Category Archives: Guests

Do You Know What Your Guests Really Crave?

Do you know what your guests really crave? What Customers Crave: How to Create Relevant and Memorable Experiences at Every Touchpoint by popular speaker and corporate strategist Nicholas J. Webb gives more insight into the desires of customers.  Mr. Webb explains with customers being able to rate their experiences and express their opinions online so easily, especially on websites like Amazon, TripAdvisor, and Yelp; there has been an irreversible shift of power from businesses to consumers. There is no place to hide for those who deliver poor products and services because they will be vetted by customers who will share that information throughout cyberspace forever. 

Mr. Nicholas Webb argues that we, as business people, first must understand our consumers better and then create relevant experiences to specific customer types.  What does he mean by “types”?  Simply, knowing what customers love and what customers hate.  Make the effort to understand what customer types we serve, and then learn what those types love and what they hate to design beautiful experiences throughout your time together.

5 Critical Touchpoints:

  • The pre-touch moment is when your potential guests are checking you out online and looking at how you maintain your inn.
  • The first-touch moment sets the theme for how your customer will view their experience with you.
  • The core-touch moment represents how you serve them throughout their stay.
  • The past-touch moment is the final experience they have with you so send them off with a memorable good-bye, so they want to come back. 
  • The in-touch moment is how you stay connected with them after their experience with you.  Consistently and pleasantly provide them with ongoing value so they willingly want to come back.  This is not the time to be sales-y.

When you go far above what they expect, you have given them a memorable experience.  Listen to your customers.  Read their comments in reviews and in your guest books.  Ask your guests when they book how they found you and if there is a reason for their visit. 

Webb advises that you must invent the experiences that fit your market, service product, and customer types. Not sure of your audience(s)? Create a one-sentence mission statement that is powerful and to the point.  It should define the foundation for why you are in business.  

The author writes about an experience he had staying at a luxury hotel in San Jose, California.  At the extravagant price he was charged, he expected an extraordinarily high level of service.  He was disappointed with several things:

  • He found a plastic card informing him that he would be paying $29.99 a night for internet service (most B&B inns offer free wireless internet)
  • There was a large Evian bottle with a card hanging from its neck reading, “Enjoy this for $19.95” (B&B inns are known for giving their guests access to free refreshments and goodies)
  • On the back of the remote there was a sticker warning him that if he stole the remote, he would be charged for it (given the unlikelihood of a “remote-control heist”, he said he would forgo the label that insults a customer’s integrity)

Webb points out that when your customers love you, they will buy more and stay longer all while referring their friends and family to stay with you.  However, if you deliver only what your customers expect, Webb states that you will lose your guests to a competitor that wows them.  The “innovation zone” is where you begin to exceed your customers’ expectations.  The better you get at this, the further you will rise.  

What gets even better is that your customers will become your marketing machines through social media and word of mouth and you will rapidly build a reputation as the best place to stay in your local area.  Satisfied customers will nurture you with sales, repeat visits, referrals, and incredibly powerful ratings on social media as well as through digital sharing.  

Nicholas Web reminds us that acquiring new guests is much more expensive than keeping current guests.  That is why we should deliver exceptional and relevant experiences to build an excellent reputation across all touch points and to all customer types.  

If your price is less than the value customers expect, you will increase sales as well as happy customers.  However, if the price exceeds the value customers expect to receive from you, they will leave in droves.  

As you begin to distinguish between customer types, your perspective on how you view customer expectations changes. You can see the world through your customers’ eyes, including what they love and what they hate.  

You customers can clue you in to areas that need improvement and tell you how to improve them, which allows you to provide the most exceptional and relevant experiences.  Reward your guests who present ideas on how to improve their experience at various touchpoints.  If customers leave because they are not being properly served, your hospitality business eventually fails.  

Mr. Webb advocates for collaboration with people in your same industry since it can add to greater mutual prosperity through an exchange of ideas, experiences, and skills.  This explains why bed and breakfast inn associations are a great resource.  There is strength in coming together as fellow proprietors who want to offer the best hospitality possible.  

Your customers can do a complete background search on your business literally in seconds. To stay on top of your business reputation, Nicholas recommends using Google Alerts on keywords that are relevant to your business name, industry, and competition.

