It's peak season. Two groups of renters have come and gone from your vacation home without incident. With no warning, inclement weather rears its ugly head at group three. You receive an incensed phone call. The renters have checked weather.com, the local news station, and talked to their friend Tom, who happens to be a meteorologist, and they know the weather is only going to get worse. They are fed up, and they are leaving. What do you do?
Bad WeatherUnfortunately, weather is one of the most common complaints we receive. Largely, this is because the weather is both uncontrollable and unpredictable. Therefore, it should be communicated in the rental agreement that unsatisfactory weather will not result in refunds. Specifically, you should be sure you have an “Act of God” clause in your rental agreement. While this clause will not help appease an angry renter whose vacation was ruined due to unforeseen bad weather, it will provide you with firm ground to stand on when securing your business transaction.
That being said, there are many ways you can be a considerate homeowner before treacherous weather hits. In the case of a major disaster, call your guests to discuss their concerns or, if need be, any evacuation procedures. Also, be a proactive owner. Call all guests with reservations up to two weeks from the start of a natural disaster. While you may not know much more than they do, they will likely be very grateful you called, especially if they are just seeking reassurance and comfort. Additionally, especially if you don't have any concrete information, working out a plan in advance and engaging your guests in dialogue is always a good way to mitigate “unhappy-renter-itis” down the road.
You may want to deflect any requests for refunds until you are certain your area is in the path of a storm during your guests' stay. Since inclement weather can adversely affect anyone, encourage your renters to purchase travel insurance. It will cover them in the event that weather disrupts their perfectly planned vacation and leave you in the clear.
Your guests are crabby and tired from a long day of traveling. They arrive at your quaint villa and breathe a sigh of relief when they see that it is even more charming than it looked from the photos. They find the keys. Excited and expectant they open the door. Their relief quickly turns to anxiety: they see crumpled towels on the floor, dirty dishes in the sink, and a smelly trash bag in the kitchen. Frustrated and confused they call you. What now?
In this scenario, you should send your housekeeper over immediately to rectify the situation. If he/she is unavailable, you should contact your back-up, or if you don't one, then you should call a neighbor and get the number for their housekeeper. While the house is being cleaned, send your guests out to dinner on you. If no housekeeper is available, you may have a sticky situation on your hands.
Since cleanliness is by far the most common guest complaint, we recommend several safeguards. First, you should communicate very specific cleanliness standards to your housekeeper. View our Sample Cleaning Checklist to see a comprehensive list of everything your housekeeper should clean between guests. Since everyone's perception of cleanliness differs, you cannot afford to leave any ambiguity when it comes to informing your cleaning service of your expectations.
Second, you should establish a check-in policy for your guests. A typical policy instructs renters to check for cleanliness upon their arrival and report any dissatisfaction to the owner or the housekeeper (or both) immediately. For this reason, it's important to make both your and your housekeeper's contact information readily available to renters. If you have a check-in policy and your guests fail to notify you of their frustration, you are not at fault. You can't fix a problem that you don't know about; just make sure that the policies in your rental agreement are clear.
An especially nice touch is a courtesy call upon check-in. Oftentimes, conscientious renters might feel bad about bothering an owner to complain, even if they are clearly in the right. If you call to make sure that everything meets your guests' expectations, you will likely have an opportunity to make their stay more enjoyable — especially if they didn't feel comfortable calling you to complain. This will only pay dividends in the future.
Since you put in so much time and effort, you likely have a lot of pride in your vacation rental home(s). Knowing how to effectively handle guest complaints and viewing them as constructive criticism will only earn you goodwill and more positive reviews in the future. Complaints are an opportunity for you to prove your responsiveness and dedication to your business and your renters. Spending a little extra time to resolve guest complaints now will help convince repeat renters that yours is the only rental where they want to spend future vacations.
© Copyright HomeAway, Inc. 2006