by Sandy Soule, BedandBreakfast.com
PART TWO (of a two-part series)
At a recent gathering of new friends, the usual conversation began with questions such as “what do you do?” As usual, when I described my job, heads turn. Often, people exclaim “what a great job” and enthuse about how they love to stay at B&Bs when they travel. But not always. The other day, the comments were different: “We live in a destination town with a ton of B&Bs. Friends came to visit, and we had a houseful, so we put them up in a nearby B&B. They didn’t like it a bit, and were disappointed by the sagging bed, disappointing breakfast, and so on. Another guest chimed in: “Our last B&B stay was not pleasant. Our room didn’t have a single comfortable chair to sit in, the lighting was terrible, and there was so much clutter that it was impossible to find a spot for our own things.”
How does your B&B measure up? Here’s the last of our 20-step checklist to guest comfort to help you with a self-assessment!
11. Run your inn to suit your guests—not the other way around. Your policies should reflect the needs of guests before those of innkeepers (i.e. breakfast menus and serving times, check-in times, cancellation policies, and so on). Hair dryers, for example, are now standard equipment in most motels/hotels, so travelers are less likely to pack one. The guest-friendly approach is to place one in each guest bathroom; the guest who steps dripping from the shower before breakfast is not likely to track down the innkeeper to ask to borrow one. Consider the pros and cons of accepting young children and pets, perhaps in a separate suite or cottage. A rigid 9 o’clock breakfast will make it difficult for business travelers to stay at your inn. An inflexible cancellation policy may preserve one night’s income but will lose you far more in bad feelings. Evaluate carefully your guests’ needs for access to telephones, televisions, and clock-radios. Romantic getaway inns may chose not to offer telephones in the rooms, but the discreet placement of a phone jack can make this option available to guests who request it. At the very least, a cordless phone adjacent to the guest rooms makes it easy for guests to have a private conversation in their own room, instead of chatting in the living room for all to hear. A separate phone line, dedicated to guest use, is essential.
12. Value-price your inn. Some B&Bs are overpriced at $75 a night, while others are a great value at $350. It all depends on what your offer and where you’re located. Guests will be most comfortable when they feel that they are getting good value for their money.
13. Make sure that private matters are kept private. Religion, politics, and sexual preference are private matters. Religious pamphlets are not appropriate bedside reading; inquiries into the marital status of your guests are inappropriate. In most cases, artwork with a strong religious overtone is not the best choice of décor; leave a welcome letter waiting on the bed, not a bible open to the psalms.
14. Keep your marketing and informational materials complete, concise, up-to-date, and accurate. Website information, brochures, confirmation letters, and in-room welcome letters and folders should not confuse guests with outdated information and/or rates. Don’t advise people to turn left at the Mobil Station if it’s become an Exxon! Not everyone can read a map; be sure to give directions in written form as well. Follow your own directions from the Interstate to your inn, and see if they are really clear. Remember that a welcome letter is not a list of rules, but is an ideal way to remind guests of everything you try to mention in your arrival orientation.
15. Let hospitality be your hallmark. Make sure that your guests know -— from their very first phone call or email, to checkout time — that your primary goal is for them to enjoy their stay at your inn. Guests greeted with genuine warmth and hospitality are much more likely to overlook the problems which occasionally arise, and to express their needs constructively, rather than complain when it’s too late.
16. Learn from your guests. Whenever possible, change your inn, rather than stressing yourself out trying to change your guests’ behavior. If guests consistently fail to use your coasters, leaving white rings on tabletops, have a piece of glass cut to fit over the wood, and the problem is solved. If you find guests rearranging the furniture, figure out why. Are they trying to provide a reading lamp next to a comfortable chair? Are they dragging a chair to their bedside because there’s no table? If they are borrowing glasses from your kitchen, and leaving dinner leftovers in your refrigerator, they are telling you with their actions that you need to have a guest pantry and refrigerator.
17. Minimizing complaints. Ask guests sincerely if there is anything you can do to make their stay more comfortable, then really listen to the response. Ask a second time if you suspect they are merely being polite. Use an in-room comment card (a separate sheet of paper from the room diary) to solicit additional feedback – not everyone will tell you to your face if there’s a problem.
18. Resolving complaints. When problems arise, focus on the guests’ point of view. How would you resolve the problem if you were a guest? Target immediate solutions. No defensive finger pointing. This is not about right and wrong. Your only goal is to transform unhappy guests into happy guests. Smile! Everything goes better when your sense of humor is intact. Learn from the complaint, and take active steps to keep it from re-occurring. When you experience the occasional bad apple, don’t let it spoil the barrel — just toss it away and forget about it.
19. Don’t forget the concierge factor. Guests return to inns because of the innkeepers. The growing awareness that you’ve done everything possible to ensure their comfort will bring them back time and again. Your helpfulness with dinner reservations, suggesting driving routes and hiking trips, auction houses and antique stores, back-country fishing and kayaking adventures will ensure that they share the good news about your inn with their friends. Remember that no minimum wage motel desk clerk can offer this level of service, knowledge, and convenience, so be sure that your guests know what you can do for them.
20. Your in-room materials should repeat and enhance the information in your orientation tour. Many innkeepers take great pride in their welcome-to-the inn speech, where they detail all the information about the inn’s amenities, rules, and special features. Unfortunately, many guests don’t hear, don’t listen, or don’t remember. Don’t just say that there are extra blankets and pillows in the closet; open the door and point them out. Don’t just say that breakfast is served in the dining room at 8:30; include this information in your room folder or welcome letter as well.
Sandy Soule published America’s first B&B guidebooks in 1982. She’s gone on to write her own guidebook series, inaugurate the Internet’s fist inn directory, and establish her own website. At BedandBreakfast.com, Sandy writes the BedandBreakfast.com Report, a free e-zine for inngoers, and the Innkeeper News, a monthly email newsletter for member innkeepers.
Please address article comments to: Claude or Mariette Gagne ~ The B&B and Country Inn MarketPlace
926 Lenoir Rhyne Blvd., SE, Hickory, NC 28602 | Email us
Toll free 877-828-2323, Office: 828-324-7291