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The great TripAdvisor debate – part two

2011 October 12

The TripAdvisor debate continues!

I have been threatened with TripAdvisor and told we will put a bad review up about your Country House and on any further forum we can find.  Why? Because their child had taken a biro pen and stabbed a wardrobe (making holes) and drawn all over it and the sofa, along with cutting the kitchen floor with a pair of scissors.  The client admitted they had done the damage but refused even make a contribution and told me it was their fault they had no control over their 5 year old child.  The classic other one is when on a very rare occasion, normally the busy weekends in the calendar, Beaulieu Auto Jumble, Bank Holiday, May bank holiday and half term the noise level is higher than any other time. One client may have been very ‘naughty’ and made a little noise coming in at 11 pm, probably due to a few glasses of wine and the following morning I am told if I do not reduce the bill they will put it on TripAdvisor and other review sites telling people what a lousy place to Leyland Country House is.  I am given no option but to reduce the bill.

Of course we do have the professional complainers few and far between but all the same to come with a very large Health Warning!  They complain before they have even seen the room!  It can start as early as at the front door! Or if we are very unlucky with a phone call on their way down insisting they have early entry while the previous client is still tucked up in bed having yet to check out!

I have never been rude or unpleasant to any client despite the fact that has not been the case from their side.  My children, have been shouted at by clients who are upset, so have my staff and so have I.  None of the things have been life threatening, mainly it has been because water bottles had been forgotten, a cork screw broke in the top of a top of wine bottle, easily removed by myself but not before my youngest son got verbally shouted at, wrong coloured toast or not quick enough to clear the tables.  It is all in a day’s work here and I tell  the staff to keep smiling it will all come out in the wash.  Clients who realise they have been rude apologise for their whole stay as they know they have been unreasonable. Others will never learn.

My heart jumps when I see the ‘Review Alert’ from TripAdvisor in my inbox, will it be good, bad or very ugly? So much is down to perception and on occasions nothing will be right for certain clients has their mind set is off kilter. Yes, we do make mistakes; I am always honest and I accept responsibility for everything we do wrong. We offer flowers, champagne, a bottle of wine, a free spa pass or a discount on the next visit. I am very glad to say it has only happened 4 times this year, but we have learnt from the experience and addressed all the issues in hand.

Having had a German couple stay who professed the English Breakfast we served was the best they had ever had.  I asked if they used a site called TripAdvisor, to which they replied, ‘NO!’ – because they said they have stayed at places where people had said on the review that they were dreadful and when you arrive it is beautiful.

I really do try incredibly hard to ensure every little detail is covered by myself and the girls that work for me. It is a tough job.  I am sure my staff love me (of course!) but my goodness they think I am a fusspot!  This is a tough market place and very difficult to stay in business in the present climate.  Do customers really wish to destroy high quality, professional and Great British establishments that we should be proud of and encourage to stay in business not critizise them within an inch of their businesses.  Please just have a chat with us, we will listen and your feed back is very much valued.  I really do not take much pleasure in doing Management responses on TripAdvisor, but if I do not other clients read it that we do not care.  My responses on TripAdvisor have become Legend and create great entertainment in my home town of Lymington.

Let’s all work together to make our British products the most wanted in the globe.  With this world recession also comes opportunity.  It is there all around us, if we have the best quality, the highest customer service and show the best of British we will win through this recession.

Thank you till next week,

Liese xx

 

The great TripAdvisor debate – part one

2011 October 12

The great return of the TripAdvisor debate!

Welcome back everyone to this week’s blog. Originally, I wished to speak about the internet and the effect it has had on our society.  Last week’s blog about teenagers, was meant to be about TripAdvisor, however like all of us I wrote an amazing article (of course!) and guess what? I forgot to save it, my computer switched itself off, gorgeous article lost forever! We have all been there I am sure.  Never mind onwards and upwards.  Having just read Nina Basset Blog about TripAdvisor I feel compelled to not only to back her up but try and ingratiate the public to see both sides of the debate.

TripAdvisor was only ever set up to assist back packers across undiscovered parts of the world, it was never intended for what it is now being used for.  I am all for review sites, they keep up standards, give a personal insight and allow the freedom of speech.  It also gives us a very interesting view of how the British public wish to complain.  Instead of being up front and discussing the imperfections at check out with the owners and managers they feel they have to resort to TripAdvisor to have anything done about it. This is not the case.

