, schedule and set, and (almost) forget.
|Using RueBaRue effectively can save your business tens of thousands of dollars per year.
“We could have expanded before RueBaRue…probably,” says Ben. “But it would have meant expensive labor. We would have had to take on another person to take phone calls.
At around $20 to $25 per hour for calls and all the rest of the stuff, that’s an extra $50 grand a year. Even a part-time person is $25,000.”
More time to work on business growth
Increased efficiency, happier guests, and more time, money, energy, and headspace means that Ben and his wife can finally focus on growth. This has enabled them to plan, finance, and action their major expansion dreams, for even more success (but not more stress).
The team is now looking to double its portfolio to 40-50 units in the area, putting itself even more on the map (literally!) and establishing itself as a true, trusted authority on the island they love.
“We’re going to grow at a nice, slow pace,” says Ben. “We’re finding the right technology to leverage to make our lives easier.”
Fewer phone calls: From stress to success
Caption: Increased efficiency, happier guests, and more time, money, energy, and headspace means that Ben and his wife can finally focus on growth and enjoy their family time
From being overwhelmed with phone calls and manual admin, and struggling with frustrated growth ambitions—to streamlined guest communications, stress levels lowered, and expansion plans finally coming to fruition, Lizzie Lu’s Island Retreat is going from strength to strength.
Replacing too many calls with texts may sound simple—yet it’s had a wide-ranging positive impact throughout the entire rest of the business.
Couple this with the other powerful capabilities of RueBaRue, and Lizzie Lu’s is poised for even greater success.
“Our phones aren’t ringing anymore,” says Ben at Lizzie Lu’s. “And we might just keep it that way.” Save hours of time on guest communications with RueBaRue. Book a demo now .