In the world of hospitality and travel, there often lies an inspiring story behind each venture, a narrative that begins with a simple idea and blossoms into a flourishing business. Joanne Simcock’s journey into the vacation rental industry is one such tale.
The idea of entering the short-term rental industry flashed across Joanne’s mind way back in 2013, right after she and her daughter went to stay at an Airbnb in Australia. They had rented somebody’s spare room, because that was basically the only way they could afford to travel to Australia – the country she believes is very expensive.
Thinking of hosting interesting people from around the world at their own spare room and making a bit of a side hustle motivated them to “give it a go!” Over the next three years, from 2013 to 2016, Joanne and Natalie journeyed across the world, funding their adventures from the income solely earned by renting out their spare room. It was an incredible success story, but life had more in store for them.
The prosperous outcome of their experience tied together with the fact that Natalie had turned 16 and didn’t want strangers in the house made the setting stone to evolving it into a serious business, rather than being only a bit of a side line, a bit of pocket money. They took a bold step, investing in a studio apartment in the heart of the city and started a service accommodation together with his husband who had also started Airbnb in his house.
“So the idea for Air Host & Clean was born at that point when we figured that actually there were mostly people like us in Liverpool who needed to go away on holiday for business, had a funeral to go to, had weddings to go to.” “And so yeah, that was how the Air Host & Clean was born.”
But every journey has its share of challenges, and Joanne’s was no exception.
Table of Contents
At the outset, they were stuck in the slow lane because their previous channel manager couldn’t keep up with their growth. In the beginning, when they had just two units, everything was smooth sailing – the calendar, integrations, automation, and direct bookings were all great. They even had their own website. But as they expanded to around 40 units, they started facing problems.
Their previous channel manager couldn’t adapt to their needs. For instance, it couldn’t handle sending check-in instructions based on conditions like payment status, submission of terms and conditions, or ID verification. With their old system, if they set check-in instructions for 3:00 pm, it would send them regardless of whether the booking was paid, the terms and conditions were agreed to, or the ID was submitted. It lacked the sophistication to be flexible.
Before, they were constantly monitoring and adjusting the automation. If it was 2:45 pm and a guest hadn’t signed the terms and conditions, they had to turn the automation off. Then, when the terms and conditions were finally agreed upon, they had to go back and turn the automation on. It was a real hassle.
In the face of this daunting challenge, they knew they had to find a way, and Zeevou turned out to be the answer. They first encountered Zeevou at the Book Direct Show in March 2020, just before the UK went into lockdown due to COVID. However, Zeevou came to the rescue with its automation. For instance, in the same scenario, if any of those conditions were not met, it wouldn’t send check-in instructions. But here’s the real magic: as soon as all the criteria were met, it would send the check-in instructions – even if it was 5:00 pm or later.
The automation offered by Zeevou had a significant impact. The manual hassles and interventions in numerous bookings were now a thing of the past. Zeevou’s property management system handled tasks efficiently, taking into account various factors like payment status and terms and conditions. Zeevou stood out as a secret superpower that simplified their operations. No more babysitting bookings; the system knew exactly when to dispatch check-in instructions based on essential criteria.
“... And also the whole philosophy of Zeevou, you know, Na’ím’s very focused on growing the business with the people…”
What added to Zeevou’s appeal was their collaborative approach. Joanne noted the company actively sought partner input and valued their feedback. This collaborative spirit was evident in their partner forum, where partners could engage with developers and success managers to share their thoughts and suggestions.
The icing on the cake was Zeevou’s commitment to constant improvement. They were in the process of refining the customer journey, making the booking process smoother from start to finish. It was a complex piece of software, but it was continually evolving, much like Joanne’s own business.
In her business, Zeevou has automated a good chunk of the work, making things smoother and easier. If she had to put a number on it, she’d say they’re at about 50% to 60% automated. That includes stuff like housekeeping schedules and automated guest emails to make sure guests have a great experience.
“We’re working on maintenance issues at the moment of tasks and those sorts of things. And ultimately we could get to 75 and I think that would be as automated as we would like it to be.” Beyond that, they feel like they might lose that personal touch, and they want their guests to always feel they’re in good hands. So, 75% is the magic number for them.
Their new direct booking website, powered by Zeevou, was a breath of fresh air compared to their previous basic website. The old one had made it needlessly complicated for clients to book directly, resulting in potential lost bookings. With Zeevou, clients found the booking process a breeze, and direct bookings flourished.
On top of all this, Joanne couldn’t help but gush about Zeevou’s exceptional customer service. “… Customer service is absolutely fantastic. You will pretty much get a response if not within minutes, certainly within hours. At most times of the day, there’s always somebody available to help…”
Balancing Quality and Affordability: Their Core Focus
Air Host & Clean’s main focus is onboarding more quality properties, emphasising good quality, affordable homes for short stays. Joanne says, “We’re not about fancy-schmancy, we’re not about high-end, you know, £1000 a night property. We’re also not at the other end of the scale, you know, the hostel couch surfing either. We’re not slap bang in the middle good quality family homes at affordable prices. We operate predominantly outside the city centre which gives great value for money and there is absolutely a demand for both, you know, city centre and non city centre properties.” “We are about giving good value for money and ensuring people have a great stay in our city as well.”
Zeevou’s Automation: Transforming Work-Life Balance for Joanne
Joanne has seen a positive impact on her day-to-day life thanks to Zeevou’s automation. It’s given her more time to focus on working on the business, not just in it. They take periodic breaks from the daily operations, and although it might seem like a holiday to some, they often use that time to work on their business strategy.
Zeevou has helped them break free from the constant cycle of monitoring guest communication and other operational tasks. Joanne appreciates that once their virtual assistants sign off for the day, she can have peace of mind knowing everything is running smoothly. This means they can truly log off, relax, and enjoy their evenings without being tied to their business tasks. Zeevou has become a valuable ally in striking that work-life balance.
As the interview drew to a close, Joanne was asked to summarise Zeevou in one sentence.
“Gosh, one sentence, probably fantastic automation and amazing support.”
The idea of signing up with Zeevou was met with reluctance in the beginning, mainly due to the perceived costs. However, looking back, the perspective has shifted. Now, Joanne confidently speaks to others, particularly their hosts and training company, about considering their channel manager as an investment rather than a financial burden.
The automation and the direct booking website that Zeevou provides make your life so much easier, whether you have just one or two units or more. The value that Zeevou brings to the table becomes apparent, and Joanne encourages viewing Zeevou as close to a customised software solution as you can get without breaking the bank.
In summary, Zeevou proved to be a winning solution for Joanne. Its automation, user-friendly website, exceptional customer service, and dedication to ongoing enhancement makes it an ideal choice for signing up. It was an all-in-one package that was hard not to love, as Joanne says.
Feel free to reach out to Joanne if you want to know more about her experience at Air Host & Clean.