No matter how hard you try it is possible that a holiday cottage guest will be unhappy with some aspect of their stay and, as I mentioned in my earlier blog, the very last thing you want is a negative review.

From my previous hospitality career, experience has taught me many things regarding the general public and about handling their complaints.  Firstly, you need to establish what the real complaint is – an unhappy guest might send you a long list of problems some of which might not be relevant or fair so try to identify what the real problem is.  Once you’ve done that and IF there is a real problem, you can then decide how to proceed.

Here’s a made up example –

‘When we arrived there were flies buzzing around the kitchen, the cottage was too small and the noise from the street kept us awake at night. It was a bitterly cold weekend and we were unable to have a hot bath as the water only ran lukewarm.  We also didn’t appreciate having to park down the road as we were never able to find a car space outside the cottage.’

These would be my thoughts –

Flies in the kitchen – On turnaround days ( with guests departing and arriving ) you always open windows and doors to ‘air’ the cottage and sometimes a fly will get in which can’t be helped and is beyond your control.

The cottage is small – From the photos and wording your guests should have realised the cottage was small when they made their booking, words like ‘cosy’ set the scene.

Noise from the road – Unless your property is in the countryside and you are promoting a rural escape break, you are going to experience some traffic noise – again, it’s beyond your control.

Luke warm water – This may be a justified complaint so this is what I’d focus on when talking to my guests and I’d take the necessary steps to avoid a repetition by getting the hot water supply checked.

Parking down the road – Unless you have listed the cottage having it’s own car space, guests should not expect to be able to park directly outside the cottage.

Things like a broken boiler so no heating or hot water, a blocked loo, the oven won’t work etc.,  these are all genuine complaints and guests should bring these to the owners attention immediately thus allowing the owner time to contact a suitable person to rectify the problem ASAP  and, as a result, cause as little inconvenience to their guest’s stay as possible.

I once had a water leak in the kitchen at 10 pm on New Year’s Eve – I felt awful as my guest’s celebrations were disrupted so didn’t hesitate in calling a 24 hour emergency plumber who rectified the problem within an hour of my call. For me, it was an expensive evening but my guests were barely inconvenienced and were totally understanding of the problem and very appreciative of my quick response.

So, your guests have complained and you feel it is a justified complaint, how do you respond ?

Well, firstly ALWAYS apologise no matter how big or small the problem is.  If the problem has caused little inconvenience I would perhaps drop round with a bottle of wine or chocolates or flowers. If it was a serious complaint which could escalate if not handled sensitively, I would ask the guest ‘what can I do to make this right’ ? Some guests might ask for a small refund, say perhaps for one night’s stay. But, by asking them the question and hopefully agreeing, you are creating an opportunity for the problem to be quickly resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Remember, a justified bad review should be avoided at all costs,

If a guest writes a negative review online which you feel is unjustified, I would definitely respond giving your account of the situation, but word your response carefully.  If your previous reviews have all been mostly positive, future holiday guests will take this into account.