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Your Reservation Process

January 9, 2011

by Kit Cassingham

Reservations are another area where bed and breakfasts can outshine hotels. A hotel's reservations approach tends to be a bit mechanical and impersonal. Shine when it comes to your reservation approach and succeed in building your business. That's how you market your B&B, with lots of shine and customer care.

Your reservation procedure is vital to your business success. It's part of your marketing plan too. We've all had reservation experiences; some have been great, and some are outstandingly bad. You can learn more from a bad experience than a good one (though I prefer good ones). Let the personal touch that's the hallmark of B&Bs lead the way to your business success, starting with your reservation tactics.

I had a bad reservation experience with a bed and breakfast this summer that made me cringe for the industry, and that B&B's future. It was one of those situations that you read about online more and more often. TripAdvisor and other travel blogs seem to be waiting to hearing about travel FAILs. This was one indeed.

I couldn't book online, I had to email for information about availability for the dates I wanted to stay. After not hearing from the innkeeper for several days I called, and had the sense she didn't know I'd emailed. My dates and room choice were available so she said she'd send a confirmation letter. Again, I had to contact her to say I'd never gotten it. She never did email me, but gave me verbal directions over the phone. Upon receipt of my pre-payment check she emailed to say that I'd made the check to the wrong name and I had to send another one. I canceled at that point, and never heard another word from her.

Let's review your reservation process to make sure you aren't turning business away and losing income. Start with clear directions on your website, and in your brochure, about how to make a reservation. Include in the information:

  • where to go for availability
  • the reservation procedure
  • what form of payment you accept -- and if you accept only checks (as well as traveler's checks or cash), share details of that check transaction
. Guests are looking for information like
  1. when they need to send the check
  2. how much to make the check out for
  3. where to send the payment
  4. who to write the check to
  5. when and how final payment is due
  6. review your inn policies, including payment and cancellation, check-in and -out times, smoking, kids, etc

Only taking checks -- travelers checks and cash too -- these days is quite uncommon. It's not unheard of, but it's not common. Most travelers prefer using credit cards, but it's your business decision on how you proceed here. Make it easy for people to give you money, whichever path you take.

Other pointers to pay attention to revolve around your online procedures and include

  • check your email frequently, at least daily, though preferably hourly: an un-answered email is like an un-answered phone
  • send prompt confirmations, once the reservation is made
  • send complete information in the confirmation
  • respond as quickly and professionally to cancellations as reservations; these people could become guests another time, or ambassadors of bad press, depending on how you handle this
  • seriously consider having an automated online reservation program that handles all these details so you can tend to your daily operations

You've worked hard to build your inn's reputation and business. Don't undermine your efforts with a bad reservation approach. Make it easy for people to book a reservation and pay you. Help them become goodwill ambassadors for your bed and breakfast. That goodwill ambassador status is your best marketing.




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