I’ve had the occasional rants and got some backlash for them, which in retrospect may have been justified to some extent. It’s easy to jump on the soap box and bang out some frustration in the form of a blog post and hit publish – it gives a little satisfaction to get it out there and share what many of us experience in the course of a long rental season. Over the past few weeks, I’ve taken the criticism on board and spent some time reflecting on what is acceptable to make public. After all, we have no control over who reads online content, so what happens when a potential guest happens on a blog comment or forum post slamming them for being persistent, asking questions, or behaving in a way an owner considers to be worthy of criticism?
Let’s Respect Our Guests – They Pay the Bills
In a comment on LinkedIn recently, someone reminded me (not that I ever forget) that it is our guests who pay the bills and if we have to give them some leeway for occasional idiosyncrasies that is what we should do. I had that in mind when I read a blog recently where owners have been encouraged to rant. A couple of responses have been negative about things that should be accepted as part of being in this business, and the public shaming of guests for being ‘normal’ is in my view a poor path to be travelling.
We shouldn’t be irritated with guests because they ask a lot of questions before and after booking, even when the answers have already been given, or are on a listing. Personally I would prefer that the questions and answers are out there in an email thread anyway to refer back to later if necessary. Instead, we should be looking at our own processes of information sharing that prompts the questions in the first place.
In my earlier career as a psychologist and counselor, this quote came up over and over in training and has driven much of my marketing since then:
“The meaning of your communication is in the response you get”
It took a long time to really appreciate the impact of this – that if someone misinterprets what you have communicated to them, and places meaning on it that you didn’t consciously intend, you are responsible for their reaction.
For example, I love the story of the owner who placed Saran Wrap (cling film) over a toilet bowl, closed the lid and put a handwritten note on it that said.
This toilet is temporarily out of use – Please do not remove plastic cover
…and was then surprised when the Asian family renting the property called to say they had used the said convenience and it was now blocked. Although they had rudimentary English it was insufficient to convey the message and had been interpreted as:
This toilet has been sanitized – please remove plastic cover before use
Before ranting about the things our guests do, we may need to closely examine what information we are offering. Of course, I’ve been as guilty of knee-jerk irritation as anyone but now will always look at what frustration may have prompted a behavior before allowing my own angst to surface. Looking at what precipitates an action usually delivers an answer – for example:
The call to say the hot tub has gone into Standby and cooled, is because the instructions on how to use it need to be simplified into a few clear steps.
Late night texts asking how to work the microwave were resolved by taping a note to the front of the appliance manual, like this:
The microwave is easy to use but if you get stuck making your late night popcorn or defrosting a sausage for breakfast, here’s the pages you need.
Making popcorn – Page 3
Defrosting – Page 4
Reheating – Page 4
Creating a one-page troubleshooting guide in the property manual can work wonders to reduce calls too. Coveringthe most popular call-out topics such as satellite TV/remote issues; hot tub management and what to do with garbage can remove a lot of rant-worthy issues.
Changing the name can change the game
Many years ago I worked in the hospitality industry in the UK – we ran a popular pub in a pretty English village – and in the course of the business networked with many other pub and hotel owners. We found that the ways these business owners talked about their patrons was reflected in their success. The ones who seemed to do the best referred to them as ‘customers’ and ‘regulars’, while the less successful consistently talked about their ‘punters’ defined by Wikipaedia as follows:
A British, Australian and Hiberno (Irish) English colloquial term for a paying guest or customer, especially
a patron of a public house
a patron of a brothel
a customer of a prostitute
more recently, a paying attendee of a festival or other event
The way we refer to people or objects often has an impact on the respect we give them and although it may be considered simply a matter of semantics, I believe it makes a difference. In our own office we insist on using the term, “Guests” rather than “Renters”. This may seem natural to many people, but in our area where the practice of renting a cottage has been ingrained for decades, moving from a position of bare tolerance to respect for paying customers has been a hard transition. It’s interesting that when many of our rental management owner/clients hear our view of how we focus on the ‘guest experience’, they get this ‘AHA’ moment and it usually triggers a conversation on the nature of hospitality.
What I’m getting at here is that how we label our clients can really drive how we perceive them and subsequently how we might discuss them in public. Changing the names we give can really make a difference.
Blog? Forum? Social Media?
If something is posted on a public medium that can be searched, people will find it regardless of your target market. If you want to share your irritations or frustrations with other owners to get some feedback or help, then a closed Facebook or LinkedIn group is probably a more acceptable method that posting it in a blog comment or on Twitter.
I’m the first to admit I’ve published posts critical of guest behavior occasionally, and may do so again if it’s relevant to a topic. However, I’m more mindful of the consequences now and a little more inclined to try and get to the root of why the issue occurred first, before pointing a finger.