Going The Extra Mile – Tales of Great Hospitality

Some vacation rental owners just have the edge over the competition because they go above and beyond what’s expected of them, and wow their guests with their hospitality.  It generally doesn’t take much to deliver great service and exceed expectations – a phone call to check all is OK after a storm; a box of essential toiletries should guests forget something, or a personal note of welcome, are just a few things that take no time or effort at all, but can have such an impact.  Here are four examples of going the extra mile.

Welcoming pets and not just tolerating them

Pet owners often feel they are unwelcome at vacation rentals and given the high fees, lists of rules, and penalties for infractions that some owners impose on their guests, it’s no wonder.  Dog owners constitute a massive proportion of the guest demographic in regions where properties are mostly drive-to, so it’s worthwhile treating them well.  Hosts who want to impress their guests with pets will provide dog bowls, a temporary ID tag, details of nearby pet walks and directions to the nearest vet that accepts emergencies from non-registered patients.

“A family was preparing to leave on their last day and discovered their deaf golden retriever had wandered off into the nearby forest.  The distraught family called the owner as they had no idea how big the woodland was and he organized his neighbors into a search party who subsequently found the old boy asleep under a tree a few hours later.  The owner treated the family with a lot of sympathy and support, even though the changeover was disrupted as all manpower went into the search. “  

Providing a ‘Rainy Day Ideas Book’

All guests hope for great weather on vacation and it’s very upsetting when it rains day after day.  Plans for outings to the beach, picnics and hikes are all disrupted while guests sit around indoors and wonder what on earth they can do with their time, and wish they were at home in more familiar surroundings.  Savvy owners recognize they will be seen as the absolute best if they provide rainy day entertainment from supplying a range of boards games, paperback books and DVDs.  The top notch ones will have an information-packed Rainy Day book that is packed with ideas for keeping the kids happy.

“We supply a big box of scrapbooking materials and a scrapbook that our guests have filled up over the course of the year.  We suggest they just create one page describing their stay and make it as creative and descriptive as possible.  There’s a digital camera in the box and we also have a photo printer and printer paper.  The output has been amazing and guests have told us the rainy days were the best as the kids created their page” (Owner of The River House in Ontario, Canada)

Saying, ‘It’s no problem’ even when the request is outside hours or inconvenient

Getting a call at 11pm asking how the microwave works because your guests want to make some popcorn is likely to generate some irritation and perhaps a sharper response than you’d normally make.  That’s understandable and we’ve all been there at one time or another.  However, a slight attitude shift towards a ‘no problem’ response can have a more positive impact.  We live in cultures where most things can be ordered 24 hours a day, and some people can forget that the person they are calling may not be that available.  Turn it into a learning moment and simply add to your welcome phone call with this –‘if you have any problems at all, please give us a call and we’ll do our best to help, however unless it’s a real emergency, we’d prefer a call before 7pm and after 8am’

When guests clogged a refrigerator with ice by turning it down to its coldest level on arrival (ignoring the instructions in the welcome book), the owner of this property didn’t bark at them or tell them it was their fault.  Instead, he asked a neighbor to deliver a couple of cold boxes and some ice packs so the fridge could be defrosted and restarted at the median temperature.  By not doing the ‘I told you so’ routine, and responding in a pleasant and positive manner, he got the message across so much better.  The guests were very apologetic and bought the neighbor a case of beer for his trouble.  Result:  better educated guests, a good review and a happy neighbor.

Being proactive and not reactive

Great customer service means anticipating things that might happen and putting a plan in place for (just about) every eventuality.  This is particularly helpful in the case of power outages.  Guests in unfamiliar surroundings are out of their comfort zone and need to be told what might occur in the case the power goes out.  A ‘Power Outage Kit’ that includes a flashlight (with fresh batteries), crank radio, plug-in  telephone (not cordless or reliant on an electrically powered base station) and a laminated card with clear instructions on what to do in the event of the power going out, is the least a property should have.

After a violent storm knocked out power to a fairly remote area, an owner sourced a small generator and drove five hours to his property to hook it up for his guests.  He left them with a voucher for picking up more gas for the genny, a large container of water, ensured there was a full propane spare for the BBQ, and asked his neighbors to check in on his guests morning and night.  The ‘city folk’ who had never experienced the country after dark got a little more than they had bargained for, but overall loved the experience, thanks to the proactivity of the owner