How to deal with complaints about your holiday let

If you’ve set up your Cornish holiday home properly, painted the right picture in your marketing, maintained standards in the property, and have the paperwork in order, there’s no reason why you should receive any complaints about your holiday let. But because things can and do go wrong (and there’s no pleasing some people, ever!), you will probably run into troubled waters at some point. In this article, we look at ways of lessening the grounds for complaint and how to deal with complaints when they crop up.

Prepare for the best possible outcome

One of the best ways of dealing with complaints about your holiday let is to do everything you can to make sure guests have no grounds for them. If you do your homework and prepare a perfect stay it’s far less likely that a) you’ll have to deal with any problems and that b) you’ll receive a negative review.

Top tip – go the extra mile in preparing your holiday let but accept that some people are never happy.

Keep it realistic

Make sure all your marketing describes your holiday home exactly as it is. Don’t embellish text, invent equipment or exaggerate local attractions. Avoid words like luxury or boutique so you don’t create false expectations (not everyone has the same definition for what’s luxury and what’s not). Keep the photoshopping of your pictures to a minimum – add light to your photos but keep them real. And if it’s a good walk to the beach – say over 40 minutes – don’t say it’s on the doorstep.

Top tip – keep your guests’ expectations realistic so your holiday let lives up to them.

shopping for bedding

Keep it all tiptop

Before new guests arrive, make sure the property is in perfect condition. Always run through this checklist:

  • Check it’s spotlessly clean – one of holidaymakers’ biggest grips is poor cleanliness in a holiday let. Make sure yours is sparkling for every single visit.
  • Check all appliances are working – test them all between visits and repair or replace any that are faulty.
  • Check for wear and tear – buy new bed linen and towels often; replace chipped or cracked crockery and glassware; replenish supplies of dishwasher tablets, firewood, toiletries…

Top tip – compile a checklist of things to look at and go through it with a fine tooth comb before every new visit.

cancellation agreement

Keep it in writing

Set up a streamlined booking process with as much in writing as possible so that both parties have access to a record of what has been booked, when and how. Make sure your holiday let agreement includes clear cancellation and refund policies, and that guests are fully aware of these. Answers questions and queries as fully as you can and show you’re happy to help.

Get off to a good start

Make sure your guests start their holiday in the best possible way by:

meet and greetMeeting and greeting – arrange to meet guests on arrival to hand over the keys and explain the basics of the holiday let to them. If you can’t do it yourself, delegate to someone you can trust to do it well. Alternatively use a key safe and leave an obvious welcome note or welcome pack for them to digest with their first cuppa.

Long Cove Visitor Book

Long Cove Visitor Book

Welcome book – make sure your welcome book includes instructions on how the appliances work and where to find things. Add information about nearby amenities – if the local shop closes early, let guests know where they can find alternatives.

Be in contact – have someone on hand 24/7 to deal with queries or problems for the guests. Make sure contact details are clearly marked at the beginning of the welcome book.

Tip top – make a stay at your holiday home as straightforward as possible from the first booking enquiry to key return.

How to deal with complaints

But however well you prepare your holiday let, you’re never going to please everyone all of the time. It’s also a fact of life that things happen through no one’s fault. It’s therefore almost inevitable that you’ll find yourself facing a complaint at some point.

Perhaps the hardest part of a complaint is the negative reflection on your holiday home. After all, we all glow from compliments and bask in the good comments, but the other side of the coin isn’t so shiny. It’s easy take a complaint personally and succumb to the temptation to fight back rather than take it at face value.

First steps

  • Take a deep breath – approach the matter calmly.
  • Act professionally – remember your holiday let is a business, not a hobby.
  • Listen carefully – 9 times out of 10 the complaint will be genuine. It may also be spoiling your guests’ holiday.
  • Acknowledge the complaint – ask for as many details as possible and reassure your guests that you are going to do something about it.
  • Act promptly – do something about the problem as soon as you possibly can and preferably within 24 hours.
  • Keep them in the loop – provide regular updates on what you’re doing to solve the problem.

Top tip – deal with every complaint professionally in a calm and collected manner.

When to offer a refund

Sometimes dealing with a complaint about your holiday home is simply a case of replacing a microwave or fixing a broken tap. But problems aren’t always quick and easy to solve and you may find yourself in a situation where the complaint is affecting your guests’ enjoyment of their holiday. In this case, you may need to offer a refund as follows:

Gesture of goodwill – if your guests have to incur expenses because of something not working as it should in your holiday let, it’s a good idea to refund these expenses. For example, if there’s a power cut and they can’t cook dinner you could offer to pay for a meal in a nearby establishment.

Partial refund – if your guests are unable to get full enjoyment from your holiday home, you could offer to refund some of the price of the let. Good examples of this scenario include the hot tub not working or noise from nearby building work preventing them from using the balcony. Use your judgement to decide how much to refund and visit the property yourself to assess the situation first-hand.

Full refund – certain situations warrant a full refund. These include a double booking or if the guests are forced to leave during their stay because of the problem, for example, flooding or a prolonged power cut.

Top tip – make sure guests are aware of your refund policy by stating it clearly in your rental agreement.

No refund at all

You aren’t always obliged to make a refund – some guests’ complaints simply don’t qualify for money back. You don’t have to refund in the following circumstances:

Complaint is unfounded or subjective – if the guest complains about something that isn’t wrong with the property, for example, the pillows are too soft or the kettle takes a long time to boil.

Complaint has nothing to do with the holiday let – guest gripes about the weather or lack of restaurant choice in the town.

Complaint not reported – you cannot be expected to solve a problem if you don’t know about it.

Complaint reported after guests leave – again, you can’t solve something you’re not aware of. If it’s genuine, however, do fix it for the next lot of guests.

online review website

Dealing with complaints online in holiday letting reviews

Getting a complaint by phone is one thing but finding a complaint about your holiday let online is a completely different kettle of fish. From a one-to-one scenario you have moved to the global stage. However, you should respond to negative criticism online just as you do in person.

Keep your response calm and collected, and above all polite. Apologise for any inconvenience and explain what you did to solve the problem. If you weren’t aware of the problem, say so and if you refunded money, say so too. Don’t be afraid of stating all the facts whomever was at fault but avoid confrontation and insulting the guest. If possible, write a draft reply and ask someone else to have a look at it before you post it.

Top tip – take a long hard look at a negative review or complaint and ask yourself if it’s justified. If it is, use it to improve your property for future guests.

Bring in the experts

At Cornish Traditional Cottages we’ve been helping holiday home owners get the very best out of their properties for themselves and their guests when things go right and when they go wrong. Find out how we can help you too – get in touch now.