Southern Comfort Cabin Rentals
Location: Blue Ridge, GA
Quick Quote: “We’ve seen double-figure growth every year since we partnered with LiveRez.”
C.J. Stam of Southern Comfort Cabin Rentals may not be a mechanic by trade, but he’s good with tools – particularly his vacation rental software.
His creative use of the LiveRez platform has allowed his business to innovate a number of successful business practices that help keep Southern Comfort Cabin Rentals on the cutting edge.
You see, Stam manages around 40 North Georgia cabins rentals in the vicinity of Blue Ridge, an un-commercialized diamond in the rough less than a two-hour drive from the Atlanta airport. There is no shortage of activities to do in the area, and according to Stam, the town of Blue Ridge often acts as a base camp for adventure in the North Georgia Mountains.
To cater to the needs of his guests, Stam established the Blue Ridge Adventure Center and advertises it on his LiveRez website. With the LiveRez content management system, Stam can create and edit pages in real time (no programming experience required).
“The thought process is that we are hooking up our guests with all of these action sports and other things to do, and in return we’ll attract new customers,” he said.
Stam makes it easy for his guests to book activities in the area. Taking advantage of LiveRez’s check-out options, Stam allows his guests to book activities like fly fishing packages, in-room massages and more during the check-out process. Guests simply select the services that they want, and it’s added to their reservation total.
“We can actually set up an outfitter, collect payment up front and have that information e-mailed to the outfitter for them to contact the customer directly or have a receipt of the transaction,” Stam said.
Stam said utilizing these checkout options has helped him get referrals from businesses in the area.
“Real estate agents, outfitters, business owners – when someone asks for a referral, they want to know that their referral is going to be handled the same way they would handle their own business,” Stam said. “So when they see a company like Southern Comfort Cabin Rentals offering the ability to include them in that booking process – and make it seamless – they feel like (the business) is organized and is going to treat their customer right.”
Tools like these are useful in an area like Blue Ridge, which is chock-full of places to visit and things to do. Nearby activities and attractions include:
- Lake Blue Ridge
- Appalachian Trail
- Blue Ridge Scenic Railway – (rated by Yahoo as one of the top five scenic railways in the United States)
- Mercier Orchards – According to Stam, “they have a fried pie that people literally come from all around the world to get.”
- Shopping and Dining in downtown Blue Ridge
- White Water Rafting
- Fishing and Hunting
- Hiking and Mountain Biking
- Horseback Riding
- Scenic Drives
- And much more (check out the Blue Ridge local area guide for more info)
One of the major advantages of being such an excellent resource for area activities is that often times guests come for the activities and then stay with Southern Comfort Cabin Rentals. The business has a wide variety of Blue Ridge cabins for rent. And, Stam says that LiveRez helps him present properties in a very user-friendly way.
“LiveRez really allows me to customize how we present our properties,” he said. “And the searchability for our customers is very seamless. It’s easy for our customers to find what they are looking for.”
Stam takes advantage of a number of LiveRez features in helping his guests quickly and easily find the perfect cabin for their vacation. First, he sets up a number of advanced search options that allow guests to hone in on specific interests (think options like WiFi, Pet Friendly, Waterfront, Game Room, etc.). Next, he organizes his properties into categories and communities to better differentiate his homes.
He noted that differentiating communities within an area is a problem that he expects many managers have.
“I think everyone refers to their area as one specific thing, but there are subtle differences,” he said.
Stam has found creative ways to use categories and communities. For example, he’s set up a category of cabins that are all for sale and uses a branded URL (TurnKeyCabins.com) to advertise these properties. When people click on the link, it’s directed to the category he set up on his LiveRez website with a brief description letting prospective buyers know about the “try before you buy” opportunities these cabins present.
This ability to categorize properties – along with LiveRez’s ability to create additional websites and link them to one reservation system – will be important factors to Stam if he ever decides to expand his business beyond Blue Ridge.
Another way Stam uses his website to market his properties is through embedding pictures, slideshows, videos, maps and more, and taking advantage of things like Facebook’s open graph protocol, which allows travelers to do things like share, “like” and comment on his properties.
“LiveRez allows you to really easily embed maps and videos and iframes,” Stam said. “And, again, it’s so simple to do.”
Stam said the presentation of the website also helps him attract new owners into the rental program.
“The new (owners) that we are attracting like our website,” Stam said. “And they can see their property being on our website.”
Stam has made it a point to use his vacation rental software to its full potential. He said he watches closely for LiveRez to distribute update bulletins and then makes sure his staff is aware of the updates and new features.
And, as an earlier adopter of LiveRez – Stam signed up in early 2009 – he’s seen a lot of changes.
“I’ve been with LiveRez for nearly four years, so I’ve seen a lot of great improvements,” he said.
As a respected manager in the area, other managers have come to him and asked his opinion of the LiveRez system, and Stam has been a big advocate.
“I believe in LiveRez so much that I have even referred friendly competitors,” he said.
Thanks to recommendations from Stam and other LiveRez partners in the area, the company now has a large contingent of managers in the north Georgia mountains. But, that doesn’t seem to bother Stam.
“Even though there’s 10 other competitors in this area (using LiveRez), I still feel like LiveRez is my secret weapon,” Stam said. “You can give everyone the same tool, but that tool will allow them to still be unique. That’s powerful.”
So what kind of results has Stam seen since switching?
“We’ve seen double-figure growth every year since we partnered with LiveRez,” Stam said.
He also noted a reduction in his overhead.
“Our guest services representatives spend a lot more time working with the guests than they do pushing paper,” he said. “There’s more time to focus on our customers.”
One of the main reasons Stam switched to LiveRez is the company’s partnership approach and its pay-for-performance pricing.
“It’s a very reasonable up-front cost for everything that you get – the website development and everything,” Stam said. “And then LiveRez is incentivized to help us generate more rentals. That’s crucial, and that was a big part of my decision.”
Stam has been pleased with the company’s ongoing support of his business, from technical support to development and more. He noted that many of his suggestions have been developed into the system and that LiveRez’s technical support has always been there to help him.
“Dealing with LiveRez’s customer support, they have always been very good getting back to us and taking the time to explain the features and the benefits,” he said.
Stam also likes the LiveRez help section, which includes a vault of training videos and documentation on the system. He said it helps him keep his staff updated and helps him train new employees.
These support features are especially important during implementation – the process vacation rental managers go through between signing up with LiveRez and going live. And, even though moving to a new vacation rental software is a big change, Stam will tell you it’s worth it.
“There are challenges with anything – I mean, change is not easy,” Stam said. “But, I think that once people get settled in, they find that the LiveRez product is superior to anything else out there.”