Innkeepers, Are you losing your identity?

Online Identity Theft

As innkeepers, your lives are public, they need to be.

Guests do like to know who they are staying with generally, it’s an integral part of the B&B brand. And while not every innkeeper has their names and photos on their websites, the vast majority do.

Realistically, it’s not much different then most businesses online, you can find out who owns a business, how long they have been in business, etc. just by trolling through the information found easily on Google.

This post though is not about brand and brand identity, but about identity theft.

As innkeepers, once your own information gets compromised, so can your guests and their personal and financial information, so it’s extremely important that you take precautions to protect not just your own information, but those of others you’re associated with. You are taking guest’s names, phone numbers, addresses and credit card information………..

Many innkeepers are on Facebook, not all use business pages, but this isn’t about business pages, this is about the amount of information on your personal accounts. And for those innkeepers on Linkedin as well.

People using one or both of these mediums are more at risk for identity theft, then those who are not. I am not saying don’t use them, but instead be cognizant of what information you are putting out there.

Many people put their birthdays on both platforms. That’s fine, but don’t put your real birth year and don’t put it online anywhere in anything (aside maybe from your bank that might require it). If you have sites you use that ask for that info, pick a birth year date that’s within a century of your birth, but not too close to your own, and then stick with it across all platforms. The first step in identity theft is gaining access to your birth date, don’t just give it away.

Look at how much information is on your networks. Many people on Linkedin and Facebook put graduation years, high school and college and they put the specific dates, Graduated from Lands End College, July 17, 1979.  If you want to network with others from that graduating class for example, put July 1979 or just 1979, the more information you give out, the more an ID thief has to work with.

On Facebook, “Location: currently residing in Lands End, MA, from Riverfront, PA”  Guess what, someone now has; where you were born/grew up, when you were born, where you currently live, where you went to college. etc.

Eyeball the information out there and lock some of it down.

You might say, “Well I have it set (on Facebook) so only friends I know and relatives can see the information……”

A wake up call, recently a spate of cloned Facebook accounts has been going around. A fake profile using your friend/relatives name, profile picture and similar “likes” is created and then invites start going out to the people that they are connected with.

Almost 50% of the people assume the person in question had a problem with their account or got disconnected from them, so they automatically reconnect.

That spammer/scammer/ID thief now has access to others personal information until which point it’s realized it’s fake, and then disconnected and reported. It is extremely easy to set up a fake FB account, all your need is an email address. Less than 5 minutes is all a scammer needs to troll through an account that they now have access to.

I’ve had some people say well I don’t put any of that info in Linkedin or Facebook, BUT if you go through posts, people tag relatives and friends, list places they have visited/stayed. Put their dogs/cats name for all to see.  “Look at cute little Buster with his ball, isn’t he just the best pup?” “My favorite vacation spot is Westerly, RI.”

They have done multiple studies on passwords, many people, if they have favorite pets, make pet’s names part of frequently used passwords.  Favorite vacation spots are another. So an ID thief finds your dog Lucky’s name, and your favorite number is 6 (based on comments on various other people’s posts) and you love Chicago, and they snagged your email address off of Linkedin and/or your website……………………….

Plus many people use the same or a same set of passwords for everything!  With so many online sites, plus social media sites, reservations software, etc. it can be mind-boggling to try to remember them all.

The best solution to remembering passwords is either (if you don’t trust the cloud) get a small address book and put them in alphabetically, and store in a safe place, or use a safe and proven online storage program like Lastpass (https://lastpass.com/) or others (research wisely before using), or develop several sets of passwords (that have no relation to yourself but you’ll remember) that you rotate weekly or bi-weekly in and out of any platforms and online programs you use a lot.

And I’ve touched on some of these before and will again (and probably again).  Antivirus and Backing-up, My biggest challenges when it comes to working with BandBs.

Have a good Antivirus and even more importantly, make sure it’s up to date and updates frequently. (I’ve got lost count of the number of times per month when I talk to a client and they say, “I think it’s up to date”, and it hasn’t been since 2011) Statistics range from how many new viruses come out daily, anywhere from 300+ to 10K+, but even if you took the lower number, that’s now about 328, 500+ viruses that your computer is not protecting you against.

Have a good malware program. Antivirus will not catch a lot of malware, and malware can be even more malicious and damaging than a virus. If you get a keylogger on your machine, it will capture every single keystroke you make on your keyboard, including all your usernames and passwords for EVERYTHING!

Back up your Data, and keep copies in multiple places, at least one in the cloud and at least one offsite.

Once your computer and your information is compromised, don’t forget, it’s not just you that becomes at risk, it’s any guests, future and past as well.

And if compromising the information of others doesn’t scare the tuckus out of you enough, think if you had a malicious former bad guest (who was tech savvy) who really wanted to cause some trouble for you…….. Imagine having a guest say to you, “I didn’t know you were in prison/a stalker/a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, etc……………..” Ouch!