Put together a contest encouraging people to specify what they love and what they hate in overnight accommodations.  Reward prizes to the top three people who offer most helpful suggestions (such as a free night’s stay or free room upgrade during their next visit).  

Mr. Webb gives practical tips for making an upset customer (guest) a lifelong guest in five easy steps:

  • State to the customer that you intend to listen to them and work hard to make them happy.
  • Know that sometimes you just need to remain quiet while the customer releases steam and talks about why they are upset (if you listen carefully, you can learn what will make them happy).
  • Confirm with them that you heard them correctly by restating it back to them and asking if that is correct.
  • Offer a solution based on what you learned from carefully listening.
  • Follow up on the mistake to make sure you met with their approval (this shows them that making the situation right was a priority for you & your inn).

Great organizations love their customers and want them to be happy.  Businesses get better when companies get better.  Constantly look for ways to reinvent the customer experience by removing pain and adding pleasure.  

Always leave your guests wanting more!  Continue to provide exceptional service throughout their stay.  Customer experiences are not just one event, but a series of events.  Think of your last touch as a way to prove to your guests that you love and cherish the relationship.  Then continue the relationship by offering personal, relevant, and valuable information on your website, in social media, and in e-newsletters.  

Providing excellent service is vital to those in the hospitality industry.  Mr. Webb stated that one of his clients who operates high-end lodges and resort hotels started having team members take pictures of the guests throughout their stay and a few weeks after guests returned home, they would receive a complimentary and beautifully bound photo album ($40) delivered to them (for less than $20).  Annual re-bookings increased by 78%!

What’s more is that hundreds of customers posted the pictures on their social media which resulted in a 20% uptick in new bookings because of this practice.  Today, guests are also sent a digital photo album to make it easier for them to share their photos on influential social networks.  This proved to be a fabulous idea well worth the investment because of the additional business (from returning guests and new guests).

Taking Mr. Nicholas Webb’s advice, we should discover what our guests love and what they hate.  Of course, this depends upon who we are trying to attract.  What types of guests stay at your B&B?  Are these your ideal guests?  What do your ideal guests love and what do they hate?   Keep track of all of your ideas, brainstorm with employees or others in your industry, and listen to your guests, so you can know what your guests really crave.

Catapult Your Business Growth with Gift Cards

Did you know you can catapult your business growth with gift cards?  Bed and breakfast gift cards work well for both innkeepers and guests.  Individual inns as well as B&B associations offer gift cards or gift certificates for purchase. The North Carolina Bed and Breakfast Inns (NCBBI) makes their gift certificates available in $50 increments and guests can use them at any of their member inns.  

Special Occasions for Gift Cards:

  • Anniversaries
  • Birthdays
  • Employment appreciations
  • Holiday gifts
  • Honeymoons
  • Retirements
  • Surprising a loved one
  • Thanking a friend

Make sure you clearly communicate the the terms and conditions of your gift certificates and gift cards to those who purchase them.  You may restrict guests from using their gift certificates in combination with other offers, additional discounts, or third-party promotions.  Your place of hospitality may also exclude their use for group services including accommodations and catering for weddings and other large functions.

Be sure to state in writing that all property specific policies, including deposit, minimum stay, and cancellation policies still apply.  You may want to add that no blackout dates apply. If there is an expiration date, please state that directly on the gift certificate.  Give guests the option of allowing money left over to be put toward future stays.  

Consider offering a discount on your gift certificates or gift cards during the holidays.  Promote that they make great presents for those who are difficult to shop for!

Reasons Why We Should All Love Gift Cards:

  • Gift card recipients have the freedom to choose when they visit (as long as it is before it expires), the reason for their stay (they could save it for their birthday or anniversary), and even their choice of which inn (in the case of B&B association gift cards)
  • Gift givers do not have the usual stress involved in choosing a gift especially for the hard-to-shop-for people in your life
  • Saves time (no need for givers to drive all over the map to find the perfect gift and these are great for last-minute shoppers)
  • Saves money (givers decide the amount you want to give and stay within their budget)

If your inn or association offers gift cards or gift certificates, be sure to dedicate a web page to provide information and list all the necessary details.  Allow people to purchase your gift cards or certificates directly from your website.  Be sure to promote your gift certificates in blog posts (with their permission, share stories about guests who used gift cards).  Don’t forget that social media is a great place to announce that your inn offers gift cards.  Gift cards are a great way to catapult your B&B business growth!

