In today’s world, there is an emphasis on reviews. Many people do or don’t buy or try a product or service based on someone’s personal opinion about that product or service. In my world, the world of travel, hospitality, and tourism, there are many sites out there for people to leave anonymous reviews of me and my B&B. Trip Advisor, Yelp, BedandBreakfast.com, just to name a few. Not to mention someone’s personal blog or website.
Someone has a bad experience or just a bad day and they can ruin a business’s reputation. Or at least make it difficult to overcome. I have received my share of good AND bad reviews. After the initial upset caused, I have been able to take a step back and really look at what the reviewer is saying. In some cases, their issues were totally valid and I have sought to remedy problems. Things like an a/c unit that is not working properly or someone not wanting to share table space with other guests or not liking something I cook are easy enough to fix. Personality conflicts and not liking my style of running the Inn are not so easy to change, but I try my best. As a result, I have definitely seen a change over the past several years in the number of unhappy guests versus happy guests. It’s not that I received a large number of bad reviews, but when you receive one or two a year, it leaves an impression. The ultimate goal as an innkeeper is to offer a welcoming house for guests and to enhance their lodging experience with a genuinely pleasant and accommodating attitude.
I think I have come a long way from the first 2 years of B&B ownership and a background in Human Resources where policies are policies and you don’t break them and where everything has its place and any deviation caused stress. Taking the review comments from unhappy guests and comments from the happy ones too, I feel so much better now that I listen more and don’t get so worried about the small stuff. If a guest breaks something, I don’t break out into hives anymore; it’s no big deal. It can be replaced. I have gotten rid of some of the fees that I used to charge for things like early check-ins and large group cleaning gratuities. Let the airlines and hotel chains nickel and dime their customers with lots of extra fees.
Many of the changes I have made over the years have come as a result of positive feedback rather than negative feedback. When someone criticizes your way of doing things, it’s easy to ignore their comments or become so defensive that you can’t hear what is being said. But when you have a conversation with a happy guest and they ask if you can change something about your Inn, their room, their breakfast or its operation, it is so much easier to take their words to heart, because you know they are coming from a place of caring about you and your business and because they plan to come back!
My suggestion to anyone getting ready to rip into a business via an anonymous review would be to try speaking to the owner, innkeeper, or manager first. You may find that a few kind words go further than a scathing post on everything you hated about your experience or the product. If that doesn’t work (sometimes a request is out of the control of even the person in charge), then a post with objective information and suggestions for improvement will still probably go further than nothing but negative comments. Even humor goes a long way.
I wanted to share a couple of cards from guests I received recently. How many people sit down and spend a few minutes writing a card to another person, a business? And to receive two cards, one in March & one in April, was so touching that I felt the need to share with my readers and guests how much I appreciate them once they leave the Inn. This is the reason why people looking for a personal experience should consider staying at a B&B versus a hotel. We WANT to establish relationships with our guests.
The first card was sent just before Easter from guests who have been to the Inn 4-5 times over the past couple of years. I had not seen them since the fall so to receive an Easter card was thrilling. The guests wrote: “Thanks so much for remembering us with a gift certificate! That was so thoughtful of you and sweet! Spring has finally come to Indiana; February was our cold, snowy month. We just love you and Blake House and are looking forward to coming down to Asheville again in 2010.”
The second card was sent mid-April from a guest who had stayed here a couple of years ago and had come back to visit family in the area. She wrote, “Dear Leslie, Thanks for launching me into Spring 2010 in royal style. Loved my stay at your beautiful inn. I’ve tormented many with tales of your fabulous breakfasts. (The only attempt I’ve made at imitating was the baked grapefruit.) A success! Best regards. P.S. I’ll be back!”
As an innkeeper, I meet a lot of people; some are just passing through Asheville for one night and some stay for several days. My hope is that everyone enjoys their stay, no matter the amount of time. But if you don’t, you can talk to me and I will listen. If you do, I thank you most ardently for any kind words you say or write, whether you choose to share them with others via online review sites, or if you only share them with me in a sweet card or email.
I love Asheville! I love this Inn! And I love everyone who shares part of their life with me and this old house.