Posted in B&B, Hospitality News, How tos, Lodging, Observations | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bed and Breakfasts Need to Do Some Digital Housekeeping!

moenyInnkeepers, when was the last time you looked, REALLY LOOKED at your website, especially your home page? And checked it? And checked the whole site?

I have a project I am working on for a lodging organization, it includes going to every member’s website and gathering together their social media links, or in many cases, lack there of, and in the process I am looking over their sites and noticing things.

Of the 500+ member pages I’ve managed to take a hard gander at so far, these are some things that have stuck out as significant problems. Issues are not just social media related, there are usability issues, image issues and contact-ability issues, which means that A. web developers are not paying attention, B. innkeepers are trusting their web developers to pay attention and they are not, and C. there’s a darn lot of innkeepers out there not paying attention to their websites.

I’ve noticed many of these things over the years as well looking at B&B sites, this project kind of condenses the issue into where it really hit me over the head.

Your website is generally your 1st point of contact between you and your guest. If it’s broken or portions of it are broken, potential guests are not going to tell you, they will go somewhere else = Lost revenue!

I found the following things on inns/B&Bs websites. If I found more than 25 of them on various websites they made the list. Percentage wise, that’s a big ouch. Statistically over 3/4 of them had at least one of these issues.

1. Click here/click link to email or click button to email: I know people don’t want their email addresses public because they will think spammers will get a hold of their addresses and they will get more spam. Guess what folks, most of the spammers are automated now and they go through your source code and grab your email addresses automatically, it doesn’t matter whether they are “public” or not.

If your guests are using Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or any other web-based email system, including the Outlook web app, you can’t just click to email, you have to right-click on your link/button/image, if you have a PC, (I have no idea anymore on how to do it on a Mac) and then copy the link and paste in into their email program.

Do you have any idea what a pain that is? Or how many bookings you’ve lost because someone wanted to email you and can’t easily?

2. Social Media Links. Many many, many inns had social media accounts, namely Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter accounts (and they were active accounts) with no listings to them on the home page of their sites or anywhere else on the website for that matter. Facebook (lack of links) was a clear winner with over 100 B&Bs (out of 500+) actively using Facebook with no links to their pages from their websites at all.

Folks you have to TELL people you are on Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and Pinterest and Youtube, etc. etc. People don’t just go to those channels and search for your inn.

3. Web forms. “Submit your information and have the inn contact you.” Have you tested yours recently? I recently had a case of an inn I know whose web form malfunctioned and they potentially lost several thousand dollars worth of revenue, because the web form didn’t copy the email addresses that were being submitted for information. Down one big wedding and a bunch of room bookings.

Web forms are notorious for not working or stopping working. If you have them, test them regularly.

4. TYPOS, need I say more?

5. Social Media links with no content or very, very outdated content/posts. I think we can point a clear finger at web developers for that one, but partial blame lies on Innkeepers for letting them put them on. If you’re not going to use Pinterest, don’t let your web developer add a link, If your going to stop using Twitter and your going to let your last post be from 2 years ago, then for crying out loud take the link off.

6. Cute phone numbers. Ok so I only saw a dozen or so of these, but it’s a personal pet peeve of mine, so it made the list.  Call 1-888-Jan-eDoe for the Jane Doe Inn, instead of Call 1-888-Jan-eDoe (1-888-526-3363).

Have it spelled out so it makes it quick and easy to actually call someone, instead of puzzling through the numbers. For a normal person this is a pain in the tuckus in the first place, for someone with dyslexia (like myself, which is why it’s a pet peeve) it takes me about five minutes to puzzle through the numbers/letters.

7. Facebook “like box” misusage. Having the like button on your page, where someone can like it, is liking your website and sending the information to Facebook that someone has liked your website, it does not mean they are liking your Facebook page.

There is a big difference between this:Facebook plugin 1https://developers.facebook.com/docs/plugins/like-button

and this:

fb badges

FB like

https://www.facebook.com/badges/ and icons.

9. Photo placement on pages. Look at the site from the perspective of a customer. Look at it like you’ve never seen it before. What do you see?

spa services

I thought this one above was funny, but the one I saw yesterday of the “We Are Pet Friendly” dog (top) where it looked like it was peeing on the muffin shot underneath took the cake. I’d take a screen shot but it had the inn’s name on it. So just use your imagination.

10. Social Media links with incorrect URLs. lots of http://www.www.twitter.com/janedoeinn  and http:////www.facebook.com/janedoeinn etc. or links that lead just to the social media platforms but are not connected to anything at all. Even though the inns do have social media accounts and are actively using them.

11. Misspellings in the about/bio sections of their social media accounts and links in those bios that are out of date or incorrect (see above).

