Innkeepers, what does your email autoresponder say about you?

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Over the years I’ve been the recipient of many B&B auto-responders, and have started collecting ones that are either very good or quite awful. Approximately 1 in every 10 B&Bs has an auto-responder on their email, and based on some of the responses, quite a few have forgotten they are even there.

In the day and age of people wanting an instantaneous reply to an email, auto-responders may seem like a good interim point of contact between an inn and a potential guest, BUT it needs to be crafted carefully, as well as viewed from the perspective of a potential guest making an inquiry.

Or if it’s a general email i.e. innkeeper@janedoeinn.com v.s. reservations@janedoeinn.com, be careful because the receiver of the email auto-responder may have already been a guest, and may not be a happy one, and is trying to contact you about it.

I’ll start with some examples I’ve collected that may come off as “not the best”. Keep in mind that email can be, and has been the cause of many misunderstandings, because there is no tonality in it. What you may think of as a short and sweet to the point auto-responder, may come across as brusque in tone to a potential guest. So here are some examples of good, the not so good and in some cases the hilarious. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. 🙂

Out of date auto-responders (and I’ve gotten dozens and dozens of these with various out of date and some very very out of date dates) “We are closed on vacation through August 14,  2014, we will return your email promptly when we return.” (I got this one last week and called the inn to let them know about it, you would have thought someone would have mentioned it by now, but also consider how much business they may have lost because of it…………scary!) Guests view: Well I guess we can cross that B&B of our list……..

If you have been on vacation, closed for renovations or away for any reason, make sure you check that auto-responder!

I’ll include making sure if you include specials (which IS a fantastic idea to put in) make sure you update them, I received one several months ago advertising a New Year’s Eve Special………for 2015.

An auto-responder in PINK Comic Sans Font. And no the colors of the inn are not pink, so they can’t use branding as an excuse..  Guests view: Not very business like………

“Thak you for your inquirey.  We will get back to you by phon or email a soon as possibe.” Guests view: Spellcheck much? (the sad part is I have seen A LOT of auto-responders with multiple misspellings. If you are going to use one, perhaps run it through MSWord spell check first, not all email programs, believe it or not, have spell check or it may not enabled) I personally would be totally lost without spellcheck, and while grammar errors do get through, at least it catches most spelling mistakes.

“Our breakfasts and hospitality are unmatched in Luna Mills!  See the link on our website to TripAdvisor to read reviews by our guests.” Guests view: “Nice promo of their inn, BUT, I have to go back to their website and click on the link to Tripadvisor to read their reviews? How about I just want to make a reservation” OR “I have a question” OR “I had a bad experience at your inn and was emailing you about it, but thank you for reminding me you are on Tripadvisor, I am going to go there now and leave a review……”

“Greetings! Thank you for considering the Jane Doe Inn for your travel needs. We will contact you within a couple days regarding your reservation request.” Guests view: “I don’t want to be contacted within a couple of days, I want to be contacted now (or close to).”

Some examples of the somewhat “brusque”auto-reply: (and this was literally all the text they contained)

“Thanks for your inquiry. We will respond shortly.“

“Hello – Thanks for contacting The Jane Doe Inn!   This is an auto-reply.“

“This message is automatically sent in response to your email. Please do not reply.“

“I try to check email at least 2 times per day.  You should hear back from me at some point.“ (I loved the vagueness on that one)

“Please do not use this email as it is not read!  Please call the Inn or email to the address on our web site.” (that is the email on their website, and maybe provide a number to call?)

Guests view: “Um ok?…………………..”

Now read those back to yourself slowly out loud, do they sound very welcoming?

“Again, thank you for your interest in staying with us at the Jane Doe Lodge B&B in beautiful Luna, VT. Sincerely, Don and Rachel, Owners/Innkeepers” Guests view: “Again? And how did you know I was emailing you to a book a stay? Assume much? I was going to inquire if you had any breakfast items for people with gluten intolerance and then maybe I was interested in staying with you” OR “I had a complaint, I have NO interest in staying with you ever again!”