I don’t wish to speak out of turn, but any one of the top performing hotels and bed and breakfasts will support me, all issues are dealt with and in most cases can be resolved very quickly with a little bit of communication.  Due to the development of the internet and electronic age we are desperately depending on this virtual life to discuss basic matters that in the old days would have been sorted out in moments.  The Americans, the Germans, the Dutch, the Parisians, the Italians, the Russians, the Japanese, the Chinese and the Spanish in my experience have no trouble whatsoever telling you what they would like.  If they are not happy they say, giving us an opportunity to adapt to their needs and requirements. We want you to have the best time with us, it is our job to help you have a relaxing, enjoyable, exciting trip and experience what is on offer in our area so hopefully you return again.  I certainly do not wish to spend valuable time being taken away from my clients and business to sort out playground issues that so easily could have been resolved at the time.

I find it rather childish, unprofessional and disrespectful, to what in many cases, are very successful businesses that deserve to be commended not ‘beaten up’ by a very amateurish site listening to the woes and blows of customers that in many cases complain 3, 4 and 6 months later. Complaining 3-4 months after you stayed somewhere?  Surely if it was that bad you get right down to the job in hand! It seems not.

What is this all about?  Have they had a bad day at the office?  Somebody else has annoyed them? Gone off the person they live with because they have become grumpy, bad tempered and constantly rowing with their loved one? Money is tight and now the credit card bill has come in and their beautiful stay is a distance memory never to return!

As so beautifully put by Nina, we have to deal with pictures that just ‘jumped off the wall’ and smashed on the floor, sinks that have flooded and come through the ceiling because of one too many delicious glasses of champers and I forgot to switch the taps off, red wine infested rooms due to a disagreement between a couple, verbal abuse due to an accident on any one of the main roads in to the New Forest, disappearing cushions from the sofas to use in your car and never to be returned, whole sets of saucepans that you fancied as yours were looking old and used at home, sheets, dressing gowns and T.V. controls that found their way in to suitcases destine for a new life in  Kent, Sussex and Dorset! Rooms having to be removed from sale because people have drunk so much and been sick everywhere, then carpets and mattresses have to be replaced, all at the cost of the owners.  Is this what the world has come to?

To be continued…

Leyland Country House Hotel’s take on the recession and children!

2011 October 5

Well, well, well what a week! Some much to tell you not sure where to begin!

How lucky are we, 3 in a bed has repeated and yet again I have had many emails of support and general encouragement.  Thank you everyone for that it means a lot to me.

One subject that I have not touched on is the delight and tribulations of ‘teenagers’. Oh yes those wonderful species that one friend of mine described as…..’one minute they were your little darling, butter would not melt…then you find out of the blue that they have turned in to a werewolf!’

Having three of my own, I so could relate to that! I love them but at the same time it is always the little things that upset the parents….like the cereal dish in the sitting room, the dirty socks by the back door, the Haribo wrappers on the carpet, the mouldy cup of tea in the bedroom and let’s not forget the two week old meal deal remains in the back of the car stuffed down the back of the seat.  Oh yes and of course when you enquire who it might belong to a chorus of ‘it’s not mine!’ so who does it below to….God?  Oh I forgot he popped in for a quick snack on his way to hell and back!  No doubt you have been told the reason you are upset is that your job stresses you out and you have issues such a OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) relating to cleaning, nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that you have SLAVE stamped on your forehead!  One of my daughters said…’all teenagers try and do the least amount possible, come on mum that’s standard!’

If you have teenagers how do you make them see the error of their ways to clear up and take respect of their homes and general surroundings?  God I try! I am told I have too high standards and that I need to take a chill pill! If I knew what they looked like I would take the whole bottle!

I was brought up in a time when happiness was not centred on what you owned to make you feel good about yourself.  If you lived in a small house, a council home or a detached home or mansion we all mixed together and were happy with our lot.  All our shoes came from Clarkes and the uniform the same for all and sundry, standard big blue cotton ‘granny’ knickers, no thongs or lace numbers!  If your father got a new company car everyone came out to the street to look at it, touch it, feel it and sit in it! On occasions you would give them a ride around the block in it.  You had high expectations of yourself but I was always taught that you had to look after and help the less well off and weaker than you. To this day I would give the shirt off my back and any other material item someone may need more than me as to me I value first and foremost my family and my friends.

Since my divorce, I have only ever had a clapped out Rover worth £50 quid and of course many, many times I have been judged on that car and why I actually drive around in such a heap!  Especially when I have been dressed up and raring to go looking, in my mind a million dollars!  The looks I have had are priceless! Do we all need material items to make ourselves feel good and look good?  Insecurity is a 21st century issue created out of a time when our teenagers coming up feel they are owed Mini Coupe cars and 4 wheel drives and £300 prom dresses.

This recession has been good for Britain and it’s up and coming generations. Some of the best designers and most creative designs have come from people who have had to do things on a shoestring.  Look around the shops at the moment, the quality of the design and use of imagination is second to none.  Why may you ask…..I am a great believer of ‘deprivation breeds motivation’, needs must and if you want customers to buy you need to think out of the box.