12. Copyrighted photos. I came across several sites that had clearly watermarked photos from stock photo sites on them. Ooops. At least buy the stock photos so they don’t have watermarks (also so you don’t have the stock photo companies coming after you).  I also came across more than a few images clearly snitched from Google images.

Just because it’s on Google images does not mean it’s copyright free. If one of those is a Getty image, you won’t see a watermark, it’s embedded, but you will get a letter from them demanding $1500 and up, and they WILL set collections on you, be warned, even if you take the image offline pronto. If you don’t know where every single image on your website originated, whether it be from you, a professional you paid, or from a documented bought stock photo site, you need to replace those images ASAP and fire your web developer.

People whose images you might have used illegally, and Getty don’t go after the web developer, they go after you, the owner of the site.

13. Out of date information on sites. Saw a lot of this, blogs are one thing, but having specials pages advertising Special Offers from 2011? And Christmas Packages from 2009?

Innkeepers, look at it this way, weigh how much time it takes you to go through your website periodically and double-check to see if everything works like it should and looks like it should, vs how much potential revenue you could lose/have lost/could be losing in the future due to things that don’t work or look like they should for a potential guest.

Please also see 5 Digital Housekeeping MUST DOs in the New Year for Innkeepers

 

Posted in B&B, General Rants & Raves, Hospitality News, How tos, Inns, Lodging, marketing, Observations, Social Media | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Airbnb, should innkeepers beat em or join em?

airbnb

 I would say do both.

Facts:

  • Airbnb isn’t going away.
  • They are getting and probably will get, a lot more funding in the future.
  • Airbnb renters are basically stealing guests from lodging facilities that are paying rooms & meals taxes, other lodging associated fees and are inspected. (Although realistically if your room rates are over $150 a night, the people that stay in Airbnb rentals are not your target market anyway, they would probably stay in a motel if at all, and they may not be the best guests in the first place.)

Reality:

  • Even if all the lodging associations, hotel, motel, B&B etc. banded together to combat the growth and growing market share, it (sadly) realistically probably wouldn’t make that much of a difference.
  • If towns/cities and Airbnb get laws passed that renters are supposed to pay taxes (and enforce it) then it does indeed become even great competition, I forsee that that’s going to happen, so better wiser and prepare now for it.

In a twisty sort of way, competition is good, it causes people to analyze their own marketing and up their game. Yes time is always an issue, especially for innkeepers, but  business and business marketing is always changing, and if you volunteered to own your own business, you signed up for it.

What innkeepers can do:

Get into the Frenemy camp

I am not saying if you can’t beat them join them, but more take advantage, instead of letting them take advantage of you.

List your rooms on Airbnb (it is free)

Observations and Suggestions:

You have to list rooms as separate listings, you can do that under one account.

Many B&Bs are choosing to not list every room, just the ones that are on the lower end of their room rate spectrum.

Just like on your website, good pictures are VERY important. (Including the photo of your selves as hosts, I have heard from people that scary/unprofessional host photos are a detraction for getting bookings and a good bio is very helpful.)

You can get a Airbnb photographer to come and take good pictures for you. (Disclosure, I (shamefully) did a brief stent as a Airbnb photographer a few years ago before they became such a threat to the industry) so I know two things, one, there is generally a waiting list for photographers and it can take a LONG time to get the pictures online, and two (more importantly), the pictures are owned by Airbnb, you can NOT use them for your own purposes off the site in other places. So I’d recommend using your own or your photographers.

Just like on your website, list ALL your amenities and make (BIG) mention of delicious breakfast being included.

The best listings I have found, from B&Bs and the (ahem illegal renters) are ones that have a fairly extensive list of area activities. Think of the content here as what you would put on a good directory.

Examples of inn listings

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/223689

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1204512

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/217827

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2030231

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1043021

It’s difficult to find other B&B listings within Airbnb for comparison, but once your listing is in the system, it will give you a list (down to the right) of other local B&Bs listed.

As people find other B&B listings I’d appreciate it if people could send me the links as I am still doing information gathering for what are best practices to put in text wise. I tend to think Airbnb is doing this deliberately (not making search easy).

To Combat

  • Find out your local laws and keep on the lookout for illegal renters and report.
  • Keep an eye out for news that dings Airbnb, this morning was a perfect example of over 20 news outlets reporting on rentals being used for nefarious purposes. If I was an inn I’d have a lot of fun with this one: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/14/prostitutes-renting-airbnb-apartments_n_5147910.html  Imagine if all the B&Bs just in America posted this (or similar) on their social media sites? Granted it’s not going to make much of a dent in Airbnbs market, but even if a few people read the articles and go “Ewwww” like I did this morning, that’s a few more people that are more likely to stay in an inspected and honest tax paying facility.
  • If you post on social media, highlight what makes an inn better then an Airbnb rental, and post often, I can think of hundreds of reasons and it’s not even a stretch. #1 high on the list of course is your fabulous breakfasts (from inspected kitchens BTW). If people want cheerios at an Airbnb rental, again probably not your target guest anyway.

