DBS - 41 - Calling guests on the phone before they stay with Ged Hartshorn
Jenn: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Direct Booking Success podcast. I'm your host,
Jenn Boyles. Today I have with me a very special guest. It's Ged Hartshorn. She owns and manages a short-term rental in Wales. Welcome,
Ged: Ged. Hi. Thanks for having me,
Jenn: Jenn oh, you're so welcome. I'm glad you're here. So let's, let's just start with maybe you giving everybody an idea of who
Ged: you are.rty, Gwen, back in September,:
So every weekend and every holiday, every bank holiday was. Spent on the labor of love doing the property up. so you're in,
Jenn: sorry, Ged. So you're in Manchester, outside of Manchester? Correct. And your property is on the island of Angle Sea, which is Northern Wales.
Ged: Yes, right at the very top of angle C as well, so, yeah.
Yeah. So proved a bit of a challenge, but we've finally opened our doors to guests at the end of May 22 and haven't looked back since. Yeah. So
Jenn: not only are you doing it sort of long distance, you're actually doing it from a different
Ged: country. Yes, . Yes, I am actually trying to learn a little bit of Welsh, so it's very baby steps at the moment, but hoping to become fluent one day.
Jenn: Yes. Well it is a hard language for those of us coming from English, you know? yeah. Great. Well, it's lovely to have you here and, and to hear more about your property, which as you say, has been a labor of love. And I was so fortunate that, I actually stayed there a few weeks ago. Yes. You sure did. Yes.
So with Thank you. Oh, you're welcome. With my family, we thought sort of a last minute trip to Wales. We wanted to check out Anglesea and my parents are over from Canada. They'd never been. So I rang up Ged and I said, do you by any chance have availability this coming weekend? And she said yes. So we went and it was, it was amazing.
It was lovely.
Ged: Oh, I'm glad you like Anglesea. It holds very much a special place in people's hearts. people always come back. It's one of the reasons why we looked at Anglesea as being the location for our, holiday lit because people just come back to Anglesea time and time again, and I'm hoping you will.
Jenn: Yeah, I would love to. You know, you've created such a, well, a warm and welcoming home there, and the views are amazing. , you know, they were just beautiful of the sea. It was gorgeous.
Ged: Yeah, it's, it's, it was one of the things that drew us, when we were looking for the, the right location. We did look at a couple of properties.
this one was just drawn to us just with those views and the negative cis, the health benefits. yeah, it was, it was the reason we bought that.
Jenn: Well, I can see it. It was lovely to see it in person after seeing your photographs and on your website and whatnot. It was great to see it. So we've got you on here today to talk about the one thing that you've done in your business that's made a big, made a, made a difference.
and it's something that, you know, I thought maybe she would skip when I was coming to stay, but Nope, she didn't. And what it is, is that. J Well, maybe you should tell everyone what it is that, that you do.
Ged: Okay. Yeah, so I have a bit of a guest call script that I run through with guests about usually a few days prior to arrival.
how this actually started was basically having to call somebody up about the bed configuration because one of our beds is a super king, which is a zip and link, so can split into two singles and initial. I don't think I have to speak to them to find out whether they want these separating. So it, so it was, it was the fact that forced me into calling the guest initially.
I think they were perhaps only the second guest that stayed with us. So after that, it kinda grew from there and this script, as it were, became longer and longer because they asked questions about the house and they were all super excited and I thought, oh, there could be an opportunity here. So I'll, I'll basically start talking through, The house and any information about it, parking, pets, things like that.
And then it's grown and we've chopped and changed it a little bit, but we can also use it to our advantage.
Jenn: Definitely, definitely. And do people welcome the call, like when you're ringing because it, it really is a bit out of the blue, you know, for those, because it's not, it, you know, I'm there, maybe there's somebody out there doing it, but when you go stay in a hotel or another holiday, let, they normally don't ring you up beforehand and, and have a chat.
So do people, are they taken aback? Are they
Ged: welcom? Yeah, so we do kind of, as part of our messaging on our booking system, we do actually send them an email for the arrival email. to say that, you know, I think, I think we send it to them about five days beforehand. say that somebody will be in touch.
To just go through a few things. So we kind of that, so to let to, to let them know that we will be calling just ahead of time and to be prepared for any kind of questions that they may have. If there's anything,from like the digital guidebook, if there's any questions they want to ask. Following on from there.
