Note: Lessons from The Overlook is a monthly update on lessons learned from owning a vacation rental property in the Southern California mountain town of Idyllwild. It's a hands-on opportunity to apply some of the techniques I advise my clients to use. You can find past updates here.
We arrived at The Overlook earlier this month just as our property manager was finishing up a tour. A couple and their daughter were visiting a few properties to decide which one to book for a family getaway later this year.
They appeared to really like our cabin. "It's beautiful," one said. Another exclaimed, "You have a very nice place!"
We checked in with our property manager a few days later and learned they rented another cabin. The couple really liked The Overlook, but they ultimately decided they wanted to be closer to town so they could walk to shops and restaurants.
That bit of feedback solidified something we've been thinking of for months. Sally and I knew then we needed to tweak our customer service vision.
The Backstory on Our Vision
If you read this blog regularly, you know how often I stress the importance of creating a customer service vision. It's a shared definition of outstanding service that you can use as a compass to point everyone (and every decision) in the same direction.
Here's our original vision for The Overlook:
Welcome to your mountain community retreat.
Each word was carefully chosen to represent the experience we wanted to create for our guests. You can read the full story, but here's a summary:
Welcome: we want our guests to feel welcome throughout their stay.
Your: we want our guests to feel like the place is their own, so they'll treat it well while they're there and return on a regular basis.
Mountain: Guests come here for the mountains, so we'll emphasize that experience.
Community: We want our guests to experience that charming small-town friendliness that comes with being part of a rural community.
Retreat: A mountain cabin like The Overlook is a place to get away from it all, so we want to help our guests relax.
The one word we got stuck on when we did an annual vision review last year was "community." We just weren't sure how to emphasize community for our guests so they could enjoy the town of Idyllwild the way we enjoyed it.
For example, we loved the Fourth of July parade, which brought out a festive crowd of locals to see the pageantry. Where else but a small town can you see Santa Claus waving from a fire truck in July?
Or a dog named Max who happens to be the elected mayor?
What Guest Feedback Says
It's important to keep in mind that your style and preferences may not be a perfect representation of your customers.
For example, there's a faux deer antler chandelier over the dining table. It's definitely not our style and Sally and I would replace it in a heartbeat if the Overlook was just our private cabin. However, we've gotten so many positive comments about it that we know it's the right decor.
So looking at guest feedback, our guests are staying at The Overlook for a retreat while the local community is far less important.
"Everything is well maintained and beautifully appointed and the views of the city lights, sunsets, and mountain landscapes are simply spectacular."
"Everything you need to do what you need. Relax, hike, run, bike, swim, etc."
"Great cabin to build memories in!"
Our New Vision Statement
It's natural for a customer service vision to go through a revision or two. In most cases, adjusting just one or two words is all that's needed.
Here's our new vision:
Welcome to your mountain retreat
That's it. We simply removed "community." Sally and I realized we've been focusing on making The Overlook a welcoming retreat in the mountains all along. Here are just a few things we've added since buying the cabin:
Extra towels for the hot tub
Family-friendly games, puzzles, and DVDs
Access to Netflix and other streaming services
Upgraded and expanded seating on the deck
Extra seating on the catwalk
Game room with a ping pong table
Updating our vision has provided amazing clarity. We'll continue to use our vision to guide our decision-making, with a renewed emphasis on making The Overlook the perfect place for a welcoming mountain retreat.