Anyone in this industry will tell you that a happy guest is a loyal guest. They might return to you regularly or recommend you to a friend, either way, you are onto a winner.

With advertising easier than ever and individuals from all backgrounds looking to diversify or ‘get away from the rat race’ rural business is booming. With a little (or a lot of) hard work and creativity, the opportunities are endless from quirky shepherds huts to natural swimming pools and specialised food trucks.

With this growth comes competition and the importance of thinking outside the box to ensure you are meeting your guest’s expectations. Accommodation has seen colossal growth with glamping high on trend. However, there are three central factors that are key to any business; meeting, managing and exceeding your guest’s expectations.

See also: A simple guide to trip advisor

Meeting your customer expectations

Define your market. What are you? Who are you? Maybe you don’t know yet or maybe it will change. The key factor here is to tell the story of your business truthfully and keep it punchy. These days, we don’t have time for anything and your guests will want to know what you’re ‘selling’, without trying too hard. Information is key, highlight your USPs (unique selling points) and remember pictures tell a thousand words - unless you use a fisheye lens or take them on your archaic phone, a professional photographer is worth it here. Be clear on everything from bed sizes to the number of bathrooms and equipment that might be provided in the kitchen for example. Your guests should arrive and the only surprises should be good ones, like a chauffeur or maybe just a home baked cake.

See also: Does my business need a USP?

Managing your customer expectations

At risk of stating the obvious, don’t try to be something you’re not. Be careful with the use of words; spacious, luxurious, within walking distance, breakfast included, the list goes on.

If you have some wooden glamping pods, you’re not ‘luxury’ glamping unless you have something luxurious like a bed, and probably Egyptian cotton sheets and an ensuite bathroom. ‘Walking distance’ is different for a lot of people too, unless you really are a stone’s throw, don’t state this, or detail the actual distance. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day they say, and there is nothing more disappointing to wake up to your ‘free’ breakfast to find you have to ‘DIY’ and it’s nothing more than a kettle, toaster and some stale bread.

Be honest, it doesn’t need to be the headline but mention noise if you are located beside a train track or lack of parking if you are based in a city location. If you don’t, then it’s likely that your guests will tell the world on social media anyway. You can counterbalance any unfortunate or uncontrollable ‘flaws’ of your business with something equally awesome, like earplugs or a parking permit.

The customer should always come first and your primary focus with any business processes should have the customer in mind. This means everything from making sure the right person is dealing with complaints to doing extra checks for cleanliness even if it does seem like overkill.

Saying that, happy staff equal happy customers. Break free from the norm, pay your staff a little more, organise a staff party for no reason and make sure you always feedback positive reviews, it’s amazing what it can do for morale. This might just be a summer job for some of your staff, but they might come back next summer, and how great that they can just slot back in. It might just be you in a one-man band at the moment, so remember to treat and praise yourself too.

See also: Why every small business needs a website

It might sound obvious to some, but all of these factors have a domino effect. If you have a great relationship with your staff, suppliers, neighbours and even competition, the vision you have for your business and what you want to offer your guests or customers will be so much easier to put into practice.

Review sites will also play a part in setting guest expectations. If there is a recurring issue, act on it, new guests will come looking for it, if they even decide to book, and at the same time, keep up the special treats that all your guests always mention in their reviews.

It’s all fun and games but you are still running a business and you are responsible for your guests in many ways. Your guests are putting their trust in you and expect you to be a legally compliant business. Ticking all the boxes won’t shield your business from unfortunate incidents, however, it should guarantee you are not found negligent should the worst happen. Seeking advice, and better yet, becoming affiliated by an official body such as Quality in Tourism will give you that seal of approval and show your guests you are taking extra steps to ensure their enjoyment and safety.

Exceeding your customer expectations

There’s always room for more. The extra step that will ensure your guests have a memorable visit, tell their friends and hopefully return. The opportunities are endless and vary from the simple to extravagant. It could be picking them up from the airport, helping make plans for an engagement proposal or researching how to make things easier for a family with an autistic child. There is no ‘tick list’ for exceeding your guest’s expectations. It’s about the personality of you and the business, no gesture is too big or small.