Dropping the Ball on my own Vacation Rental – A Learning Experience

dropping_ball_5We all love positive reviews don’t we? Most owners I’ve talked with would be unhappy with anything less than five star, and see a lower grade as a severe dent in their stellar record of ‘doing it right’. However much the review sites and experts tell us that it’s always good to get a lower rating because that makes it seem more real to a guest, it really doesn’t sit well. I know that feeling, having had a minor tiff with a guest a few years ago after her children’s hooligan behavior destroyed a $500 hot tub cover. We charged for that and were rewarded with a tirade and a one-star rating on Trip Advisor.

While I know anyone looking at that with any modicum of common sense would appreciate the ridiculousness of the review – you can check it out here if you don’t mind rummaging through the five star ones to get at it – it still rankles with me.

Given all this, I was thrown for a loop this week when I got an email from a guest who stayed in Osprey Cottage last weekend. Her group of friends were on their 4th visit to the cottage and have loved it, just as do many of our repeat guests. However, she had some concerns and I could see from the email that it was a struggle for her to point them out, but she was worried that we were not aware our property management standards were slipping a bit. The list was as follows:

  • A damp and musty smell – she called it a ‘wet dog’ smell
  • The dock was broken
  • Grass was long and not looking tidy
  • The firepit was full of muddy ashes and not usable

I was horrified.

I write about how it should be done; talk about creating WOW experiences, then let my own guests down by dropping the ball.

There’s a whole bunch of excuses I could make. The spring high water and runoff damaged the dock, and we hadn’t been able to get anyone in to fix it till this week; the constant rain has made lawn maintenance almost impossible, and the basement had water ingress creating the odor. We’d had a tree cut down in May and the firepit had been loaded up with dead wood and burned, and then the rain came again leaving a mushy mess in the ring.

No excuses. This was a case of not being in control and trusting a third party to take care of the issues and report back to us. To me it’s sloppy management and I was guilty of it.

It’s been resolved now and I have been back to our guests who were completely understanding and forgiving and will not be heading to Trip Advisor to vent their disappointment. They have been given a hefty discount on their next stay and a big thank you for letting us know their concerns because they could have just decided not to come back again.

What we should have done was to get in touch with them prior to their stay and be upfront about the situation – that the poor weather had prevented post-winter maintenance from being carried out, and the cottage was not in the optimum condition they would expect. I should have offered a discount, or provided them with a restaurant voucher, or something to address the fact it didn’t look like the pictures on the listing.

What I have learned from this is that complacency is not an option in this business. We make a commitment to our guests – each and every one of them – and need to meet that consistently. Proactivity is always preferable to reactivity.

Sometimes we all need a big nudge to bring us back on track and I have had mine. I’m on my way to the cottage today to ensure all is perfect for today’s guests and to create the stage for the next five-star review. The bullet was dodged on this occasion and it’s not going to happen again.


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