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

Shatter the Disastrous Myths About Bed and Breakfasts

It is time to shatter the disastrous myths about bed and breakfasts. There are a handful of reporters recently who have published stories that seem to be more about their own awkward hang-ups than about having real issues with where they stayed. Also, most of their disappointments could have been prevented through simple actions like looking at the accommodations’ website and reading guest reviews before their booking rooms.

Most bed and breakfasts are NOT about staying at grandma’s house with doilies. While some bed and breakfasts are located in historic mansions, that does not mean they have thin walls, squeaky bed frames, and creaky floors. Many of those inns have been painstakingly returned to their original glory with added insulation (if needed), restored or new furniture, and repaired or refinished flooring.

99% of bed and breakfasts offer private, connected bathrooms for their guests to use. Bed and breakfasts with good websites always show pictures of their guest rooms and bathrooms and even specify which amenities come with each of their rooms. Hotels are not the only ones with private balconies, sitting areas, gardens, pools, restaurants, and gift shops. There are plenty of inns offering these same luxuries.

Bed and breakfasts are always unique. Every inn is different and offers its own special personality and experiences. Guests choose bed and breakfasts based on its location, style, local attractions, and personal preferences. Bed and breakfast inns can come in a wide variety of types to choose from, including:

  • scenic mountain bed and breakfasts
  • modern boutique inns
  • bed and breakfast farms
  • pet-friendly inns
  • B&B retreats for authors or artists
  • bed and breakfasts on the water
  • environmentally friendly inns
  • bed and breakfasts in secluded locations
  • kid-friendly inns

There is a reason why they are called bed and breakfasts. Hotels often offer “continental” breakfasts that leave much to be desired. Innkeepers often have culinary training as well as a natural talent and passion for cooking. Many bed and breakfasts accommodate guests on restricted diets.

Preferably while booking your room, be sure to indicate any food allergies or dietary guidelines. Whether you are on a gluten-free, dairy-free, low cholesterol, reduced fat, no sugar added, vegan, or vegetarian diet, bed and breakfast chefs can make something you will enjoy eating that does not compromise those standards.

You do NOT have to have conversations with other guests if you feel like keeping to yourself. There is no “dreaded obligation” to have small talk with strangers. At breakfast time, many inns offer tables for two or even in-room dining. It is less common for there to be one common breakfast table for all the guests to sit at. This is a win-win for shy and outgoing guests as well as perky and not-so-perky guests. You can seek interaction or keep to yourself. It is completely up to you!

Innkeepers want to provide their guests with the best hospitality experience possible. Bed and breakfast staff do not try to “hover” over their guests. They remain attentive (they are there if you need them) yet not intrusive (they give you space and privacy). They respect their guests’ wishes for peace and quiet. Some places offer private entrances, separate cottages or guest houses.

Bed and breakfasts are a great value. They offer free breakfast, free parking, and complimentary refreshments. Most offer free wireless internet and some have free DVD libraries and even provide free streaming video services like Netflix. Hotels charge extra for these things. There is no such thing as “free room service” at hotels.

If you like impersonal and stuffy hotel chains, then maybe bed and breakfast inns are not for you. However, many of you (if you have not already) will visit a bed and breakfast inn and never go back to staying at hotels!  

Owners and innkeepers, are you looking to improve your online marketing results?  Want to educate potential guests about what makes your inn more appealing than your local competition? Bed and breakfast blogging offers professional services including blogging, e-mail marketing, social media, and reputation management.  Don’t have time or don’t know where to start? Contact Kristi today for a free consultation!

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

How To Promote Staycations at Your Bed and Breakfast

As you may know, “staycations” are vacations spent at home or nearby.  Have you promoted your nearby bed and breakfast to locals in your community?  This is a great target market.  Best of all, you are a “local” promoting your business to other locals.

