Managers & Owners … A Surprising Observation!

SizeGenetics-Customer-ServiceThere are “emergencies” and then there are “EMERGENCIES!!!” When a paying guest calls to report a problem, how you address each situation will greatly determine your success as a private or professional vacation rental manager.  Determining whether the problem qualifies as an emergency is often tricky. Let me say here and now, “the customer is always right” … even if they are not … this must be your mind set. If you are in the vacation rental business, customer service should be a priority. Ignore a complaint and you will be thought of as a “slum-lord” and your business will suffer.

Throughout my eighteen years in the vacation rental business, I have dealt with thousands of issues, concerns, complaints and emergencies. Just when I think I have seen and heard it all … up pops another baffling situation. I have noticed, over time, that there seems to be three basic categories of guests … the Vocal Guest, the Notifying Guest and the Silent Guest.

Here is what is surprising … The Vocal Guest has the potential to be your most loyal repeat guest. The Notifying Guest gives you the best opportunity for improvement. The Silent Guest … can be deadly … and you thought “no news was good news!” Identify and address these guests successfully and you will have fewer challenges, better reviews and the potential for many happy repeat guests.

The Vocal Guest: “Everything” is an issue and source of concern. No matter how quickly you react and rectify the issue … there is always another concern. These folks will keep you hopping! However, surprisingly, these are the guests that will most likely return again … and sing your praises for addressing their issues. They are more likely to give you a wonderful review for service, make the best suggestions for improvements and become your most loyal repeat guests …. IF you answer their calls, IF you treat them with respect and concern and IF you address the issue promptly.

The Notifying Guest: This person is often hard to identify. Their calls will generally start out as … “I never complain” or “I’m not complaining, but thought you should know …” It is sometimes hard to tell whether this guest is reporting damage for “the record” or just do not want to be viewed as a “complainer.” It is always in your best interest to offer, even insist on sending someone over to address the reported issue. If you determine that their “information” is only worthy of noting and addressing at a later date, you most assuredly will get a bad review and the guest will not return. I find these guests can be more challenging than the “Vocal Guest” so I handle their calls exactly the same. Always offer to solve the issue … a visit, a repair, a replacement are much easier to deal with than a bad review that cannot be removed from your property listing. A bad review can cost you thousands in future rentals.

The Silent Guest: These are the hardest to recognize and are almost always mistaken for “happy campers.” “No news is good news,” right? Wrong! Not always. I have seen mediocre reviews from guests who have absolutely loved the property but commented that there was a lack of “care” from the manager because they never called to see how they were doing. What should have been an easy 5 Star review dropped to 3 Stars, all because of a guests perception of customer service. At Vacation Rentals of the Desert, if we don’t hear from an “in house” guest after their arrival … we call or stop by. A “too quiet” guest sends up great big red flags. It’s a 50/50 call … either they are happy and having fun or they are unhappy and silent … letting their displeasure build up to a scathing review on issues you were never given the opportunity to address. Whether they are happy or not … a simple phone call or visit will always be welcome and rarely viewed as an intrusion. It shows your guest that you care about their stay, their comfort and enjoyment. Even if the guest is reluctant to report an issue, once you have asked about their stay and whether they have any concerns to report … you will effectively let the air out of their “unhappy” bubble by putting them at ease, and you can now address any issues that they may have encountered … turning this guest into a possible loyal, repeat guest and that mediocre 3 Star review into 5 Stars!

Most of the information and recommendations in this post are based on guests staying one week or longer. A two or three night guest will be more difficult to contact if their vacation is activity driven and they are away from the property during the day. For both short and long stays, a “Welcome Letter” left at the property is a great first impression. A manager or owner expressing wishes for an enjoyable, trouble-free stay along with a 24/7 phone number they can use in the event of an issue or emergency, will most likely do the trick, especially for your short term guests. For guests staying a week or longer, a phone call in addition to a welcome letter should be standard.

Of the three types of guests I‘ve noticed, surprisingly, the “Silent Guests” are the most prevalent.  Customer service at Vacation Rentals of the Desert is simple … always leave a welcome letter at the vacation home, address every issue seriously and promptly and never avoid tenant phone calls or concerns.

Now … if you are a vacation rental “guest” reading this post … I do not want to offend. We do not view our guests as a “category,” but rather, the way you, as a guest, will handle issues. All concerns, issues and suggestions are HUGE for vacation rental managers and owners. In many cases you will be the only source we have of identifying issues. For instance, the vacation homes we manage at Vacation Rentals of the Desert are typically not occupied by owners during “season,” which for us is December through April. Mid-season, a toaster not working or a damaged set of sheets tucked away in the linen closet will most likely be found and reported by a guest. Cleaners will not test a toaster nor pull clean sheets out of a linen closet to look for damage. If the tenant before you did not report any problems (i.e. the “Silent Guest”), then you may initially view the issue as owner or management neglect which is definitely not the case. It is for this reason that we hope all guests will call to report issues and damage …. you, the person “living” at the property are often our eyes and as a paying guest you are entitled to a carefree vacation. A “professional” should always treat you with respect and excellent customer service when addressing these issues. Also please be aware that reviews can be “relative.” When reading through property reviews, try to read between the lines … ask the vacation rental manager or owner for clarification on a low review score and how it was improved or remedied. One bad review out of several good reviews? … could be “circumstances.”

Bottom line … no matter whether you are an owner or a guest … strive to be excellent. Owners should welcome input from their guests and expect the occasional issue. They should address any concerns promptly and in a professional and caring manner. Guests … please, please report any issues you may encounter. We cannot address an issue if we do not know one exists and in not reporting problems you are paying it forward … in a bad way.

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