Next week I would like to talk about the internet and how it has changed our lives…… till next week, thanks for reading,

Love Liese

X

Latest news from Leyland Country House Hotel

2011 September 22

Welcome back everyone after our very long holiday, so much news to tell you all not sure where to begin……so here goes.

Great response to 3 in a bed quite unbelievable the power of television.  We are now about to have our 3rd re-run of our original programme that went out in May this year.  My dear friend Nina Basset the owner of Terra Vina said she has seen another advert for the show, so if you did miss it look out again as it will be running in the next few weeks.

Having had a busy summer and lots of gorgeous people to stay I did manage to pop off and have a few little mini breaks myself.  The first to Dartmouth which I have never been to and thought was stunning, the second to my favourite place Gozo and the third little jaunt to Brecon in Wales.

What has come to light for me is that our lovely Lymington really does need a jolly good push to promote and encourage people to visit the New Forest as it has so much to offer particularly for the city deweller of London, we are only and hour and a half from the city and therefore ideal for mini breaks.

This weekend in the Sunday Times was an article about B and B’s being cool and trendy, in the travel section. Surprise surprise, Lymington was NOT featured!  Everywhere else has been.  I will be asking the journos if they wish to come and experience our exceptional and very unique bed and breakfast, Leyland in Lymington as soon as possible so we can reach out to other clients who have not had the pleasure of our company.

What struck me about Dartmouth and the Brecons, in Wales, is that they have really made the most of their areas therefore ensuring they continue to keep the rural towns with employment by using all of their resources.  The local shops are thriving, the hotels, bed and breakfast, camp sites and youth hostels are full to the brim with walkers, cyclists, sailing  and canoeing enthusiasts.  They have beautiful shops, restaurants and cafes that are working around the clock to keep everyone fed and watered.  They are too very different places, however they are making the most of what their areas have to offer.

Now here in Lymington are we doing that……?  I feel there is so much more we could be doing to promote and sustain our community.  We must look at Dartmouth and the Brecons and use some of their ideas to transfer to lymington to make us the first destination people think of when considering a mini break.  We need to ask the pubs, restaurants, hotels and cafes to sponsor walks and cycle rides around the Forest so that it is visitors can see clearly what path to follow and where it leads too.  Ending up for drinks, lunch or supper at the many place to consume local food and culinary delights of the New Forest!

We are not making the most of your National park and Forest!  We could have the ‘Red Lion Walk’ covering Pilley in Boldre or the ‘The Oak’ at Bank cycle ride.  If we had a system that was uniformed for the walks and the cycle tracks we could really promote the Forest as walker friendly and cycle friendly.  I am very keen to get the NPA, The Planners, NFTA(New Forest Tourism Association) , NFDC(New Forest District Council), the Parish Councillors, Restaurants, Hotels, Bed and breakfast, Cafes, campsites and youth hostels together so we can implement a plan to make the very best of our Forest and bring in more visitors to sustain our community, keep our jobs local and not to become another ‘ghost town’ like too many rural towns will be facing in the future.

Any ideas please contact me on liese.cairnes@gmail.com all will be gladly received.  Remember ‘WORK TOGETHER, STAY TOGETHER IN THE NEW FOREST’ Follow me on Twitter and Facebook too!

Well things have been hectic here at Leyland Country House in the New Forest

2011 September 19

Well things have been hectic here at Leyland Country House in the New Forest.  As you can imagine, as a busy mum and bed and breakfast owner I have my work cut out!

We’ve had a wonderful summer (although the weather hasn’t always been perfect has it!) and we’re now getting ready for the Autumn and of course Winter.

We’ve got some wonderful things planned and as usual we’re doing our best to let everyone know what’s happening locally.

If you didn’t know, then you may be interested in the Southampton Boat show.  It is one of the world’s largest purpose built marinas with a stunning 2km of pontoons!

There are more than 350 boats during the ten days the show is on and Try a Boat (one of the show’s most popular attractions) will prove to be of interest this year as usual.

One of my favourite aspects of the show is the Boat parade, which allows you to see some wonderful boats.  These include modern boats but also vintage and iconic boats for visitors to marvel at.

Leyland Country House often gets fully booked for the Southampton Boat Show so call us on 07989 235834 for further information or click here to check availability.

Pepper Pig at Paultons Park is also open of course and we’ve been very excited at the 7 new rides and attractions – which are an absolute delight for Pepper Pig fans and we’ve accommodated a few families over the summer who have enjoyed it immensely!

There is also a new steam train excursion from Brockenhurst to Bath happening on the 30th of November, so that should be a brilliant chance to take a train ride with a real difference this winter.  We’ll be open as usual so if you do fancy it and end up staying with us, ask us for a small picnic for the trip!

