Making a Difference for Guests in Uncertain Times
This post by Jon Lawry, Founder of Guesty power user The Urban Butler, offers a glimpse into how one property management company is handling the coronavirus crisis by focusing on guest experience.
Up until a few weeks ago, our guests’ needs and the ways in which we were able to help them related to tourism –- for example, a list of the best sights to see during the day, the tastiest places to dine at night and the easiest ways to get around town. We were hosting people who were living stress-free and who wanted to be in Auckland, New Zealand thousands of kilometres away from home.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of this: the extra distance has become a strain, with cancelled flights leaving very few options for travellers who want to get back to the security of their homeland. New Zealand is now under lockdown, so there are no sights to see during the day, nowhere to dine at night and, while some transport options are still in service, you’re only allowed to use them if you’re running essential errands, like food shopping.
The True Meaning of Hospitality
Amid this new reality, we have recognised an opportunity – as an accommodation provider, we play a key role in being able to give travellers not just the physical security of a roof over their head, but also the peace of mind that we will be there to help no matter how quickly the situation changes.
Take for example our guests Rene and Caroline, who had been enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime trip around New Zealand before chaos struck. When the lockdown was announced, they were forced to frantically relocate to Auckland and find a place to stay, unsure if accommodation providers such as ourselves were even still open (we are, having been classified as an essential service). Rene and Caroline are also both at an age that puts them in a high-risk group for COVID-19, which surely caused extra anxiety, especially because they were so far away from friends, family and healthcare at home.
Through this experience, we learned that keeping in constant communication is so important due to how quickly things can change. This means always thinking about what each individual guest may need and doing everything you can to help. We know we need to be as flexible and understanding as possible to each situation –- whether a guest has locked themselves out of the apartment (all the more stressful during lockdown!) or if they need to make adjustments to their stay. Broadly, we’ve also adjusted our booking and cancellation policies to give guests the best possible experience if bookings need to be extended or cancelled at short notice.
Put Yourself in Your Guests’ Shoes
COVID-19 has shown us that unprecedented situations mean that we may not always be able to offer our guests what they need, however we can still achieve a positive outcome by setting clear expectations and approaching every situation with empathy. Being empathetic ensures that not only do our guests feel looked after and appreciated, but it also encourages our guests to feel the same way towards our team – which makes a huge difference in these stressful times!
Rene and Caroline’s last week in New Zealand wasn’t what they had originally planned, but a dedication to empathy and to offering the help that we could ensured that their trip still had a happy ending. We held the apartment for them for an extra night in case of a last-minute flight cancellation, and we assisted them on departure by arranging a taxi and drop-off for their rental car, saving them the hassle of dealing with a language barrier and managing phone calls with a limited international SIM card.
We were happy to hear a couple of days ago that Rene and Caroline had successfully made it safely home to France. Upon their return, Rene shared the following review, showing how much empathetic and flexible service means at a time like this:
As all property management companies find their footing navigating the challenges of COVID-19, we’re glad to share what we’ve seen to be the most important lessons for hosting during this time:
- Only good things can come from displaying empathy – putting ourselves in our guests’ shoes helps us understand how they are feeling and what we can do to help.
- In these exceptional times, a tailored communication approach and plan for each guest works best.
- Things don’t always go according to plan – being upfront around what we can and can’t deliver ensures there are no unpleasant surprises for guests.