Tag: reputation management

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Scam? Verifying Business Information

As small business owners, it seems we are constantly receiving calls verifying our business information. In the slower season it can be 4-6 calls per day, though it seems to slow down a bit in the busy season. Not long ago, a thread on an online innkeepers' forum discussed this issue, and it seemed appropriate to discuss it here, as well, for a broader audience. It is the nature of innkeepers to want to be helpful, so verifying business information seems helpful, painless and appropriate. The last thing we want to do is to be rude to a caller. In fact the majority of these calls seem legitimate (the very essence of the con, you might say), and most of the time we hear nothing more, so we assume they were indeed legitimate. Perhaps they were, but still they robbed us of time - sometimes of time that should have been spent assisting guests at our B&B, or doing the countless other marketing, administrative, maintenance, or other tasks the business requires. One recently stood out, as we did hear from them again, and it wasn't pleasant. We received the call in October, "verifying business information" to make sure it would benefit our Google Local listing. Gosh, that's the very thing most SEO experts tell us to do - verify our business information to help our placement on Google Local. We verified it, and then were asked to pay for an advertisement. We declined. Then came the hard sell. We declined more firmly, and that was the end. Or so we thought. In February we received a call from "an attorney" wanted to get payment on the outstanding invoice for $599. We explained that we hadn't ordered the advertisement, hadn't received the invoice, and were not going to pay it. He…

Guest Satisfaction vs Revenue: Things to Think About

A recent post from Daniel Edward Craig on the 4 Hoteliers site (and re-posted in other places) has caused me to reflect a bit on the "business is business" side of things, as compared to the warmer, fuzzier, guest satisfaction side. The article from Daniel Craig was based on a question he had received, asking if your hotel ranks at the top on TripAdvisor, are you not charging enough? Daniel surveyed a number of lodging professionals (hoteliers and consultants), and received a variety of answers. He concludes that there is no consensus, but clearly the benefits outweigh any costs. From reading the article, it appears that by his conclusion, Daniel is saying, in essence, that being at the top on TripAdvisor is worth more than could be gained by a price increase which could cause a drop in TripAdvisor rank. A bit of context The question of raising rates, at the possible expense of TripAdvisor ranking, is essentially analogous to the concept of revenue management. That is, the approach used by airlines, many larger hotels, and sometimes other businesses, to use a fluctuating rate scale, rather than posted rates. Thus, when there is lots of available inventory, prices are relatively low. As inventory shrinks (fewer available rooms), rates increase. Other factors, such as holidays, may also play into the rate ultimately charged. Using that analogy, then, the theory behind the question would be that there is a "sweet spot" where rates are increased until the TripAdvisor position slips down, just below the top group of properties. If this theory were viable, a property would be maximizing its revenue by charging more than its competitors, while not losing enough occupancy to reduce overall revenue. The profits would be gained by (a) increased room rates, and (b) reduced costs due to slightly…

You Call That Hospitality? Your House, Your Rules? Really?

Rules, rules rules. Our lives are filled with rules, and many of them are essential to an orderly civilization. Sometimes, though, it seems that even in a hospitality industry, innkeepers can become consumed with the idea that little signs (house rules) around the house can solve their problems. [pullquote]Rules, rules, rules! But I'm on vacation![/pullquote]Most of us have visited a B&B where there were little cards everywhere you turn. Each card has a rule on it. "Please don't use towels to remove makeup." "Please leave door locked." "Please turn off the lights." "Do not leave wet towels on the bed." "No coffee in guest rooms." "Private - Do not enter." How do all these house rules come across to the guest? Do they see these signs as informative, or as imposing a lot of rules on their freedom? As innkeepers we know that sometimes our guests, whether through carelessness, cluelessness, or crabbiness, cause problems. They soil linens, track dirt on the carpet, mark walls by banging their luggage into them, leave makeup stains on sheets, pillowcases and towels, spill wine or coffee, leave trash in the recycling and recyclables in the garbage. It almost seems as if they're trying to cause problems for the innkeepers. Almost. The natural response to these inconveniences and problems is to try to prevent them from occurring again. One way is to put up a sign or create a house rule (policy, if you prefer), urging the guests not to do the thing which the innkeeper dislikes. Yet most innkeepers will agree that guests almost never read signs. Why do we try to solve a problem with a sign, when we know that is unlikely to be effective? If one sign is ineffective, many signs are many times more likely to be ineffective. So why…

BBOnline Responds to Traffic Drop – And Seems to Care!

Several weeks ago we posted our concerns over the significant drop in BBOnline traffic (referrals) following their site redesign late last year. When we heard from BBOnline, the response was disconcerting, so we posted further concerns. More recently online innkeeping forums (both public and private) have had active discussions about the drops in BBOnline traffic to inn websites. Significantly, while the exact amount of traffic loss varied from inn to inn, no innkeepers reported gains or traffic staying constant from year to year. Losses ranged from about 65% to over 90%. Like many inns, historically BBOnline has been a very significant referral source for our Bed and Breakfast in Freeport Maine. As a result, we made additional attempts to contact BBOnline, to let them know what we had seen, and that others had observed similar traffic drops. That resulted in a request to have a conference call with a BBOnline Product Manager and a BBOnline Customer Service Manager. We had a very pleasant conversation. We chatted about several issues, including the challenges of changing the old site (let's face it, it was long overdue for a facelift) to a more modern look, the ability to update your own listing and photos, and the challenges of keeping search placement high after such a change. BBOnline's parent company, Internet Brands, has gone through site updates for other of its brands, and felt they had procedures in place to avoid the type of problem that we've seen as customers of BBOnline. The BBOnline representatives acknowledged that they were aware of some significant search placement losses, including for many who had spoken up on the innkeeping forums. They have already made changes to try to recover lost placement. More changes are coming. Indeed, we have seen some indications that BBOnline may be showing up…

Don’t imitate Google if you want to grow your business

This isn't a rant against Google. Really, it isn't. But it is an interesting customer service lesson for small businesses, taken from large businesses. Most people who are in business can see first hand the value of good customer service. For small businesses, especially those in hospitality, this is particularly true. In the hospitality business, good customer service can lead to good reviews on TripAdvisor or other services. It can also lead to instant gratification when you see the smiles on the faces of your guests/customers, hear the sincerity in their voices when they thank you for the time they've spent at your establishment, and promise to return. The results of bad customer service are often just as obvious. On more than one innkeeper forum we regularly see innkeepers complain about the behavior of their guests. Sometimes they have good reason, but usually it is just because the guest's schedule or priorities don't match those of the innkeeper. Some of those innkeepers will tell how they responded. Others will share their own similar experiences, and tell how they fought back against the guest's schedule/requirements/preferences Still others will simply offer advice on how to resist the guest's request. We realize that some of these stories are just that - fictionalized versions. It is important to remember, though, that this advice is being offered to others on how to deal with a perceived problem. Some will take it as advice they should follow. [pullquote]Every interaction is a customer service interaction.[/pullquote] Sometimes innkeepers seem to have forgotten that every interaction with a guest is a customer service interaction. If you've ever had to deal with Google about a problem, you've seen some of the worst examples of customer service, ever. Local search expert Mike Blumenthal recently described what he called not only Google's…

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