Blog – Holiday Lets for Sale in association with Country Holiday Lets

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Hospitality hasn’t changed for as long as you care to think

I was out to see a new potential holiday let in North Herefordshire a few of days ago.

The owners were very pleasant and lived in what looked like an idyll.   Sadly, the let was very 1980s with clashing colours, deeply sculpted wooden kitchen cupboards, dated taps, door furniture and that reddish wood finish on the doors and elsewhere.  The furniture was rather cast off / hand me down.  However, they listened and, unlike in many places, although there was some hurt on hearing what I tried to say in a gentle oblique but clear manner, (the description is as awkward as I felt), they appeared to be the sort of owners we can do really good business with.

forgetmenot16We hope, in due course, to be able to have a successful long term relationship with them.  However, we did receive some first class news about a couple of our existing owners and their holiday lets recently.  They understand hospitality.

Most of the fundamentals do not change from decade to decade or, even, from century to century.  As my memory has changed and my ability to concentrate, I have at a late stage, ‘discovered’ many of the classic authors which normally open up to teenagers.  The latest book I am ploughing through is ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.  This sort of thing was a closed book to me for fifty years and more but, last weekend, I sat down and started reading:

“It was the best of times and it was the worst of times….”   The sentence seemed to go on for ever, in a pleasingly landscape way, devoid of the sparse short attention span punctuation common to the modern style.  Today’s approach seems a series of snap shots desperately trying to turn into a film if you move them quickly enough where this style is more languid, as if a series of (rather dark, being Dickens) landscapes or paintings merging, one into the other.

From Ch 4. The Preparation:

After a vivid description of travelling in a coach to Dover the next morning, Mr Lorry of Tellisons Bank enters the coffee room of the hotel at Dover.  The description could be today as much as well over 200 years ago:

‘The coffee-room had no other occupant, that forenoon, than the gentleman in brown. His breakfast-table was drawn before the fire, and as he sat, with its light shining on him, waiting for the meal, he sat so still, that he might have been sitting for his portrait.‘

Link to the entire text

The moment I read these lines, memories of a thousand business trips returned.  But, more importantly, it reminded me that the fundamental of all good hospitality have not changed that much for as long as you may wish to think.  The slog of the coach up Shooters Hill, the filthy weather and the rest were all thrown into the present day; experience can give that extra ability to squeeze more from what is written.  The benefit of others experience can make any business, holiday letting or whatever, that much more likely to succeed and to be an enjoyable one on the way.

Two very recent bits of feedback from pleased guests were received by our sister business  on 16 September say it all:

I thought this cottage (Forget me Not) was wonderful. I’ve stayed in many holiday cottages including Landmarks and this was Forget me not

It was stylishly furbished, equipment was top of the range (though I found this challenging as I’m a Luddite)and every last detail had been thought of and every situation provided for. Nothing was tatty or second rate or skimped. It is maintained and cleaned to an excellent standard. It is looked after lovingly.It was wonderful to have one’s dog feel welcomed and not just tolerated, with the dog treats, toys, pooh bags, emergency dog food, dishes etc.

I should have loved to have seen old photos of the cottage and its conversion. I’m sure many people are interested in this. There was a wealth of information for walkers, cyclists and other tourists and it is perfectly positioned to access all the interesting market towns and iconic walking areas..

Quite simply the best holiday cottage I’ve ever stayed in.

Just the best cottage (Honeysuckle) we have ever stayed at in 25 years. Everything was excellent. The decor, fittings and views were the best. Cannot really say any more than this.07

The owners have mastered the art of hospitality and, aside from healthy profits for our business, receiving these we consider is everything that good holiday letting is all about.  They understand and feel for hospitality and know the fundamentals as well as really care that they provide a good service and that guests have a good time.  The fictional hotel Mr Lorry stayed in at Dover brought back so many memories; but it appears these two owners could have taught that establishment a thing or two.

The trick is, of course, to take any information, guidance, advice, from blogs, and forums etc: and reduce the need for first hand experience to an absolute minimum;  as with science and philosophy, ‘we are as dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants’.   There is no total substitute for experience but learning things the easy way should be the aim, so you can get on and do other things in the meantime.

How I wish I had appreciated this better when giving up trying to read Dickens, all those years ago.

Mistakes and poor service for cottage guests

From Country Holiday Lets For quality and value cottages

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The picture theme Golden Valley countryside and history.

The bank holiday proved to be very good for bookings taken and I arrived in the office in high spirits with a good Autumn shaping up. We needed this after the summer deluges and the semi-collapse of the occupy 2 cottage market. The larger cottages had done well but we want everyone to prosper. It was good to see the 2s doing much better.

A sandstone message we do not now understand. Over 800 years at Kilpeck

My conceit was soon to be blown away with the first phone call. A guest questioned the rent we had charged for a stay in a five star Hay on Wye let. The knee jerk reaction is to counter all whilst on the phone and, then, offer to investigate further. This is an amateur mistake when fielding serious enquiries.

I should have expressed concern and taken all the information. When done, the right way is to then to say when you will ring back with progress or a ‘result’. A similar mistake was when I used to respond to the very rare news that there had been a double booking with the immediate assumption that we were not at fault or, if we were, the key thing was to fight our corner. This is, of course, equally wrong and the same formula should apply… take the info, express serious concern and report back within a given time.

In a field near Abbey Dore

But anyone half decent at their work tends to care and there’s often an emotional involvement. So, when things seem to go wrong, emotion trumps reason and the care needed to keep good humour as you get things sorted out.

This is easier said than done but there can be a quiet sense of success, even when it turns out that we have been the cause of the mistake, in handling a concern efficiently whilst keeping in good humour at all times. The result may still be an upset guest or homeowner but many will really appreciate a problem sorted out quickly and efficiently.

In an age where dealing with electric companies or telecoms can drive some people to an early grave out of sheer frustration, there’s even a small danger that if you sort out enquiries professionally you might, just, come out of the whole thing without any damage to reputation and, possibly, just possibly, previously concerned people could think the better of you.

The road to that field

So, the phone rang and the enquirer was worried that we had charged £60 too much. I was alarmed. There is absolutely no right or excuse to take too much money. The matter was made more confusing because we had changed to a new computer system and back office so I had to refer to paperwork records.

It turned out that the guests had changed the dates of their stay to a week earlier this October which was not during the half term. The original rental of £850.00 should have automatically been reduced to £790.00. The old system had been scrapped in the meantime, leaving manual operation to collect balance payments for those who booked before the modernisation.

The Green Man ? in stained glass- Abbey Dore

It was time for humble pie; but if you have a will, these things can get cleared up very fast. A quick e-mail to the guest stated our mistake with apology. A bank transfer was made for the £60 about half an hour later with a screen shot of the transfer receipt from the bank.

It is very poor behaviour demanding more money than you should charge. The worry, in this case, was that we could quite easily have collected and passed on the higher rent and not noticed the error. It took a vigilant guest to point it out.

Outside a home of the deceased for a year and a day. Then put in the church.

Fortunately the new system will warn us of anomalies caused by changed dates of stays. Once the problem was sorted out is was pleasant to feel the return of that good feeling that our Autumn and Winter bookings will do the business as expected.

Once an Abbey, saved from total ruin by conversion to a parish church

Ring 01568 612467 for more information.