The Victoria, a bed and breakfast in Bentonville, Arksansas,  lists four great reasons for locals in their community to stay at their bed and breakfast:

  • Less planning is necessary (since you know your local community and you can even go back home if you forgot something important)
  • Much more affordable (plane rides and car rentals are not necessary)
  • Get to know everything your area has to offer (such as its museums, gardens, and other tourist attractions)
  • Vacation at a more relaxed pace (a great alternative to stressful, activity-filled vacations far away from home)

According to The Project: Time Off Coalition, more than half of American workers (55%) left vacation time unused in 2015. This adds up to 658 million unused vacation days! Ironically, their data also showed that employees who take 10 or fewer days of vacation time are less likely to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years than those who took 11 days or more.  

This is where owners and innkeepers of bed and breakfast inns can come in.  You could put together your own staycation package that could include tickets to local area attractions and gift certificates to local restaurants. 

The Bridgeton House in the New Hope area of Pennsylvania offers a “Savory Staycation Package” that includes:

  • A welcoming wine and cheese upon arrival
  • Afternoon tea featuring a wonderful selection of homemade sweets and savories each day of your stay
  • A multi-course made to order breakfast each day of your stay
  • Their fireside basket dinner for 2 inclusive of a bottle of wine (choice of red, white or sparkling cider)

You can promote your package in a number of effective ways:

  • On a web page that lists your specials and guest packages
  • In a blog post that discusses the benefits of staycations and details your package
  • Share the information in social media (including Facebook and Twitter)
  • Since you are attracting local area guests, how about putting a sign outside your inn announcing your staycation package?  This can attract those who pass by.
  • Partner with local business owners to promote your staycation package (such as local attractions and restaurants)
  • Share this information with your local tourism board and local press
  • Volunteer at a local nonprofit or sponsor a local event in your community for word of mouth advertising

Since you know what your specific local area offers, you can customize your staycation package to fit your community.  It is becoming increasingly popular to “shop local” as well.

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

Reach More Success By Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Reach more success by applying the lessons found in the new book, Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge, and Build Confidence by Andy Molinksky, Ph.D. Professor Molinsky teaches psychology and organizational behavior at Brandeis University.  

He starts out by asking how many of us have avoided opportunities that could have potentially led to real growth and development?  I would say all of us have shied away from doing something because we felt it was outside of our comfort zone.  

So what makes us hesitate to do things?  We have a tendency to avoid what makes us uncomfortable. Molinsky lists five challenges to overcome in order to step outside your comfort zone, rise to the challenge, and build your confidence:

  • Authenticity challenge: it may feel unnatural to you do this, but the more you do it the easier it will be
  • Likeability challenge: you fear that others won’t like you; don’t let what others think of you prevent you from doing something that will lead to your own improvement
  • Competence challenge: you fear you don’t have the skills or that you won’t be good at it; remember we are our own worst critic!
  • Resentment challenge: you are annoyed that you have to adapt your behavior; focus on what you are trying to accomplish and the annoyances will fade away 
  • Morality challenge: you may feel unethical (the example the author gives is that of a pediatrician who regrets seeing babies cry when he/she is injecting them with necessary vaccines to protect their long term health)

Molinsky details the following solutions:

  • Conviction: have a deep sense of purpose that it is necessary to make these changes; focus on how this behavior is actually helping 
  • Customization: change the way you do it so that it is more comfortable for you
  • Clarity: take an honest account of your likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses 
  • Take the leap: when you willingly take the leap, you will discover that this isn’t so bad and this will reduce your anxiety and make you more likely to take leaps in the future; the more you do it, the more your anxiety diminishes

Possible examples of how these solutions can be applied to the bed and breakfast inn-keeping world:

  • Conviction: you may decide to focus on how your excluding guests under 12 is helping you cater to your adult guests who visit for a romantic getaway
  • Customization: you may decide the best way to prepare for the next morning’s breakfast is to have your guests check or circle a designated # of items from a list of food choices (ex: French toast or pancakes or waffles) when they check in
  • Clarity: you may realize that it is worth the extra money to employ a housekeeper so you can focus on what you like and do best
  • Take the leap: when you speak to potential guests over the phone, the more often you talk about your inn’s custom packages, the easier and more natural it will become to regularly mention them in future phone calls (and more revenue should come as a result)

While innkeepers are known for being warm, gracious, and outgoing, there are always more things we can do to step outside of our comfort zone.  Innkeepers, how did stepping outside your comfort zone improve your bed and breakfast inn business?  Please feel free to comment below.  