One final thing, I’d love to see enough B&Bs jump all over Airbnbs listing service and beat them at their own game. Think about hijacking (so to speak) a free (as opposed to paying $500+ a year to B&B.com) for our own use. Things to muse on, no?

Posted in B&B, Hospitality News, How tos, Lodging, marketing, Observations | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

New Facebook Business Page changes Bed and Breakfasts should be aware of

FB begin

https://www.facebook.com/Applesauceinnbnb (new Business Facebook page layout)

So as I continue my love-hate relationship with Facebook and it’s ongoing changes, I am endlessly fascinated as they givith and then they takith away. It’s sort of like watching a horrifying train wreck for me, I just can’t look away and feel impelled to poke around in it to see just what they changed this time.

For those of you that still are utilizing Facebook for business, you may want to get up to speed a little on a few of the changes, some are big, some little, but as usual infinitely annoying for those that have much better things to do with their time, like perhaps making breakfast for lovely guests.

When you log in to your Facebook page some time soon, you may get this option on your page.

FB 1

I don’t have a specific time period for how long it takes after you select “Join Waitlist”, some pages seem to get the option to convert in a few days, others are still waiting.

I do know out of the 1166 small lodging facilities I track on Facebook, (https://www.facebook.com/lists/10202488504832479 if anyone wants to follow the list) only 17 of them have the new timeline as of now (4.8.2014).

When your page has the option to convert, you will see this (below) the first time you login. BEFORE you click update now for Fans, take a look and see if you have any tabs that are really important to you FIRST! (more on this in few screenshots down)

FB2

Your custom tabs are moving down below the fold to the left hand side. Apparently Timeline, About and Photos are going to stay the same, but if you have a custom tab in the top four tabs of your page, it will bring it into the toolbar, the rest (if you have them, will be under “More”)    This is important because apparently, once the page converts, you can not move the order around.

Updated: May 2014, it now does give the option of rearranging which tabs get switched with which with the exception of timeline and about. Photos can now be moved.

FB3

Other changes to be aware of. The Admin panel looks very different, I think it’s actually more user friendly now then it was before.

fb4

If you are using the prescheduler, the pre-posted posts are now under the Activity “Tab”

FB5

Other changes to be aware of:

  1.  The reviews option seems to be a sore spot because you cannot remove the reviews and in most cases can’t reply to the reviewer. If you do get a review (or a troll) you do now have the option of taking the reviews/stars away. Previously you had to delete your whole address for it to disappear. Now you lose the map but can still keep your address listing. The change is located under “Settings” and then “Page Info”

fb7

  1. With the new page layout, you can still highlight a post or photo but it will not go across the whole page width anymore, as the left sidebar is there. All it does is give a star at the top of the picture/post (at the moment) so not quite sure what the point of highlighting something is for.
  1. When you upload a photo album it doesn’t let you pick a primary photo to highlight anymore (I hope they change this back) From testing, it’s the first photo in your album that shows up as a larger view. And the layouts are a tad different.

Vertical album photos

fb8https://www.facebook.com/D53Toastmasters/posts/626093410797124?stream_ref=10

Horizontal album photos

fb9https://www.facebook.com/KornerKottage/posts/10152144852791026?stream_ref=9

Albums sizes are 518 X 518 (pixels)

  1. The other major change is photo sizing. If you post photos on your business wall, the new sizing is approximate 415W X 557H for vertical photos and 555W X 308H for horizontal photos. Sizes are approximate because I had to use a photo snipper, I could not find where the actual size is listed yet, (but this is close to what it will be).

Photos posted on your business wall are going to become somewhat smaller on the internal page viewer of someone’s feed. The sizing becomes 511H X 344W for vertical photos and 320W X 437H for horizontal photos*

I’ll correct the sizes when the official sizes are made public.

Because of the new photo size changes, where it previously was better to post horizontal photos, it now may be beneficial to try more verticals, as it’s taking up more visual timeline space or even albums in groups of 4 photos.  Albums 518 X 518 (pixels)  gives you more advertising eyes on space then single pictures now.

  1. The biggest annoyance B&Bs will probably have is the new banner layout, Like, Follow, etc and the name of the business now overlays the banner itself, If you have a long description it brings the text up even further. The top two are the new layout, in comparison with the last which is the current/old layout.

fb6

Essentially your losing almost ½ of the banner in terms of visual usage and if you have text in there now currently, you will have to revisit what it looks like when it converts. It also appears that the square avatar image has moved over very slightly more to the left hand side.

I’ve bookmarked 22 pages so far that have the new timeline live as of now (4.8.2014) if anyone wants to check them out. https://www.facebook.com/lists/10203050584244113   You will have to click on the individual pages themselves to see the changes as you can’t see them from the feed.