So usually by the time we call, they're kind of expecting us to ring, but they're all super excited, because they're looking forward to the holiday. So we, we've really got them in a happy, in the happy place when we make the call and they're really usually very, very excited to hear from us.
And when I saw, so you're telling people beforehand, you know, so they have an idea that you're going to ring them. And I really did think, oh well, she won't bother with me because, you know, I ki we kind of know each other a bit and you know, it'll be fine. But you still took the time to ring. And it was great because yes, I actually did have some questions that I didn't even know I really had.
and we could talk it through and yeah, it was great to share. Excitement with you. Mm-hmm. of before the trip, getting ready to go. It was really great. So I'm interesting to hear how you started it as it was more of a, More of a
Ged: necessity, correct? Yes. And then, so it, it, it basically grew from there.
And then we wanted to go through a few things such as like when, when the bin that, you know, when the bin day was and explaining to them about the recycling and so forth. And then just kind of casually reminding people about. Use the pet throws. If you're going to have pets, then put them on, put, you know, put them on the sulfurs and so forth.
parking on the drive, for example. it's just things about the house and then it's expanded a little bit further on from there. So talking, I've started to get a little bit more of the market. Side of things into things to kind of understand the guest, who are my guest, the the guest avatar, what's their occupation?
If you can get that into the conversation, what the names of the pets are, and that all gets noted onto the guest information because then we can target personalization, saying, Hey, do you want to bring your dog alpha? You know, how's Alfie doing? pet owners for example, love to talk about their. So it enters into that conversation.
So it, that tends to be a good barrier lowering mechanism as well to get them to talk about the pets and how wonderful they're going to feel, find the garden is for their dogs to run around in. And, and that really, really puts them at, at kind of a lot of ease. but it other, it gathers other marketing valuable information, such as like, I'll be celebrating any special occasion.
and as, as it turns out, some guests don't inform you of that at the time of booking. And what that's allowed me to do now, for example, is that last week's guests, were spending their double birthdays. So I just had a lovely que flowers that were, delivered to them just on the day that they were arriving, just to say, happy birthday to you both.
Little things like that, get remember. And that was also put in our five star review saying, oh, we weren't expecting this lovely bobcat of flowers. and in certain situations, we'll, we'll decorate the house depending on what the occasion is. So there's certain little tweaks that you can do, but it also helps build that relationship
Jenn: with the guest.
Yeah, and they're not coming. You just say, Hey, it's our birthday. Can you put up some balloons? You're taking the time, you're getting that information from them that, oh, it's their birthday. Let's do something special for them just to go
Ged: over the top. Right. Yeah, correct. Yeah. And I think it's just that little, it's that little things that people are not expecting you to do, that really realist stick in their mind.
Because as we all know, sometimes when you stay at a property and you might have, have had a great time, but six months down the line, you may have forgotten about it. But little things like that say, oh, do you remember that place we stayed at? Oh, yes. The one where the, the gave a bouquet flowers. You know, it's just little things that you think, hope they'll remember us by, and also the personalization of the call.
and we do the same as well once we've had that call with them to say, when we, when when I tend to wrap the call up, I say Any issues, I'm on the end of a phone. Text me, WhatsApp me, any questions you can think of. And then I usually send them a little WhatsApp once they've arrived and settled and say, is everything okay?
usually then they start sending me pictures and it becomes this. Yes, which is great. It becomes this really, really good personal experience for them and it seems to be well.
Jenn: Guest. Cause you're, you're building that relationship with them, aren't you? Yes. Yes. You're starting it out on the phone call and you're moving it through, through their stay.
Ged: I mean, the, what I can kinda liken it to is imagine if you are the, imagine the,captain of an airplane who decides to call the passengers a week before they're, they're flying out just to talk to them personally. It's that excitement. You know, I liken it to that. It's like, oh yeah, you know, it's like I can't wait to stay, kinda thing.
And they're really looking forward to the, you know, they're like, oh, we can't wait and can you recommend to going here? Or can you recommend going there? And it, it's just, it I think, builds on that excitement of the holiday. It
Jenn: does, it also builds trust because it's something that we, in the short term rental sector struggle with a bit because, you know, the big OTAs, the big online travel agents like Airbnb, booking.com, they've kind of got that trust built in with them.
And when people are booking direct, you know, there that trust, that trust has to come from some. Doesn't it? Yes. And if they're talking to you, actually speaking to you, I think that helps build that trust.