The Four Doors Of Innkeeping

The Four Doors of Innkeeping is based on the book “The Four Doors: A Guide to Joy, Freedom and a Meaningful Life” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Richard Paul Evans.  There are more than 17 million copies of his books in print worldwide, translated in more than 24 languages.

Door #1: Believe There’s a Reason You Were Born

Never underestimate the power of belief. Not only is there a reason you were born, but there is a reason that you are an innkeeper.  Just like teachers with their students, you will never know the amount of lives you touch for the better as you host and serve your bed and breakfast guests.  Remember that as you extend warm hospitality to each of them.  

Door #2: Free Yourself from Limitations

Most of our greatest learning experiences (and successes) come because of adversity (and failures). Everyone has problems.  It’s how we deal with them that matters. If you had to deal with (or are in the process of overcoming) zoning issues, renovation problems, or even a public relations nightmare, you can come out better on the other side.

Door #3: Magnify Your Life

Dreaming is the first step to making our lives greater.  Ask yourself, “What if…?” Be willing to take risks. We should use our talents and gifts to make more out of our lives.  This could mean that in addition to running a bed and breakfast inn, that you may add a restaurant, a gift shop, or even a spa.  

Door #4: Develop a Love-Centered Map

Love is the secret to joy.  The greatest source of happiness comes from giving and receiving love.  Love is what love does.  We develop love through service.  Love is both the destination and the journey.  As you appropriately love your guests, they will come become repeat visitors as well as spread by word of mouth (and hopefully online reviews) their enjoyable experience as your guests.

The author reminds us that we have a choice to live a more abundant life, a life of joy, freedom, and meaning.  We can improve our lives by opening these 4 doors. Feel free to comment below about how these 4 doors relate to you and your innkeeping experiences.

Early Inn at the Grove in Rocky Mount, VA


Early Inn at the Grove B&B Outside

The Early Inn at the Grove in Rocky Mount, Virginia offers luxurious accommodations for its guests.  The house, known as “the Grove” to all of the locals, was built and finished in 1854. There have been 3 families that have resided in this house until it was purchased in December of 2013 with the intent to turn it into a bed and breakfast.

The house is a Greek Revival Style house. It rests on 10 plus acres full of beautiful trees including ancient oaks, some of which were planted by the second owner in 1900.

Innkeeper Keri Jackson loves welcoming guests to this delightful inn.  Famous guests who have stayed at the Early Inn include comedienne Paula Poundstone and The Bacon Brothers band (and Keri did serve bacon to Kevin Bacon)!

Early Inn Innkeeper Keri

The Early Inn offers five elegantly decorated rooms:

Early Inn General Early Suite

General Early Suite

At one time, Jubal Early slept here.  He had his Law office at the foot of the property.  The General Early Suite celebrates the confederate soldier who served as a general.  His sister was married to the first wife of the original owner of the house.  Decorated in browns and burgundy, this room has a private connecting bathroom with shower.  The only downstairs bedroom. Be first in line for coffee and stay in the General’s suite. This is a very cozy, comfortable room.

 

Early Inn Wanderlust Room

The Wanderlust Room

 

Luxuriously decorated, you will feel pampered during your stay here in this room. Decorated in grays and blues, this room looks out over into the side yard.  The beautiful landscape will keep you wanting to stay forever.  The new King mattress, Comphy bedding and blankets, bluetooth radios and your own climate controlled ceiling fan will leave you feeling pampered and refreshed.

 

Early Inn Harvester Suite

The Harvester Suite

This room, decorated with the colors of a harvest, remind you of fall.  The oranges and browns bring you a peacefulness and such a sense of tranquility that you will not want to leave.  This room has 2 Queen beds. The view out the window not only shows you the walkway from a time back in history, you can actually see the Harvester Performance Center doors.  Definitely within walking distance, you will be able to walk right over to see a show.

 

Early Inn Magnolia Suite

The Magnolia Suite

 

When you think of romance, think of Magnolias and ruffles.  This room is beautiful!  With original floral wallpaper from the 1980’s, you feel like you have taken a walk back into a simpler time.  You will not need to leave your room.  The bathroom hosts a soaking tub as well as a double shower.  The King size bed boasts comfort and beauty. You will definitely want to try out this room.