If anyone else sees/comes across more changes they find, I would much appreciate a heads-up so I can update this.

Posted in B&B, Facebook, Hospitality News, How tos, Inns, Lodging, marketing, Observations, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Pros and Cons of Offering Pet Friendly Lodging (plus notes)

dreamstime_3531367These are my notes from this past March’s MidAtlantic Innkeeper’s Conference presentation. I recently had a few emails from innkeepers asking for suggestions so thought it might be helpful to post them.

Statistics

Forty-nine percent of pet owners in a survey said they plan to travel with their pets within the next 12 months. Via Tripadvisor Biggest pet peeve when traveling with pets? 50% Finding Activities to do with Pets 25% Additional Fees 15% Weight Restrictions (rough estimate) 15% Finding Accommodations (rough estimate) 10% Breed Restrictions (rough estimate) via GoPetFriendly.com

Pros

  • Targets a niche demographic, usually people with double incomes, no kids or retired
  • Offer something other area lodging may not, especially if you decide to allow larger dog breeds.
  • Pet friendly guests are year around, unlike tourism niches

Cons

  • Other guests may be allergic or be turned off by the nearness of having pet friendly rooms.
  • Potential damage to rooms/property
  • Extra cleaning needed for rooms and property
  • Potential liability biting, issues with other dogs, barking, fleas
  • Pet odors

Recommendations

  • Ground-floor rooms, with separate entrances if possible.
  • Wood or tile/easy to clean floors
  • In Room Amenities for the pets, dog beds, custom bowls etc.
  • A set aside area specifically for dogs to relieve themselves with waste bags and a disposal can, gravel or rock areas are great for this.
  • Develop relationships with your local vets and pet stores, cookies help :)
  • Develop a pet waiver and have it clear state dos and don’t for guests and dog guests, including fees for damages
  • Decide if you want a weight limit on dogs and/or a limit on how many, excluding large dogs excludes more than 50% of your pet friendly guests.
  • Decide if you are going to accept any other types of animals
  • In pet policies, make it a requirement that pets be spayed/neutered
  • Put together lists (and advertise online) of things to do and places to go for guests with their pets, as well area kennels and dog sitters
  • Have a list of local vets and emergency services in the area, both on the website and in room

Dog Amenities and Suggestions

  • Plastic or metal water bowls with inn name, plastic ones can be gifts
  • Easily cleanable Dog beds
  • Extra Paper towels
  • Dog towels (if you have a rain storm and the dogs have muddy feet have some towels “for” the dogs so they are not using your good ones.
  • Consider having your pet free refundable at the end of the stay, but markup pet friendly rooms.
  • Consider developing some specials, amenities and packages just for pet friendly guests
  • Pet type “extras” with your inn’s name on them are inexpensive and can help brand the business, water bottles, pet frisbees, leashes, collapse able water bowls, the small plastic containers that attach to leashes to hold plastic dog bags for disposal etc.

*Many travel people bring their own bedding and toys with them, as well as food, but extras are always welcome Some sample wording for pet friendly policies: (you don’t need to use everything but find out and customize what works for you.)

Reservations, which include pets, must be made by telephone.  800-555-1212 We charge a $25 – one time pet fee.  The charge for a second dog is $10.

We require a $250 fully refundable deposit, which is taken at check-in.  Damages incurred because of your pet(s), will be added to your bill.

Your innkeepers will help identify special pet activities & services including hiking trails, pet friendly parks, pet specialty stores plus local veterinary & grooming services for a pet spa day. Please click here for a list of things to do with your pet in the area and other area pet friendly services and amenities.

Sample Pet Policy (selections pulled from Pet Friendly Lodging B&Bs that have been offering Pet Friendly for more then 5 years)

The guest whose signature appears below agrees to have a $100.00 authorization (refundable pet deposit) per room charged to their credit card and refunded upon departure unless any room damage incurred during stay and agrees to abide by the following guidelines: Guest is solely responsible for their dog. This includes, but is not limited to, the dog’s behavior and/or noise.

Dogs may not be left unattended in guestrooms for any reason unless secured in a dog crate. Guestrooms will not be serviced by housekeeping if this is not adhered to.

Guest is responsible for any boarding fees associated with the dog’s removal from the inn. Reasons for removal can include violence, noise, and/or other damage.

Guest is responsible for any lost revenue incurred by Jane Doe Inn as a result of noise complaints or any other situations associated with their dog(s). Guest agrees to have dog(s) leashed at all times when at the ane Doe Inn and in the designated area just outside the Inn marked pet friendly.

If dog is known to be aggressive, the guest must have the dog muzzled.

Dogs are allowed only in the designated area marked “pet friendly” next to the Jane Doe Inn.

Dogs are not permitted in any pool area, interiors of buildings (except guest’s  room) or any other recreational areas of the inn.Please refer to the guest directory in your room for town’s regulations on animals on  public beaches.

