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Learning resources and customer service

Every vacation rental software is going to have a learning curve. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time using such software or your hundredth; any tool will have a ramp-up period. The faster you can figure out how it works, the faster it can start providing value to you and your guests. 

In this chapter, we’ll teach you how to evaluate potential vendors’ onboarding experiences to see just how quick and painless that process will be, and how to judge the quality of their customer service.

Vacation rental software learning resources

Generally, there are four ways to learn a new software program apart from just clicking around in the product:

  • Live training
  • Guided onboarding program
  • Online knowledge base
  • Community resources

There are pros and cons to each learning method:

Live training

These days, most live trainings are conducted over the internet. You and your team would log into an online meeting room where the trainer would share their screen and walk you through the software. The actual length and number of sessions depends on the company and training package.

Live trainings are a useful option if you need to train an entire team all at once. They’re also an excellent way to get help if you need to set up anything complicated like security deposit collection or a client portal. 

Be aware that this kind of extra attention sometimes involves additional costs. Some companies only make live training available if you subscribe to a higher tier, while others let you purchase training à la carte for a relatively higher fee.

Onboarding program

If you’re okay with learning at your own pace, many vacation rental platforms offer some kind of self-guided learning program. These can range from emails with tips to full, in-app onboarding experiences. 

These in-app experiences provide step-by-step on-screen instructions on how to do common tasks. Their interactive nature makes them very helpful and intuitive. The only downside is that if you want more advanced tips, you might need to look through the knowledge base or any other self-serve resources to get educated about some of the more complex features. Customer support teams are also often available to answer questions you may have about how features work.

Self-guided onboarding programs show up most often at lower tiers. If you’re on a budget and don’t mind doing your own homework, then this would be a good option.

Online knowledge base

A knowledge base is the software platform’s online manual. It should contain most, if not all, of the information you need to learn and use the software effectively. It should contain articles, videos, PDF guides, and other types of resources.

That said, not all knowledge bases are created equal. Each vendor differs on the quantity, quality, and format of information they make available. You’re going to use the knowledge base at some point (maybe a lot), so make it a point to check this as part of your due diligence.

Ask yourself:

  • How easy is it to find information?
  • Can I understand the information being presented?
  • Is the information up to date?
  • Is the information helpful?
  • Am I able to share this information with others?

A good way to test the knowledge base is to look up how to do a common task (e.g. modifying a listing). See how easy it is to find that information and whether or not it’s useful. 

Community resources

Sometimes the best learning resources come from outside the company. Check out YouTube videos, blogs, and independent learning platforms like Coursera. You’d be surprised by the amount of information that community members and content creators put out there. These sources can sometimes be more informative than official ones, because they know the “tricks” and can afford to be more open than a company representative.

Don’t trust these sources blindly, though. Most creators don’t remove or update old content, and the video or article you’re seeing might have outdated information. Trust, but verify.

Community resources can also help in a pinch if customer service isn’t getting back to you, or if their responses aren’t helpful. Facebook groups, official forums, Reddit communities, and Slack channels can be good places to look for community assistance.

Customer support channels

Helpful and timely customer support is key to smooth business operations. Any delays in getting system issues resolved could mean an equal amount of inconvenience for your guests. That’s why it’s important to know what level of customer service you can expect for each tier, and whether or not you’ll actually get it once you’re live.

Email or form-based support

Lower-tier plans are usually limited to ticket-based support channels like email and form submissions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, provided you get timely responses and manage your expectations. 

Chat support

Chat support is the next step up when it comes to customer service channels. Response times are more immediate than ticket-based support systems. Uplisting provides chat-based support for all users, but for the most part chat support is a mid-tier option. 

Some companies employ AI chatbots as the initial responder to basic inquiries, but will still switch to a real person if the chatbot gets stumped.

Phone support

Not many vacation rental software companies provide phone support, and those that do restrict it to the higher tiers. If speaking to a live person is important to you, be aware that this will drastically limit your available options. 

Dedicated account manager

This is the highest level of support available, where there’s a specific person assigned to your account. As you can expect, service like this will cost you, but the payoff is that you’ll always have someone on call to assist in times of need.

Generally speaking, smaller businesses should stick with the other, more basic customer support channels. This type of service is most appropriate for large businesses with a lot of properties and complex operations. 

But knowing which customer channels are available is only half the equation. You still have to find out how customer service actually performs in real life. And for that, you need to read some reviews.

Reviews and testimonials

There’s no substitute for a real customer’s opinion. You’re more likely to get the truth from them than from a sales person, after all. Reviews can tell you anything from how easy a platform is to learn, to its most valuable features, to which features need work. And, of course, how good customer service is. 

You can read reviews on sites like G2, Getapp, and Capterra. Some have more reviews for a given software than others, so try to check them all. You can also ask Facebook groups for unbiased reviews of software platforms. 

Don’t take everything they say as gospel, though. Some reviews could be isolated cases, old issues that have already been resolved, or a disgruntled customer that wants to smear the company. Instead, look for multiple reviews that say the same thing. That could indicate a trend. 

If you can, reach out to other property managers you know—real people in your network that use the software—and get their feedback too. 

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Next chapters

Read more about what you need to look out for when assessing what vacation rental software to buy.