 

Early Inn Conspiracy Suite

The Conspiracy Suite

Was it a conspiracy?  If you want to know, check into this room and settle in with a copy of previous owner Keister Greer’s book, “The Moonshine Conspiracy Trial of 1935.”  This room gives you spectacular views of the front and side yards.  Decorated in blues and browns, this room hosts a connected bathroom with a shower.  This room has a king size bed, two chairs and a small table.  Individual temperature controls along with a ceiling fan ensure that you are comfortable at all times.

 

My husband and I loved our stay at Early Inn at the Grove in Rocky Mount, Virginia. This historic estate has maintained all of its charm yet is equipped with modern day technology including free Wi-Fi for its guests and flat screen televisions in each of their five bedrooms.

Whether you want to get married inside the inn (perhaps in their elegant library) or outside (near the large tent with its own dance floor), the Early Inn hosts weddings. The Early Inn also host private parties such as luncheons for class reunions, baby showers, and anniversaries.

While Innkeeper Keri Jackson was attending Floydfest, we enjoyed her delicious French Toast casserole. Nacasha took care of us during our stay.  She has a friendly, easygoing personality and she makes guests feel right at home.  Guests rave about Keri’s hospitality and so much more on TripAdvisor.

The town of Rocky Mount offers antiques, artwork, and awesome entertainment at the Harvester (which is right across the street from the inn). We recommend that guests also visit the nearby Kupkakery Bakery & Kafe as well as the relaxing Vintage Spa.

We look forward to coming again soon to the Early Inn at the Grove in Rocky Mount, Virginia.  Would you like your inn featured in this blog?  Please contact Kristi Dement of Bed and Breakfast Blogging.

The Perfect Bed and Breakfast Books For Your Happy Guests


Unique Angles Photography presents this image of an inn that offers a great selection of books for their guests to read.

Offer the perfect bed and breakfast books for your happy guests who love to read. Your bed and breakfast may house a small library or even a parlor or study with a large selection of books on your shelves.  If you are wondering what kind of books to make available, the following are some great suggestions:

  • Architecture: for readers interested in building and architectural styles
  • Arts and Photography: people love to look at art and photography, including books from your local museum
  • Biographies: especially of any legends about the people who live in your town or former tenants of your home or anyone famous in your area
  • Business: business travelers will appreciate books on business topics such as leadership
  • Computers and Technology:  including books about social media
  • Cooking: people may be looking for a new recipe–especially if it is your cookbook (that you have for sale)!
  • Crafts and Hobbies: scrapbooking enthusiasts as well as those who have other hobbies will like these types of books
  • Fiction: particularly if the setting in the book is in your local area or at a bed and breakfast inn, novels may really be attractive to your guests
  • Flora and fauna: for the garden lovers, horticultural experts, biologists, and green thumbs
  • Guidebooks: for guests who want to get to know your area and its attractions
  • Health and fitness: this could include books about eating and exercising
  • History books: many people love to read about history (especially the history of your location)
  • Home decorating: people who stay in bed and breakfasts usually appreciate home decor, art, and antiques
  • Humor and entertainment: these include humorous books by comedy professionals
  • Literature: classic literature lovers will be delighted to see books by Shakespeare or Jane Austen
  • Mystery, thriller, and suspense: Mary Daheim has a series of bed and breakfast mysteries that could interest your guests
  • Relationships: such as improving communication skills
  • Romance: keys to keeping the romance alive
  • Science fiction and fantasy: including time travel and virtual worlds
  • Sports and outdoors: books based on what guests can do at your inn such as fishing, hunting, golfing, skiing, and more
  • Success books: people love reading about having success, achieving more, and reaching their dreams
  • Travel:  books specific to your local area or your state will help guests make choices on what to do during their stay

You need not spend a lot of money if you do not already have a wide collection of books.There are plenty of good used bookstores and even yard sales that sell them.

Having good reading material for your guest helps them remember their stay at your bed and breakfast even more fondly.  See the B&B Books listed for a great selection of Bed and Breakfast related books!

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

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