Guest is responsible for any injury their dog(s) may inflict on others.

Guest is responsible for cleaning up after their dog and must dispose of waste in appropriate containers in the exterior trash cans provided in the designated area. Pet waste may not be disposed of in any indoor trash containers, including those  in guest rooms.

Guest must provide the Jane Doe Inn with a valid, authorized credit card for any property  damages or other fees associated with pet(s).

Jane Doe Inn reserves the right to ask to leave any pet(s) and/or guest(s) from the property at any time.

Dogs are not permitted on the furniture. If you feel your dog may try to get on the furniture, ask the innkeeper for coverings.

Dogs are not to be bathed in the whirlpool tubs or showers.

Dogs must be leashed when on Inn grounds. The Town of ——- also requires that dogs be leashed.

I attest that my dog(s) has not been attack trained and to the best of my knowledge has never injured or threatened to injure anyone.

I agree to be liable for injury to any person or any animal caused by my dog(s) while on the Inn premises.

Dog(s) may remain in guest rooms unattended. Guests should bring a crate(s); if you are concerned their dog(s) may damage furnishings. Should your dog(s) cause a disturbance while you are out, you will be contacted by phone and agree to return to the Inn immediately. I, (print name) ________________________, agree to abide by these guidelines and understand that failure to abide can result in additional charges and fees or potential non-refundable eviction from the resort.

Guest Signature___________________________________________

Date_______________________________

Example of “things to do with your dogs” page: (courtesy of the Glynn House Inn in Ashland, NH

Hiking trails – Dogs and their humans enjoy a huge number of hiking options. The Rattlesnake trailhead – 15 minutes away – offers a series of dog friendly trails and easy climbs. Franconia Notch State Park – 25 minutes drive – has over a dozen dog friendly trails. The only trail, which isn’t dog friendly, is the Flume Gorge. Greeley Ponds and the Lincoln Woods Wilderness Trail – 25 minutes drive – off the Kancamagus Highway scenic Byway – offers several moderate dog friendly hiking options The Welch-Dickey Loop Trail – 25 minutes – off Upper Mad River Road in Waterville Valley – provides another terrific hike for humans and their favorite four-legged friends.

Boating: You can take your best four-legged friend on a six or ten mile paddle on the “Pemi” River.  Canoes provide a great home for floating dogs. The river scenery is spectacular. Take your dog on a cruise around Squam Lake. Rent small aluminum runabouts or roomy, comfortable pontoon boats.

Shopping: Dogs like ice cream during the warmer months too. Why not take your four-legged friend for ice cream in Meredith? Pet Paradise in Center Harbor 603 524-3373 has a great selection of pet goodies. Dog Mountain, World-renowned artist Stephen Huneck created Dog Mountain so people can experience his artwork and share his passion for nature. Dog Mountain is filled with joy and fun for dog lovers. Every year thousands of people attend the annual footloose and fancy-free Dog Parties. For more information, visit http://www.dogmt.com.

Specialty Pet Services*** Pet Grooming: Why not give your dog the opportunity to be really pampered?  Doggie Designs (603 279-8777) will provide a shampoo, blow dry and manicure. You can have a nice relaxing lunch, while the 4-footed member of the family gets all smartened up

Pet Sitting: Does your dog needs some time away from its humans? First class doggie day care, boarding and training is available at Lakes Region Pet Resort http://www.lakesregionpetresort.com/ White Mountain College for Pets http://www.ebonykennel.com/. Day care & boarding is available at Karriad Kennels http://karriadkennel.com. ***Please book services well in advance.

Veterinarians: Plymouth Animal Hospital (603 536 1213) has a terrific team of medical professionals who can be contacted seven days a week, 24 hours per day. You can also visit the Winnipesaukee Veterinary Emergency Center http://www.winnipesaukeeveter.com

Pet Friendly Directories (go with the free ones only as a recommendation)by keyword  

*** are recommended Pet friendly lodging

http://www.bringfido.com/ (comes up high in the search engines but website is not user friendly)

http://www.petswelcome.com/  ***

http://www.pet-friendly-hotels.net/

https://www.dogfriendly.com/ ***

http://www.tripswithpets.com/ http://www.gopetfriendly.com/***

Pet friendly bed and breakfasts

http://www.bringfido.com/lodging/bandbs/

http://bandb.petswelcome.com/

Pet friendly hotels

http://www.pet-friendly-hotels.net/

http://www.bringfido.com/

Pet friendly places to stay

http://www.bringfido.com/

http://www.petswelcome.com/

https://www.dogfriendly.com/

Pet friendly B&Bs

http://www.bringfido.com/lodging/bandbs/

http://bandb.petswelcome.com/

Posted in B&B, Customer Service, Hospitality News, How tos, Inns, marketing, Observations | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

How Innkeepers can Leverage Youtube’s Photo Slideshow Option

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Early last year (date to the best of my knowledge) Youtube rolled out the ability to upload photos and turn them into a video/slideshow.