Ged: Correct? Yes. Yeah. And, and I think, at the end of the day, we're for, for those who like ourselves are 100% direct booking, we need that.
We need that trust element and we need them to tell their friends and to be, Champions have them to evangelize it for, for us to tell their friends and family say, you're gonna stay at Gwendon It's a great place. You know, and I'm hoping cementing that relationship allows them to kind of have that pride and to be able to go out to their friends and family, say, trust.
This holiday rental, you know, if you go into an angle, say you have to stay here, you know? Mm-hmm. . Well, I have to
Jenn: say, I've already told someone, I've already said, if you're going to angle C, this is where you have to stay. So it is, it is working. Now what about, the guests that are returning? Are they, have they been recommended to you? Are they returning cuz they've stayed before? Because you've built that relationship. What are you finding from the guests that are coming back?
Ged: Well, I mean, we're only in our second season now.
and we, I said we only opened at the end of May. And, one of the guests, I've got to admit, they, they stayed with us after three hours. They rebooked again for another week. So that was the shortest rebooking. So they haven't even. Stayed 24 hours. They haven't even slept in the bed and they rebooked for another week later on in the year, which was fantastic.
which is really good to to hear. But the, I think what we tend to find is that is the friends and family of previous guests that have, that tend to be the ones that are staying there. So we're finding as we're gathering, like, at the time of booking, we always say, where did you hear about us? And so we're getting more word of.
which is great to hear. but we've not had the success of lots and lots of repeat bookings as I would've liked. But in a way that's good because our message is getting spread to new guests. Mm-hmm. . but having said that, some of them, some of the people are not forthcoming about. who's told them to stay and until you get into the coal with them, they say, oh yes, you were recommended by such and such body who stayed couple of months ago.
Go, oh, okay. So sometimes again, by calling ahead you gather that information of where they heard about us.
Jenn: Mm-hmm. . And like you said, you're in sort of your second season, your second year here, so, you know, give them time, but they're coming back. I'm sure they will. Yeah,
Ged: yeah, absolutely. And, and we have five star reviews and our guest said they would, will definitely be returning.
I'm, I'm pretty confident actually that if, I mean our summer seasons really, really are busy. so we're not complaining. but even if they don't come this year, I'm pretty confident that they will be a return guest, like next year. And again, it helps to drive home the message as part of this call right at the very end.
It's a bit like our. Call to action saying that returning guests get a discount. So it keeps brilliant in, it keeps in mind for them that even before they've arrived, they know they'll get a discount on rebooking. So that's right. That message and that message goes through into our, our, emails and so forth, just to reaffirm that at the very end, but didn't know that before they arrive, but they can get a discount for rebooking.
Jenn: Planting that seed, I think that's brilliant. Absolutely. Yeah, that's, so what, do you have any advice for anyone else that is thinking that maybe they would like to, to put this, this idea into their business?
Ged: Yeah. I would say use an icebreaker of some sort, because sometimes, but basically I think one of the things you have to think about is that the guest is actually very happy, they're excited, so you're not, you know, they, they love hearing from you when, when you.
You know, when you announce, you know, hi, it's Jeff from Gwen. We're so looking forward to it. So, you know, right away you've got them in a very, very good mood. But try and get an icebreaker if you feel, Hmm, well what, what can I do? See if there's anything, any information. You can gather maybe the guests, maybe they've got children.
Ask about the children, you know, what ages are they? And, you know, da, da, da, and just something to break down that barrier to allow them. And like I said, pets, I mean, I would say 85% of our guests bring pets, and that is a very, very good icebreaker. Mentioned before, ask the pet names and what breed are they?
And they start gushing about it. And then that's when the doors open and you can start chatting about other things. Think about what information you want from the guests, and also what information you want to provide the guests, and allow them the opportunity to ask you the questions because inva. They may not think of any, but during the call they go, oh, I've got a question for you.
And it starts to really get the mind thinking about, about things, especially if you have a guidebook, like a digital guidebook. people will have. Consumed that information beforehand. So there may be something in there that they, they go, oh, can you recommend a really, really good dog-friendly beach?
And again, if as part of, your business is that you do blogs on things like this, you can actually guide them to a blog post as well, to say, Hey, go and go and read our blog post on the top 10 dog friend in the beach is in. And you've got information there to hand that they know that they can, you are a.
