Businesses designed with the purpose to deliver value for their customers have been the focus of my professional attention at StoryMiners® for more than 20 years. That’s why Vacasa, a vacation rental property management company, caught my attention. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at three key elements that make this company so successful.
A smart business design is engineered on purpose to benefit everyone in the ecosystem. The smartest ones of all are adaptive. They generate greater value for customers and shareholders at the same time because they anticipate needs and all but eliminate waste.
Vacasa has a smart and adaptive business design based on simultaneously creating a positive customer experience for owners and guests. It wouldn’t be possible if the company didn’t have a clear understanding of their niche— full service property management. (This is different than Airbnb, who is more of a listing site.’)
Vacations are fun, yet vacation rental property ownership is a serious business. Guest expectations are high. Owners appreciate the value of a professional property manager taking care of the details and giving them a better financial return.
Vacasa plays the role of reservations concierge and property manager, thereby alleviating owners from their two biggest ownership headaches.
Vacasa delivers a great guest experience. It depends on two things—their business design and their people. These are what enable them to economically thrive while delivering consistently good experiences across 8,000 properties around the world. The unique aspects of Vacasa’s business design include:
- Yield management technology that helps owners optimize pricing. (Vacasa reports that owners say they earn 34% more than with their previous property management company. Vacasa backs that up with certain revenue guarantees.)
- A simple-and-seamless reservations system (supported by real people you can talk to online or by phone) that removes the friction from finding and booking vacation stays.
- A consistent experience from place to place. Unlike competitors which only offer reservations services, Vacasa only works with properties who will maintain their well-defined guest standards. Guests can count on a Vacasa vacation stay working the same regardless of the destination, so they don’t have to learn new rules for every road they travel on.
Instead of waiting for technology to disrupt their business, Vacasa has aggressively adopted technology to elevate its service, striving to make the business friction-free for everyone. That focus on smooth operations and a great experience pays dividends, I’m told, in a better bottom line and a clearer focus on the future. For example:
- Prospective guests can take high-resolution 3D tours (using Matterport cameras) at most of the company’s properties.
- Machine learning feeds the yield management system with key data about weather, trends, historical booking times and lengths, current pricing conditions, special events, and other factors into account to come up with the right price. One that gets guests to click the BOOK button AND increases the annual yield for owners.
- Vacasa’s stack is built for personalization at scale. Managing over 8,000 vacation homes around the world to consistent, hotel-like standards, is logistically complex. Housekeeping and local operations management apps streamline everything from ordering supplies to tracking maintenance issues through to completion.
It takes more than a well-crafted business design and some clever tech to make a guest and owner services business hum. Vacasa has that base covered with some unusual-yet-effective twists on growing talent from within. With call center activity levels in the thousands of calls each day, here are a couple of things Vacasa does differently:
- A well-defined career path for customer-facing reps. All customer experience positions at Vacasa, including managers, start on the front lines dealing with customers and dealing with business systems as they take care of guests’ and owners’ needs in the Vacasa way. Through this method, everyone is trained as a future manager. High emphasis is placed on collaborative problem solving between departments.
- Each guest’s and each owner’s needs are different. Front-line customer experience reps are expected to deliver a Vacasa-level experience, which means each uses the systems to deliver personalized service. To give new hires those skills quickly, Vacasa trains all its front-line reps as managers. Each becomes more aware of how the business works and become better at collaborative problem-solving. A valuable dynamic is that the managers and leaders who support the front-line reps all shared the same experience. That has created a sense of teamwork that accelerates learning while it maintains the brand’s service advantage.
Designing a business to serve customers is smart business. Building a business around culture means the business can keep the promise its brand makes. Using technology to serve rather than just sell makes a brand more valuable to its customers and employees, and ultimately to its owners.
In my opinion, Vacasa will continue to grow and lead the industry because of its focus on adaptive business design, tech, and culture.
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