How to apologise to your bed and breakfast guestsFeb 01, 2022
In 17 years of running a B&B I did an awful lot of apologising to my guests. Looking back, it’s usually been dog, plumbing or smoke alarm related.
My old dog, Murphy, loved people a little too much...
There was the time when I opened the door to arriving guests; an elderly man and his wife.
Within seconds of me opening the front door, the woman was standing on our doorstep dressed in just her underwear and shoes from the waist down. Murphy was at her feet, trying to untangle himself from her elasticated skirt, which he’d pulled down in his enthusiasm.
And then the night when the smoke alarms were triggered in error at 2.30am. My husband, wearing just his dressing gown, had to climb a ladder to reset the ones in the bedroom, with the female guest, still under the covers, peering upwards.
“Please tell me you put some boxer shorts on” I said, when he returned to our bedroom….silence.
I had one set of repeat guests, for whom something always went wrong. One time it was the toilet cistern that wouldn’t stop filling.
I spent the 2 hours they were out at dinner in their bathroom, watching “How to fix a toilet” YouTube videos on the iPad and facetiming with my husband who was away for the night. I eventually solved it with a carefully placed rock from the garden.
One thing I’ve learned from this is the importance of a well timed apology, appropriate compensation and a plumber on speed dial.
Three steps to apologising to guests
Step #1 Prepare how you will apologise in advance
No one likes to think about things going wrong, but it’s much easier having a list of ready made apologies you can draw on when you’re face to face with an angry customer.
I believe it's important to try not to make excuses.
I cringe when I think of the time that a guest arrived at the door with a face like thunder.
She hadn't received her confirmation email with directions and accused me of not sending her one. My hackles were up and I tried to explain about SPAM folders / JUNK / Internet service providers blocking specific domains...
The more I tried to explain, the angrier she got. I didn't actually print off a screenshot of my sent email folder, clearly showing I had sent an email, and slip it under her door. But it was close.
It really wasn't my finest moment. But it was a great learning point. What I should have done was acknowledged the inconvenience to her, apologised and then done my best to make her stay a great one. You don't have to be right all of the time, Karen.
Step #2 Get the apology in before they have time to write a review
Don't wait for the customer to complain, or worse, write you a bad review.
When I ran my classroom courses, one of our local pubs was on my recommended accommodation list. They occasionally had problems with the plumbing, resulting in the course attendees not having any hot water for their morning shower.
Incidentally, running out of hot water is probably my most common reason for having to apologise to guests.
We do have a pressurised water system, which means that there should be copious amounts of mains pressure hot water for everyone.
However we have occasional blips: power cuts resetting the hot water timer, "someone" turning off the hot water between guests and forgetting to turn it back on, nearby lightning strike fusing the thermostat...
Back to the nearby pub. One set of course attendees were very grumpy about the lack of water and were all ready to write a bad review.
However the response of the staff completely turned them around.
"We're terribly sorry there was no hot water. That shouldn't have happened and we appreciate it impacted your stay. For this reason, we won't charge you for the dinner you had with us last night"
Yes, the hotel took a financial hit, but it's always a balance between that immediate loss of of income compared to long term loss of income due to a bad review.
Read my tips on how to respond to a negative review >> How to respond to a negative review at your bed and breakfast
Step #3 Offer compensation if it's appropriate
Decide if it’s appropriate to offer compensation and what level of compensation.
Sometimes an apology is enough and sometimes it needs a bit more.
It's a good idea, along with anticipating what might go wrong and how you will apologise, to decide when compensation is due and how much.
With the repeat guests and the ever filling toilet, I sent them away with a lemon drizzle and a set of toiletries. The guests who were woken with the smoke alarm were given 10% off their bill.
My biggest dilemma was when guests arrived with a very lovely springer spaniel, promising they'd keep it on lead because of the chickens. 5 minutes later they knocked on the door very sheepishly admitting the dog had got away from them and killed a chicken.
I spent their stay trying to make them feel better. On the last morning they arrived at breakfast saying they'd had no hot water. The woman wasn't very happy.
I then spent most of breakfast arguing with myself:
"you should give them money off"
"their dog killed your chicken"
" but there was no hot water, she wasn't happy"
"but their dog killed your chicken"....
And so it went on for 2 hours.
I finally decided to offer a discount. The husband point blank refused saying "But our dog killed your chicken"
Things going wrong and making mistakes is inevitable when you run a business - I've made 100's!
Don't let fear of making mistakes stop you starting the business you'd love to run. But by taking a bit of time upfront, there are steps you can put in place to avoid a lot of them, so that you can sit back, relax and enjoy running your B&B.
By understanding your customer's needs and having robust processes in place at your bed and breakfast, you are going to significantly reduce the number of times you have to say sorry to a guest.
Learn how to run a bed and breakfast your guests will love to return to here >> HOW TO RUN YOUR OWN SUCCESSFUL BED AND BREAKFAST
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