I recently had a conversation with someone who had attended several property webinars and wanted to manage serviced accommodation (SA).
At this point my heart sank, especially as they had no previous property management experience and wanted to manage it from another country. They had been sold the concept of it as easy to do and a great way to make money! The conversation then continued with what did I think and would I be prepared to help them manage it. My piece of advice as I like to be positive is it's a great idea but you need to build a reliable team who are available to do the turnarounds for you. This includes a great cleaning team and also a reliable maintenance teams, as we all know things break when you least expect it. The key to SA is high standards and good customer service.
I've seen good and bad SA, from the accidental SA provider, who thinks it is a great idea to deal with a void letting it as a SA unit to organisations who specialise in SA.
Personally I would rather work with the organisation, who specialise in SA. The reasons why include they have taken the time to build a reliable team around them and understand that the ethos is totally different to providing long term accommodation. The market is very different with higher expectations than traditional letting. People are looking for an experience similar to that they get when they check into a hotel. Of course issues do happen and they have to be addressed quickly and great communication is essential.
Although at times there is a need to manage expectations. I recently saw a message from someone demanding we answer their questions late on a Sunday evening about their upcoming reservation. They also rang the emergency out of hours number demanding we call them back urgently. It wasn't urgent it was asking if there was a window in the bedroom and if not that they wanted a fan! Needless to say they continued to send messages saying that we should be available 24 hours a day to answer their questions and it wasn't good enough. Luckily they cancelled their reservation!
Starting small is a good idea with one or two units and then once you are comfortable build up what you have. It is much easier to learn and perfect the service with less units, otherwise your team can feel overwhelmed.
Expect to get issues when you onboard new properties, nothing is ever perfect but learn from it. I've recently been involved in a large project and although we had created a frequently asked question section, each day was a learning curve because we hadn't thought of all the questions that might come up. Each time we were asked a question we added it to a folder to share with the guests before their stay. We have modified it and added videos from how to use the sofa bed to getting to the property from the local train station. Heating - every system is different and thermostats are as well. We added a video and are now on version 3 as we have found it was still too complicated on version 1.
Supporting the housekeeping team as well is essential. Initially with a few units it is much easier to manage but as you onboard new properties it is essential to ensure they are managing. My clients use a platform to manage their SA and our housekeeping team have access to their own section. However, it doesn't show them when a booking has been extended only as a check out and check in. We also use WhatsApp to ensure they are aware of any extensions, so that they can schedule their cleaning. Again if we get an early check out we let them know, as some days they have more capacity than others.
The same goes for the rest of the team. Mondays and Fridays are the busiest, so I make sure I am available later on in the day, for the check ins. Although we do give the guests the out of hours number they tend to try and phone the mobile number instead. With bank holidays we make sure someone is around for check ins and issues.
The key things I have learnt are:-
That particular Sunday morning resulted in me standing on a train platform, waiting for a family member trying to sort out numerous issues caused by the power cut. That is one weekend I will never forget, as I had never experienced anything quite like it in all my years of property management! But I still love that every day is different.
I am a specialist property virtual assistant, looking after HMOs, single lets and multi lets.