I think video is incredibly important for innkeepers, but may be cost prohibitive for many and the slideshow option, if you have some great pictures to showcase, is an easy and affordable alternative.

To elaborate on video a bit. Professional video for an inn tour is extremely important, I’ve seem too many home made videos done by B&Bs that unfortunately are somewhat cringeworthy, and from a guest perspective is not very enticing, so I would recommend if your going to do a inn tour, have it done right by a professional. On the flip side of that, videos including vine video, used for the capture of area things to do and see, are very appealing when done “in house” so to speak. With the availability of flipcams and smart phones, taking two minutes to do a short video of the sailboats on the nearby lake makes great Youtube fodder.

The photo slideshow offers everything (and a bit more) then the video feature. The ability to add a description, up to 5000 characters in length, keywords, music (that they provide) and some nice effects you can apply to the video/slideshow similar to a Powerpoint presentation. I haven’t found the limit on how many photos you can add, but you would of course want to be cognizant of how long the video would run.

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To get to the option, go to your Youtube dashboard and then “Upload”. Still photos can be uploaded or they can be drawn from your Google+ profiles. They can then be rearranged into the order you want them in. Once the photos have been “processed” though you can’t rearrange them again, so think ahead on what you want to appear in what order.

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A note when getting to the change effects page. If you go the change slide effects or transitions, wait for about 5 seconds before changing each option, it tends to glitch and then you have to start from scratch. Music can be added at this point as well as text overlays, both of which can be added after the fact as well once the slideshow has “processed”.

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If you want to delete or add photos that appear as options, you need to be logged into your Google account and then visit https://picasaweb.google.com/home/.

The video can be public, private or viewed only by having the link/unique url.

I would recommend innkeepers explore this option, it’s extremely easy to use and Youtube videos can be used as content in a variety of places. Posted to Facebook, Google+, Linkedin and Twitter, embedded into your website and blog and Pinned to Pinterest. Facebook also has the option of having a Youtube tab (my favorite application for this is http://woobox.com) which brings in all your Youtube videos and a featured one (that you can change).  Plus Youtube is awesome for search engine optimization, so make sure you put a detailed description on your videos and add tags.

Posted in B&B, Facebook, How tos, Inns, Lodging, marketing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The BBB Customer Review Option, Innkeepers Need to Keep It On Their Radar.

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Back in November it was released that the BBB (Better Business Bureau) was going to roll out a customer review system http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/11/better-business-bureau-customer-reviews.html.

I was waiting to write about this one until I had a bit more information. This morning while scoping out places to stay for a friend visiting the Boston area, a lodging’s BBB customer review popped up in Google search. So I thought it might be time to revisit.

It appears from looking at some of the reviews out there that the customer review ability has been around on select businesses in certain areas going back to 2011, I gather this was part of their “beta testing”.

While it looks like the customer review option is not yet out to everyone, it appears to be being rolled out by area. Newport, RI for example looks like it has the customer review option enabled for all businesses located in the area. (I didn’t look at all categories so it’s an assumption based on looking at about a dozen options) and Boston, MA as well. I don’t recall seeing this option several months ago, so I am going to guess it’s a recent option. Not all large areas have this enabled yet, Hartford, CT and Springfield, MA does not, but Bangor, ME and surrounding areas does for example.

This isn’t anything for B&Bs and other lodging to panic about, but it’s definitely something to keep on their radar, as I know several lodging people in ME, MA and RI who do have the option enabled on their BBB business listings, and they may not be aware of it. If the reviews are showing up in web search results, even more of a reason to keep an eye on.

I had a chat discussion last November with a customer service rep from the BBB and this is what I managed to glean from it:

The article from Small Biz Trends mentions that all reviews are verified. The BBB rep told me that the business is notified and has to verify that the customer/guest was an actual customer/guest.

She also said that a business could respond to the review and that the business did not have to be a paid member of the BBB to do so.

There is more to this, the BBB agent kind of danced around questions, so I still have some unanswered questions about the whole process.

This is a transcript of the conversation, as you can see we went around in circles for a bit. But supposedly it tracks IP addresses (similar to Yelp and Tripadvisor.) I bolded and underlined the text that I think might be of interest to lodging.  And yes I am Hale, old nickname from CIA.

Robin: Hello Hale Turner. How may I help you?

Hale Turner: Am reading http://smallbiztrend…s-bureau-customer-reviews.html am wondering how you are verifing the reviews

Robin: We verify all email addresses, and reach out to the business as well

Hale Turner: how are you verifying the reviewers though

Robin:  what way do you mean

Hale Turner: how do you know the reviewers are real people?

Robin: Thats why we reach out to the business for there input.

