Over the last few years of running holiday houses and helping people set them up. One of the common questions I get asked is how to deal with complaints.

I want to share a very recent story that was told to me by a friend who’s colleague shared this story with her. The story started with, “how much do you charge for your holiday house?” Obviously I asked why do you ask?

“Well, a colleague had a terrible experience last week. Her family had booked accommodation in Cowes, Phillip Island for a week in early January each year for a few years now – a very small thing, but they wanted something bigger this time – more room.

They booked a house nearly a year ago to stay there last week.

Upon arrival – house filthy – dishes not washed – table cloth on the table still had food on it – bathrooms and toilets not cleaned, basically everything needed a good scrub.

She contacted the owner who told them that they had to kick the previous people out quickly and they (owners) had gone around and cleaned the whole house.

The owner then said,  ”sounds like this is not the right house for you so perhaps you should leave”, no apologies, no nothing, just straight to move out then. Obviously they knew there was nothing else available on the Island as it was peak season.

So they decided to stay but had to clean the place and it took them a whole day.

They have left the house a lot cleaner than how they found it and are waiting on the refund of their bond.”

Cleaning shows you care

So what does this do to your Holiday House’s future bookings?

This sort of service results in a 1-star review and that will hurt your future bookings immensely. You can not underestimate a bad review, especially if it’s warranted. 93% of potential guests read the reviews on the Holiday Houses they would like to book, according to AirBnB research. 

If this is how you deal with your guests, the question is why are you in hospitality? Do you like people? As problems regularly occur, do you know how to deal with them in a way that’s positive?

The key is to focus on the experience, what do the guests see when they first arrive? Is it spotless? Smell great? Everything working- lights, tv’s, etc?

From experience building your occupancy takes time. The first year depends entirely on great photos and facilities. The second-year having a number of 5-star reviews which help increase bookings. The third-year will see another 15 – 20% increase if you continue to push a 5 star experience, somewhere in the third year there is a tipping point where the reviews outweigh any uncertainty a potential guest will have.

So from this, I have learnt to ask for 5-star reviews, as it is so important.

Never miss something that needs cleaning

So what are the basics?

  1. House needs to be spotless, no excuses. It must smell, look and feel clean.
  2. First impressions are so important as it is so memorable. The colleague had told the whole office plus friends and family of how she felt when she first saw everything. Hard to forget!
  3. My problems aren’t my guest’s problems. If you had an issue with the last guests, you need to start afresh with the new guests no matter what!
  4. Dealing with a complaint-
    1. Listen attentively and try to understand, never offer an excuse
    2. Be calm
    3. Over-deliver on the expectations
    4. Double-check the guest is happy with the solution
    5. After the solution is implemented, check that the guest is now happy and be prepared to have a second solution.

You can tell when you walk in the room how clean it is

What’s a better way to deal with the problem?

I think the problem sometimes happens at the start. How are you set up to take bookings? Do you keep yourself/cleaner up to date with all bookings? Do you give your cleaner or yourself enough time to clean to a 5-star level? Is there a cleaning checklist for the cleaner to follow? Do you tell future bookings that the new guests arrive on the same day, so they will need to have a timely check out so you can deliver the same exceptional experience?  It sends a message that you care about the experience and that your holiday house is very popular.

So if all else fails, say the cleaner doesn’t turn up, you don’t realise and can’t get there to clean it or your back up cleaner is also busy, what do you do? The answer is to get in front of the situation, ring the new guests before they arrive, don’t wait for them to call you. Have a plan to compensate, don’t share your problems with them, they are on holiday. It’s critical you get your house cleaned, perhaps you ask them to drop off their bags and ask them to go for a drive or go to the beach. Then when they arrive back 2 hours later the place is spotless and you have a picnic pack or a BBQ pack for them as compensation. Whatever helps them feel that they have been compensated for the inconvenience, after all, it’s their holiday.

There is really no excuse for what happened in the earlier story. None

This sort of experience the guest had would set you back a long way. You would need to work extra hard to deliver exceptional service, so recent bookings can say fantastic things about your property. This might help to outweigh the bad press you created.