Contact Us for more information about bookings or follow me on Twitter and Facebook!

The Thing About Hotel Star Ratings…

2011 June 24

Gosh this year seems to be going so fast I can hardly keep up.  After our tremendous success with 3 in a bed over 350 emails, calls and letters of support which are still coming in, we have been truly amazed!  Thank you all so much for taking the time to write to us. I however owe a huge ‘Thank you’   to Sheila West and her team for all their input to my website and social networking sites.  We are now on Facebook, Twitter and of course our very own Blog!  We hope to continue to entertain you endlessly.

The latest news is that I have an interview with the Southern Daily Echo within their Health and Lifestyle – Living section. It will prove to be an exciting and juicy article I hope so do look out for it!

As usual running a bed and breakfast provides so much to talk about as we have interesting people that come and stay with us.  My business is mainly leisure with a small amount of business to business.  With this highly challenging economic situation for us all no matter what industry you find yourself in, we have had an increase in the number of corporate clients. Overall they are very impressed with what we are offering and have been very surprised that we are not graded by the AA or Visit Britain.  However I am continually struggling with the grading system we have in this country as it is rather like visiting a Doctor that has no consistency within the grading system so therefore I have opted out.  Am I doing the right thing by taking such a bold step I ask myself…..is it damaging to my business by not belonging to an institution like the AA or Visit Britain….do I lose European clients by not being a member…..or have they both lost their way in the new line of Boutique Hotels and bed and breakfasts that are fast becoming the most popular choice of the British?

Anyone who is addicted to ‘3 in a bed’, ‘Hotel Inspector’ or ‘4 in a bed’ will have seen a cross mixture of so called ‘4 star’ and ‘5 star’ ratings.  With the greatest respect I have been most surprised at a few of the properties and their ratings.  When you examine more closely what the criteria is, it becomes more apparent why the system is out dated.  As a property owner of a 3 bedroom  home, you are asked for large sums of money from the AA ( about £360 a year) and Visit Britain (£478 a year) respectively to have your business assessed by them. They give their opinion which can be very positive, however if it is not uninformed it is open to abuse.  I feel this in recent times seems to be where the issue is.  You are also competing with many different types of establishments and how do you stand out from the crowd in what seems to be a bit of a ’racket’ or ‘money for old rope’ for the AA and Visit Britain?  Rather a clever idea when you think about it….How does spending that type of funds on your website or google Adwords  compare?  These are all questions that we have to ask ourselves when we commit to possibly an out dated grading system.

Maybe we should have a website that is set up for clients called www.yourateit.com .  Before you can leave a review, you would have use your real name and provide proof that you stayed with this hotel or bed and breakfast, making it harder for silly reviews that are the down side to Tripadvisor.  Let us be honest here, places are graded 1 to 5 star, I know for a fact that we have a new level immerging for 6 star and above.  This needs to be taken in to consideration as people’s expectations are more sophisticated with the development of interior design.  The average person these days has very stylish, beautiful and comfortable homes. Why would they go and stay somewhere worst than their own home?  Therefore it is important that the standards are kept to the highest level and with fashionable surroundings. Grunge does not cut it I am afraid! This is where Tripadvisor has made a huge impact, love it or hate it…..it is above the grading system of the AA and Visit Britain at present.

Tripadvisor, which has gained a very formidable reputation is not only delightful in its approach, it is also free.  There to keep us all on our toes. Very much followed by us all, with many interesting, amusing, funny and sometimes dreadful ‘porky pie’ reviews, as it is not monitored.  If you wish to review a hotel or bed and breakfast, you can do so having no proof you had actually stayed there at all!  It was set up to give the ‘rookie’ back packer accurate information about hostels and places to stay and eat in unknown territories.  It seems to have elevated itself to an unlisted review guru that is quite happy to print everything that a client wishes to complain about…..from not enough topping on their pizza to a hotel not being able to read the minds of it guests that have checked in and decided they do not like their room but refuse to communicate this matter to the Management!

My bed and breakfast has been graded by real people who tell their friends and family that we are the place to stay as they had a fantastic time.  Like everyone in this industry we all work extremely hard to ensure our guests have a memorial and amazing time.

I would happily have a grading system, but not I am afraid what is on offer at present from the AA and Visit Britain, I would fall down at the first hurdle as my place is too contemporary.  I would be very interested to hear other people’s view.  Maybe the government should run a scheme that it endorses for our European and worldwide market.  I also have not touched on Andrew Sawday, Mr and Mrs Smith and Wolsey Lodges.  Have you had any experience of these and if so how did they compare?

Until next time……when goodness knows what my little brain will come up with to chat to you about….we love your comments and views so please do keep them coming in…..

Liese

X x