Hale Turner: so http://www.bbb.org/b…vers-ma-95061/Customer-Reviews for example, all the people who wrote reviews the business is verifying they are real people??

Robin: Correct

Hale Turner: and they would know how???

Robin: because they would have information if they have had any marketplace interaction

Hale Turner: and so if someone wrote a negative review and the company says its a competitor or former disgruntely employee how would they prove that it was so or not

and a company could technically make up a customer or two and say they were customers and have positive reviews written, how do you verify that?

Robin:  BBB does not handle any employee or employer issues, there is also verification of URLs so a business can not file there own review

Hale Turner: verification of urls or IP addresses?

Robin: Both

Hale Turner: ok, ““If a consumer cannot prove he or she is a real customer, we will not publish the review … it’s as simple as that.”” so a business can simply deny that who ever wrote a review is a customer, no? and can a business respond to a review?

Robin: Yes they do

Hale Turner: how do they go about doing that, do they have to be a paid member?

Robin: No

Hale Turner: so the earlier question, a business can deny a reviewer was a customer?

Robin: Correct

Hale Turner: and also “The BBB does not handle any employee or employer issues,” so if someone has a dispute about a review, related to an am employee issue how is that expected to be handled?

Robin: You can call me at 508-652-4868

Hale Turner: So in answer, call the BBB to dispute?

I am just doing information gathering for this, I don’t have any BBB issues to resolve

Robin: Ok

Hale Turner: so call to dispute?

Robin: call if you need any more help

Hale Turner: can you answer that one please though?

hello?

Robin: if its regarding a employee that works for the business we would have to review what the nature is.

Hale Turner: and a business would do that by calling their local BBB correct?

Robin: At this point you would need to call our office with any more queastions

Hale Turner: you for some help but its a shame you can’t answer that question without my having to call

Robin: what was the last question if you have an issue with someone that works for a certian business

Hale Turner: if a competitor posted a review, how do you go about disproving it, that one?

Robin: Again it would be us reaching out to the business and having feed back from them

Im sorry but any more questions you would need to call in.

You have been transferred to: Kristen.

Hale Turner: Hi Kristen, why did she transfer me to you if you’all want me to call with anymore questions, or can you answer them?

Kristen: I am not sure why , was she able to answer your question ?

Hale Turner: I had two questions that she could not or would not answer. One was if a review was written by a competitor how does a business dispute it and two same question but review written by a disgruntled former employee All I was asking was how does a biz dispute a review, a phone call to the BBB or is there some other action that a business has to take

Kristen: reviews are verified by url and ip address then we send the business a notification also which they can verify if you are a business disputing a review , you can contact bbb by phone or email

Hale Turner: thats all I needed an answer to, for some reason she would not confirm that a business needed to call. Thank you for your time.

My apologies for the whole thing, but thought it was interesting to not really get a straight answer at first. And as I said, I still have some unanswered questions. If the BBB happens to read this and would like to clarify anything that their customer service people did or did not I would be happy to include it. And to whomever Robin is at the BBB, I apologize for being kind a pain in the rear.

What I get out of this is that a business can dispute a review (something I wish Tripadvisor and Yelp would do better in a perfect world) whether this is actually doable or not I guess some intrepid soul would have to go ahead and contact some lodging facilities (of which there were more then a few with negative reviews) to see whether the BBB did in fact contact them that a negative review was posted, etc. etc. I am not doubting that they did, but it would be nice to find out from the businesses side how the actual process works from soup to nuts. Do they get a phone call first then a email? What kind of timeframe are we talking about, is there follow up? yada yada yada.

This is also of note, when a reviewer goes to write a review, a check mark has to be placed next to this in order for the review to process. (again items of note bolded and underlined).

I certify that this Customer Review is my genuine opinion of this business formed from my personal marketplace interaction with the business, and that I have no personal or business affiliation with this business, and have not been offered any incentive or payment originating from the business to write this review. By submitting this Customer Review, I am representing that it is a truthful account of my experience as a customer of with the business. I acknowledge my understanding that this Customer Review, along with my contact information, will also be sent to the business. I understand that customer reviews are not used in the calculation of the BBB Rating. I understand that if I file a complaint with BBB on this business that my customer review on this business will not be posted. I understand that I may only post a review about an interaction that occurred within the past 1,095 days (3 years). I also understand that my review will only be posted for 1,095 days (3 years). I understand that the text of my Customer Review will be publicly posted on the BBB website (BBB reserves the right to not post in accordance with BBB policy). Please do not include any personally identifiable information in describing your Customer Review. BBB does not accept anonymous reviews. BBB may edit your Customer Review to protect privacy rights and to remove inappropriate language.

As I said earlier, I don’t think lodging should have a cow about this, but definitely something to keep on the radar for the future. If any lodging facilities have had any experience dealing with this so far, would love some input.

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