Source of truth about the the, about the location and everything about your business.
Jenn: Yeah. That's great. That's some really good advice there. One thing I'm gonna add is that remember that when you're ringing them, the true purpose is to answer their questions?
Ged: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So, and have actors before and said, oh, how refresh.
It's that you said they've never had anybody call them before about the house, and they find it really, really helpful and advantageous. And because you've made the connection, they don't feel shy in asking you about things as well. So, you know, they sometimes when the, sorry to bother you, but if, hey, you know, we're here.
Mm-hmm. , be, be accessible for people and it'll bring out the best. And they'll remember. They'll remember the visit and they'll remember the.
Jenn: I love it, Ged, I love that this is something that you do, I love that you did it for with me when I stayed, because I really got that full experience of, of staying with you.
And it was, you know, from, from booking till the end. I felt very, it felt very personal. And I'm talking to you now, I'm understanding that everyone is probably getting that same experience, which is what hospitality
Ged: is about. Yes, of course. and we continue to grow our script, be and just, and, and just be guided by the, by the guest really as to what their needs are and what their, their thoughts are.
So, you know, we have chats and changed it, but I mean, not that you can see on the podcast, but I do, I do have it here scripted, which I do change from time to time. So to kinda as, as, as we say, you know, obviously. Yeah. And this script, you're working.
Jenn: Yeah. And this script is really just to make sure you keep on to point.
Ged: keep on track.
Jenn: Yes. And you've not forgotten anything.
Ged: Yeah, no. So we ask things like, again, if, if people are thinking of an idea of what to do, we talk about, we have like lighting automation, so we have Alexa to turn on lights and so forth. I want to make sure guests are aware of that and that it doesn't, it doesn't scare them when the lights automatically come on
And if they're uncomfortable with it, you know, to. Give them assurance. We don't allow any kind of dropping in on the devices. So it maintains their, their guest privacy. but if they're not happy with having that device in, there're happy to put it in the boiler cup. It's there to serve a purpose of turning lights on only and it's, it's like just reassures them.
And it's the same with like a video doorbell. It's only live once somebody presses it and it comes to my phone. So again, it's not on a permanent record. cuz we don't have. That way. Again, it's just making sure that guests enjoy privacy, but we just want to allow them to know about, about features like.
I know and, and I
Jenn: love cuz you are up there with, from the technology standpoint, since you are a distance away, managing the property. But I have to say, I was glad that my daughter, my six-year-old did not find Alexa until the Sunday morning . Because she realized that she could ask for any song in the world and it would play.
So she had her own dance party on Sunday morning, . So I'm glad that she didn't know that Alexa wasn't. I'm glad she didn't know Alexa was there until, until they came Marette .
Ged: She'd been listening to the music the entire time it's there. You know? It's there for guests to use it. Should they wish to use it?
Jenn: Yeah. Well, she loved it. She really, really loved it. Ged, this has been so great and I hope that those listening will take some from tips from you and maybe, try to incorporate a call or something like that into their, welcoming wi for guests.
can you tell us, I'd love to know what direct booking success means to you.
Ged: It means, it means everything to us. We are 100% direct booking. We are not on any of the OTAs. We're not on Airbnb, and that's the model that we chose to do from the outset. So, Within our best interest to make sure that we keep on top of our marketing.
we have to be a hundred percent direct because we like the trust element. We don't want the, the, the trust element being taken away and, and being given to the LTAs because. They won't qualify the guests as much as we will. and we personalize that experience for the guests, which is something the LTAs can't do.
So we, we purposely chose that model and that's the way that we intend going with it. So it means everything to us, is a hundred percent, direct booking success for us, or our business won't.
Jenn: Brilliant. Thank you, Ged. Where can listeners, come and find
Ged: you? Yeah, well, I mean, I'm happy for listeners to, go, go, go to our website.
It's, gwen.co uk. That's gw, E N D o n.co uk. find on the email there and give me a call as well. I have numbers. Numbers there. Happy to.
Jenn: Great. Thanks Ged. And I'll put, your details on the show notes as well. So thanks Ged for coming on today and sharing your story. has listening to Ged today reminded you of something you've done that has made an impact in your short-term rental business. Hey, come and tell me what that is. I really want to know. Go to my website, direct booking success.com/one thing, and that's o n e.
One thing I'd love to have you on a future episode of the Direct Booking Success Podcast.