Last time we discussed general tips and advice on how to handle an overbooking, gleaned from conversations with many successful B&B owners. This time, we’re focusing on the specific moment when you have to take a deep breath and pick up the phone to the customer…
Okay, you’ve got an overbooking. It isn’t nice, but sometimes these things happen to the best of us. So how do you handle it?
An overbooking doesn’t have to be the end of the world!
Dealing with an overbooking strikes fear into most people’s minds. However, that need not always be the case. There are several ways to minimise your anxiety and help ensure a positive outcome for all involved.
It’s worth remembering that the odd overbooking can’t always be avoided and can be an indicator that your marketing is working well! On the other hand, a constant run of overbookings can be an expensive, time consuming – and stressful – experience. Here’s some advice, gleaned from many conversations with successful B&B owners, on how to address the problem if it does actually arise.
“Here is an update from Torbay about how a group of small hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses is taking matters into its own hands and promoting accommodation on the web via an “all-in-one” comparison and online booking website. Torbay is a lovely bay in South Devon and the geographical area includes Torquay, Paignton and Brixham, also known as the English Riviera.
We always talk to our guests about what they want from a B&B and also about how they have found us. Quite a few use the big booking channels, like Booking.com and LateRooms, because they find the process of wading through 20 or more individual websites too daunting to contemplate. They like to see lots of photos to compare properties before choosing which one they want to stay in. Once they have narrowed down to the destination area or town, they want to be able to book on the same website. This is the strength of comparison and booking sites: the customer can compare and choose everything that is important to them (including price) on one, easy to use website.
There’s has been some interesting bed and breakfast-related stuff in the New York Times over the past couple of weeks. Nancy Galloway and Andre Laporte – a retired couple who run the Wedgwood Manor Country Inn (Crawford Bay, British Columbia) – took part in the newspaper’s regular “You’re The Boss” feature, which allows owners of small business to solicit advice from its huge readership.
Generating revenue of roughly $100,000 in 2012, the Wedgwood Manor Country Inn is undoubtedly successful, with its website attracting between 800 and 1,000 visits per month. It’s also listed on Canadian B&B sites like bbcanada.com and cabinrentalbc.com, at a cost of c$4,000 per annum (about 85% of their marketing budget.) None the less, Nancy felt that they could still do more and was keen to have fresh insight into her property’s web presence: “It is like having a great editor… You need someone who is looking at your work with a fresh perspective. I am too close to our site and the comments were quite helpful and we are taking many to heart.”
“I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. All these directory sites with “Gold”, “Platinum”, “Silver”, “Bronze” categories – as well as a free listing – are missing a trick. As I’m sure most people have realised, a “free” listing is worth about as much as you pay for it. So, they list you for free, then point out how few bookings you’ve got, because you have a free, low-priority listing, and press you to upgrade. Inevitably, you don’t, because you have only negative experience of their site and, as Clausewitz said: “Never reinforce failure.” I’ve got “Scoot” trying to do this with me right now.
Yvonne begins by describing the difficulties she found herself in just 3 years ago and how she overcame them: “My room occupancy rates were completely in line with ‘Europe wide industry statistics’ at 21.58% (the Europe average is 21.5% according to Bed & Breakfast.com) and I started to build up an overdraft. Then I started borrowing elsewhere to keep the ship afloat and bit by bit I edged into more and more debt.” However, by changing her strategy, she managed to stop the decline: “I started to increase massively my room occupancy rates, in fact so much so that in a year they soared from 21.58% to 37.68% a MASSIVE 74% increase.” Last year her occupancy rate hit 49.01%, which, she points out, is “almost unheard of in the B & B industry.”
Google are warning business owners, including hotel and B&B owners, that “fake glowing testimonies” written by reputation management companies on Google+ Local pages will be taken down.
Google+ Local used to just be called Google Places. It’s essentially just normal Google search with a location slant. These local search results appear anytime an online user combines a search item with a geographical modifier, i.e., “B&B York.” The results appear as a listing and as pins on a map. They are sorted by their relevance, which is determined by how close each B&B is to your current location when you search.
As part of its continuing effort to convince people that it really can generate the sort of profits that will justify its huge stock market valuation, Facebook is now trailing its latest wheeze: Graph Search. But what is it and what might it mean for owners of B&Bs, guest houses, cottages and independent hotels?
The fundamental motive behind Graph Search is this: exploiting Facebook’s one billion-plus user base to provide you with results that are appropriate to you, based on what people you are already connected to have liked (or, to be more accurate, “liked”) in the past. So, for instance, if you’re travelling to London and want B&B recommendations, Facebook will serve search results for B&Bs that friends (and friends of friends) have been to.
One of the issues we return to time and again on theBandBer is online reviews. They’ve come to dominate the thoughts of many accommodation providers. The good ones give you a warm glow. The bad ones keep you awake at night. The fake ones send you into a rage.
When we first started covering this topic, there was relatively little good, consistent advice out there on how best to respond to feedback on review sites like TripAdvisor and various social media channels. With this in mind, we’ve frequently tried to offer helpful tips ourselves, in order to bring some clarity to the issue.
Several times already at theBandBer we’ve reported first hand on accommodation owners’ experiences of Groupon and other daily deals sites. The consensus so far seems to be that flash sales can be useful when it comes to boosting your property’s profile, as long as you don’t expect to make any real money out of it.
None the less, the fact remains that many BandBers have always been wary of this kind of sales technique. And now it seems that their scepticism is fully justified. When it floated on the stock market in November 2011, Groupon was valued at $20 per share, but that valuation has now sunk as low as $2.60. More pertinently, it has also started to move away from its core business, instead using the huge customer database it has built up to sell “vacuum cleaners, mattresses and other overstock merchandise,” as Stephen Jones of Tnooz observes.