My wife and I recently took a trip to Maine. The seafood is amazing, we learned about lobster farming and had a great time visiting some of our clients in the area. As we visit our amazing innkeepers, with camera equipment in hand, we offer to take room pictures. I really enjoy these moments to meet some of our family of innkeepers in person and on location. Working with thousands of inns, it’s fun sharing ideas and comparing notes and trends.
Within one year Parsons Post House went from last on Trip Advisor (37th place) to first place
We had a wonderful visit at Parsons Post House in Ogunquit, Maine. During the photo shoot I really became impressed with Frank and Molly, the owners of Parsons. They had recently, almost on a whim, purchased the property while looking to buy a residence in Ogunquit. Both are entrepreneurs and leaders in their respective fields. They felt they could turn around the inn. The inn was outdated and ranked last in Ogunquit but it had potential. The location was right downtown with a view of the sea. But there are also 30+ other inns in Ogunquit, Maine so vying for business can be challenging.
They told us that within one year Parsons Post House went from last on Trip Advisor (37th place) to first place. This piqued my interest and it was easy to see how they had experienced so much success in just one season. While there are many things that Frank and Holly do very well, here are three things that stood out to me during my visit:
Inns have to be constantly refreshed
Over time even with all the repairing and replacing that is constantly done, inns often get stuck in an era. You can either embrace that era or update to the latest trend, but both still have to be “refreshed”. Refreshed means making your inn, or a room, or part of your inn feel like new again. It’s the new house smell and feeling.
As new owners Frank and Holly had every surface repainted, installed new carpets and redecorated the rooms with new beds and amenities. Parsons Post House now looks brand new inside and out. Some of the bathrooms still need to be renovated, as cash flow permits, but this lets you see a glimpse of the past. Instead of being a negative guests cheer them on for the amazing work that has been done.
One of the areas they wanted to “refresh” during the remodel was in improving the experience for “tech” travelers. In all their rooms they placed a central outlet where four devices can be plugged in. That saves guests from having to search, find, crawl under and plug into multiple outlets. This may even help with how many chargers are left behind.
Refreshing needs to be a continual process. During bad economic times refreshing can feel near impossible without getting a loan. Do what you can no matter how small. When money is short, more time and more elbow grease works pretty good.
In good times it’s extremely important to put money away for future improvements and for bad times. It’s easy to get sucked into expanding while neglecting refreshing. When the refresh/safety account is comfortably full, feel free to add more rooms.
Sincere positive energy is contagious
I don’t know what type of visitor dropped by the Parsons Post House but Frank greeted her like a long lost friend. I couldn’t tell if she had ever stayed at Parsons, was dropping by to see if she’d like to stay at a future date or was a door-to-door saleswoman. It didn’t matter to Frank. That’s how it should be.
Sincere positive energy is contagious. That visitor left with a smile, had a memorable experience and felt at ease. While there can be awkward moments, it’s the job of the business to put clients and potential clients at ease; not the other way around. Every interaction is a branding, sales and marketing opportunity.
While some guests just want to left alone, an energetic welcome in passing goes a long way. It often changes their whole perception of their stay. It could determine whether they return again in the future. Judge who is social and who is not and treat them accordingly but treat all with enthusiasm. If that’s not you, hire someone who has better natural energy.
Ironically, after Parsons my wife and I visited a neighboring bed and breakfast. Our nine year old daughter (who was not with us) has an American Doll with the same name as the inn. We took a picture of the sign and stopped in to meet the innkeeper and to learn more about the history of the inn. The innkeeper wasn’t around. The front desk worker was cordial but disengaged.
A lack of energy is also contagious but with none of the benefits. She took no interest in us and didn’t offer any insight about the bed and breakfast as we asked about the history and amenities. As we walked out the guests on the porch were wonderfully friendly and we learned about the inn through them. That’s backwards.
Automated Thank You E-mails
When Holly and Frank had purchased their inn they researched reservation systems and selected Reservation Nexus. During their initial setup their Red Carpet Professional at Reservation Nexus had created and enabled automatic thank you and welcome e-mails for them. These emails go out a few days before or after welcoming and thanking guests automatically and seamlessly.
In the automatic thank you e-mail we had included a link to rate Parsons Post House on TripAdvisor.com. This had been going out all year and where previously the number of reviews had been low and the number of positive reviews had been sparse, a flood of new positive reviews had come in. Parsons leaped from last to first in just one season on Trip Advisor.
By refreshing their inn, by treating their guests like family and by implementing automatic thank you e-mails, Frank and Holly hit a grand slam home run!
It’s important to offer a complete experience where the accommodations are continually refreshed and where guests are greeted with energy and enthusiasm. Merging the product (the property), with the person touch (you and your staff), with modern technology (reservation software) is not only extremely powerful, but needed to stay competitive and in business.
If you can’t afford to do much refreshing at this time, do what little you can. Always make sure you have great energy with your guests and with potential guests. Embrace technology that extends your personal touch like automatic thank you e-mails.
Guests stay at bed and breakfasts and inns for the experience. Let’s make it an wonderful memorable one like Frank and Holly.