Tina the Tiny Troubleshooter

QUESTION

About 80% of our bookings come from Online Travel Agents. Unfortunately, many of the T&Cs they advertise for our B&B are not the T&Cs we set. Even before re-opening, we experienced a high percentage of bookings being cancelled shortly after they were made. Add to that the huge part of our monthly business expenditure that’s paid out in commission, and all-in-all we find taking bookings through OTA’s a constant headache. How can we change this?

ANSWER

Raising awareness of booking direct is key to solving this, but it’s not always an easy task. When OTA’s with vast marketing budgets come top of any search page, getting guests to scroll down to find your own website can be hard. It’s important that the industry comes together to help change people’s thinking and encourage them to check out the reviews on an OTA but then book directly with the B&B.

Talk to your guests about this when they are staying with you; have a casual chat that will hopefully help them to understand the amount of commission you pay and some of the issues you face as a business when using OTAs. Now is a good time to do this; people know it’s been hard for business owners and many want to help support the recovery.

Ask people if you can add them to your Newsletter so you can share future offers with them. Encourage them to follow your social media accounts so they can see the great things you’re sharing, not only about the business, but about the local area too.

You should post regularly on social media. If you don’t feel you have the confidence to go it alone, join a group online – Checkout Yvonne Halling’s FB group: facebook.com/CoachingforBedandBreakfastOwners/

Let’s encourage #BookDirect at every opportunity

QUESTION

We have only just re-opened and our on-going battle with staff no-shows seems to have resumed very quickly. Unfortunately, furlough does not seem to have helped us at all! We appreciate things have become harder with not only housekeeping but also front of house service, so we have increased hourly rates for staff but this does not seem to have worked and they’re still texting us last minute saying they can’t come in. What would you suggest?

ANSWER

If I had £1 for every conversation I have about no-show staff, I’d be able to take a day off! This is an industry issue, and not just in hospitality, but other industries I support too.

If you were to ask other business owners, they will be experiencing the same problem. Larger hotels do too, though I appreciate you may feel it more than them as they have a larger pool of staff to call on when let down at the last minute. If you only have 1 Housekeeper or 1 Breakfast Waitress it has a big impact.

When you first recruit someone, put them on a month’s trail, working different days of the week and weekends; they need to see the business at the quietest and busiest times. Fluctuating hours are something they need to adapt to and understand if they have not done this type of work before. Zero-hour contracts might seem like an ideal solution but it’s not a great way to make people feel valued. Look at a minimum number of hours a week you can offer staff members, even if the work is varied. It’s important you explain right from the start that they may have to carry out a variety of tasks.

Incentives can also make staff feel valued. Monthly bonuses like gift cards or a bottle of their favourite tipple may be appreciated more than financial gain. Small gestures can make a big impact.

You may be tempted to lock the good ones in so they cannot leave but there are laws against that and I wouldn’t recommend it 😉