And while I don’t label this one as “bad” per say, it does take the cake as one of funniest.

“Thank you for contacting the Jane Doe Bed & Breakfast in Luna, Texas.  We are a small, owner-operated business, and though we try to check email as often as we can, sometimes many many hours can pass before we get the chance.  We could be cooking, cleaning toilets or making beds, running errands, attending to guests, in the bathroom, answering the phone, gardening or sleeping (this is our home too as well after all), so please leave a message if we don’t answer and we will return your call as soon as we see the flashing light on our phone.” Guests view: “Um, TMI much? Also flashing light on their phone? What is this the 80s?”

This is perhaps the worst culprit of auto-responders, the Spam approval filter request, mostly through Earthlink or Spamaware, and sometimes Yahoo. As a potential guest, current guest, already a guest, the last thing I want to have to spend time on, is having to take extra time to get “approved” so I can send an inn an email, I already took the time to email you, I don’t want to have to get approved and then re-email you AGAIN!  Guests view: “Booking somewhere else”

Also of note, people may not be aware of of what their outgoing email says who it’s from, when it is replying to someone.

i.e.

From: Stupid email [mailto:janedoeinn@janedoeinn.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 24, 2016 7:13 AM
To: Heather Turner
Subject: Re: Reservation Inquiry

I’ve gotten replies from inns with the return email name is “innkeep”,  “the inn”, “inn, “innkprs”,“Hotdiggity Dawg”, “no answer”, “My email”, “info”, “website email”, “me”,”barleycorn”, “hotticket”, “Stupid email”, “my stupid email”, “apple”, “apple email”, “my apple email”, “my yahoo email”, “my AOL email” and my personal favorite, “Handshake”. Handshake? Is that a name or something you do to your guests?

A few examples of some decent auto-responders:

“Thank you for your E-Mail to the Country Cottage of Luna. We will respond to your request personally as soon as possible. In the meantime if your request is regarding a reservation, or information on availability at our Inn, please call Tom or Jackie at 800-555-1212 for an immediate response. We look forward to seeing you on beautiful Luna Island.”

“Thank you for contacting the Jane Doe B&B.  We have received your email and will be getting back to you as soon as possible. We invite you to visit our website, http://www.janedoeinn.com where you can learn about the bed and breakfast, check room availability and make your room reservations online. If this is after office hours we will respond to your email first thing tomorrow morning. If this email is in regards to a current stay or an emergency, please contact us at 800-555-1212. Thank You! With regards, Innkeepers Sharon and Mark.”

“Thank you for your interest in the Jane Doe Inn. We appreciate your visit to our website and we will respond to your email request as soon as possible. However, a faster way to reach us if you need a quick response, is to call us on our cell phone at 800-555-1212. We’re never far away from it. Remember, it’s 800-555-1212. It’s the fastest way to book what you want! Thank you, Nathalie and Jim”

“Thank you for your interest in The Jane Doe Inn! Most questions regarding pricing and events are on our website at http://www.janedoeinn.com. If you need further assistance or would like to make reservations in person instead of off of our website, please call us at (800) 555-1212 for a prompt response.”

I recommend that if you use an auto-responder, if you feel the need to have one, use it as a marketing tool and read the auto-responder and read “into” how it can be taken from a guests or potential guests point of view. Add links to your direct reservations page, add some specials (if you have them and do keep them up to date), nice touches are adding local events (again keep them current) but make the auto-reply personalized and professional and it doesn’t hurt to add a hook:  Book online now at the Jane Doe B&B website and save 5% off your booking!

About Chef Forfeng

Innkeeping Tip and Tricks: Please check out some marketing ideas for Inns and B&Bs, Blogging ideas, Facebook Tips and Social Media Tutorials https://chefforfeng.wordpress.com/marketing-for-lodging-resources/
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