The most successful vacation rental owners are those who have experience of being a guest. They have rented homes themselves, have discovered the quirks of a strange place, and slept in many different beds. They know what makes a great rental vacation and strive to ensure their own guests have the best experience ever.

If you haven’t done this, you’ll need to imagine what it is like, because your paying guests may have very different expectations than your own family and friends.

Visitors to country areas will be less tolerant to the idiosyncracies of country life – the bugs, occasional mice, the consequences of power outages, etc., while tourists coming to a city for the first time may have little experience of urban living.

Whatever their destination (your place) you need to take a little time to step in their shoes and think about what it will be like for them.

Your guests will have anticipated their stay for months. They will have pored over every piece of information you have sent to them and studied the photographs on the listing. They will imagine their arrival down to the last detail so if their first impression doesn’t match the anticipation, complaints will arise.

Here’s the top five and how to avoid them:

1. Problems accessing the property

So your guests have had a long journey either by air or road; the car is loaded with kids, pets and luggage, and they finally arrive. But the door doesn’t unlock with the code they have been given, or the key is not under the blue rock by the side of the shed near the big boulder.

It happens.

Your caretaker inputs the wrong code or the batteries die on the keyless entry lock. Your guests are now left outside in the cold/rain/blazing heat, wondering what to do next and getting angry very quickly.

How to avoid complaints

  • Triple check the code when setting it up, then test it.
  • Have a spare key located somewhere on the property so guests can access it if the primary entry method doesn’t work.
  • Have someone available to respond to an emergency call, for several hours from check-in time.
  • Contact your guests by phone to make sure they have arrived safely and accessed the property without an issue (make sure you have their cell-phone number to hand)

2. The propane runs out

For many guests, the first night barbecue is a time-honoured tradition. They have arrived armed with steaks, burgers and ready-made salads and all they need do is to fire up the “Q”, crack a cold one and enjoy the first evening of vacation.

If the propane runs out half-way through cooking, the disappointment can impact the entire stay.

How to avoid complaints

  • On changeover check the tank on the BBQ is not empty; exchange if necessary.
  • Always have a full spare available
  • Make sure the grill is clean and BBQ utensils are on hand

There is absolutely no excuse for this. Checking there is a full tank for each rental is a fundamental part of the changeover. Always have a spare tank provided at the cottage, and bring a full one for the changeover to swap over.

3. The property is not clean

Cleanliness issues rank highly amongst guest complaints. They have spent their hard-earned vacation money on this holiday and have high expectations of walking into a spotlessly clean property. There are no excuses for a property not being in great condition so make sure you pay attention to all the details.

You can be assured that your guests will look in every cupboard and every drawer, and check under every bed. If you miss the mouse poop or dust bunnies, there will complaints.

How to avoid complaints

  • Do a deep clean at the beginning of every season and mid-way through the season.
  • Pay particular attention to the exterior, the entrance door and door mat. Lack of attention to the entry can raise concern about the state of the interior.
  • Check the dinnerware and pots/pans on each changeover. You’d be surprised how many of these items get put away unwashed!

4. Slow response to breakdowns or minor problems

A dripping tap may seem minor to you, but to a paying guest it can take on major proportions if not dealt with promptly. Even reassurance that it will be taken care of may be enough to manage their irritation.

Put systems in place for quick response to emergency calls so if the fridge breaks down, or the water pump fails to restart after a power outage, the wait for a response will be minimal.

How to avoid complaints

  • Put a list of contact numbers at the front of your Welcome Book. Don’t leave your guests wondering what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Aim to respond within 30 minutes to any emergency call (within reasonable hours)

5.  The property is not as described

Your guests will have based their anticipation on the description and the photos seen on the listing so any major differences are going to have an impact.

If you have staged your place to show the beds attractively presented and your guests arrive to find bare mattresses with a comforter folded across the bottom of the bed, they will be disappointed.

They won’t expect to find the outdoor table laid up for an alfresco meal as shown in the pictures but will want to see the same tableware and accents available so they can recreate the image.

Really think about the impact your listing and pictures have on the buying decision your guests have made, and ensure their expectations will be met.

How to avoid complaints

  • Let your guests know if you change bedroom configuration or make any other changes that may affect their sleeping arrangements
  • Be honest in your descriptions and avoid using words that might mislead or be misinterpreted, e.g ‘private’, ‘beach’, ‘spacious’.

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