◀◀ ▶▶ Blog 182 of 193

Those Guests from Hell - Part 2

By William May
Published: 08/18/03 Topics: Comments: 0

Last issue you were introduced to some of those "Guests from Hell." You know, the ones who pay too little and ask too much and then decide to fight it out with you over the most trivial of situations that are none of your making.

I won't bore you again this week with the reasons that cause such situations. But thought I'd share some of the horror stories I've heard:

- How about the guy in Hawaii who complained because it was too hot there. (And thought he should get a credit because of that)

- Or the family who didn't enjoy their winter ski trip because there was too much snow. (And wanted a credit)

- Or the woman who called every day crying hysterically during her stay because the closet in the 4th bedroom wasn't big enough. (This in a $600,000 drop dead gorgeous lakeside home).

- How about the guest who damaged a unit and then said, "What's the problem I paid a deposit so I could do that."

THE PUBLIC: If you've worked in any industry that deals with the public you already know there are some really crazy folks our there. While it is an accepted cliché that the customer is always right - in fact, the customers who complain the loudest are seldom right.

Unfortunately there is little we can do to avoid the undesirables because they seldom reveal their emotional instability until we already have a relationship (contract) with them. By then we have no choice.

Rather than blame the small minority of customers who make life difficult, let's talk about the two points that we can do something about:

- FIRST, guests' don't know what to expect from our new and informal industry.

- SECOND, as an industry we've not set standards nor educated the media or public what to expect.

(Yes this is a thinly veiled plug for the VROA property rating system. In fact, we intend to issue detailed standards for the industry and publish to the website and promote them in the media. Its a long and winding road, but one day we can help the public know what to expect and also limit any unrealistic expectations they have.)

In the meantime, here are some other suggestions about how to deal with Guests from Hell:

HINT #1: Start by learning from other industries who deal with the "real public." And that is to simply ACCEPT THE FACT that there are some real nut cakes out there. And then spend our time over serving the good customers and dealing efficiently with those who may have legitimate questions.

HINT #2: The second suggestion is to use accurate terminology. For example - never refer to Guest questions, comments or complaints as "complaints". That implies that that whatever they've dreamed up is indeed a legitimate complaint. Because we own a number of homes we have a little perspective on the subject. When we receive a call about anything even the most minor request for assistance (maybe they simply want to know where to find the light switch - and yes they do ask) we pop out a "Guest Issues" Form and write it down. We then record what action we took. If that solves the problem great, if not we keep the form open until the situation is resolved. Putting a copy of the form in their file will remind you later if anything they reported was legitimate. And it will help you remember and defend your actions.

HINT #3: Another reminder is to make sure you have a very thorough Guest Agreement. Mount Baker Lodging up in our neck of the woods calls it their "Guest Responsibility Agreement" and it spells out just what it says. I'll bet it doesn't resolve every situation but it really puts the guest on notice. You can take a look at their paperwork on line at (MtBakerLodging.com)MtBakerLodging.com by clicking on the "GRA" link. Never use any one else's agreement. Make sure you have an attorney and that they review your agreement.

NOTE: If you have prospective visitors who question your Guest Agreement or nit pick the language I have a word of advice that will make your life easier - walk away from them. Even if it is the slow season, even if you need the rent, even if the nit-picks aren't really a big deal. Walk away - it?s your property. You need to set the rules and not deviate. Worst of all - if you do deviate - you may not remember what special considerations you gave them. The chances of a nit-picker giving you grief later is much higher than with a guest who understands you set the rules and won't alter them.

Here is a comparison, if you have a good relationship with your bank, if you know them personally and they take good care of you. Just try to go in one way, sign a new checking account agreement (as an example) and tell them you are going to scratch out some of the language. They may have loved you before but they won't anymore. You'll have to take your business elsewhere. Guests need to be treated with the same uniformity.

HINT #4: The next suggestion is to answer "Issues" very quickly. Experience indicates that the longer a complaint goes unanswered the more likely that the guest will blow it out of proportion and the more justified they feel in demanding an unearned credit. They will be happy to demand a $100 credit for every penny of inconvenience they think they've suffered. Don't let things sit.

HINT #5: Whether a guest issue is legitimate or not it is important to "be prepared to act." In future issues we'll spend time exploring about how to resolve legitimate issues such as broken equipment, insufficient cleaning and so forth. Right now let's focus on making sure you are ready to handle IMPROPER complaints by making sure you know the laws that govern your rental. Most states or jurisdictions have laws and homeowner associations have rules about what is and is not permitted. You must be intimately familiar with those requirements and be ready to enforce them. Your contract must give you the right to immediately evict problem guests.

NOTE: If you haven't done so already, it would be wise to join your local or state Lodging Association. While much of what they focus differs from private vacation homes they are, none-the-less, a good source of data. They have lots of information, resources and are a handy way to learn more about the lodging industry. Membership fees are usually modest.

HINT #6: Please do your fellow VRA members a favor - put the names of problem makers on the VRA Unwelcome list. All members have access to this handy list of guests who have made life hell for other owners. Its wise to check for the names of your prospective guests against the list.

You may know that firms who manage long-term rentals consider it essential to check the credit and criminal records of prospective tenants. To do so they secure the prospects permission to do so in their lease application. It is not usually practical to do that in advance for short-term rentals - but we can keep track of troublemakers after the fact and warn other owners of troublemakers.

NOTE: We recommend including language in your Guest Agreement that authorizes you to check and report the guest's behavior to credit reporting agencies as well as to the Vacation Rental Association "Unwelcome list." With just a clause or two you secure your right to avoid troublemakers.

Well - so far so good about Guests from Hell. They can be prepared for, managed and their problems lessened if we work together to educate the public and work together to formalize and improve our industry. Please help us do that by using the Unwelcome Guest List, by inviting other owners to join VRA and by sending me your thoughts on the issue.

***** As always I seek your feedback. Please share you thoughts, stories, compliments and complaints on this or any other subject by writing me at Director@Vrai.orgDirector@Vrai.org.

Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0025 – 08/18/03

Comments: 0

To comment, login in or register now