In an effort to ensure best practice, we appointed Responsible Marketing expert David Oxendale to provide coronavirus consultant advice on all areas of our business.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many small businesses like ours to reconsider their marketing, processes and hygiene routines. We certainly want to make sure your guest experience is tip-top from every angle.
It is important to us to use this coronavirus consultant advice to enhance our business standards and continue to exceed the expectations of our guests.
“None of us will avoid the impacts of COVID-19. Fortunately, most of us will escape its worst effects. However, each of us will ‘feel’ different in our everyday lives. For instance:
- standing a little further away from friends
- wearing a mask on public transport
- washing and sanitising our hands more regularly
Public health guidance such as the above has subsumed itself into our psyche. Moreover, it is likely to dominate our daily routines for some time to come. As a result, it’s important when coming to holiday at Exmoor Character Cottages that we offer reassurance and confidence about the measures taken. This will help make your holiday a happy – and safe one.
How I have assessed Exmoor Character Cottages
For more years than I care to mention, I’ve worked with clients across Europe. I have helped them to consider their approach to risk and their policies from a customer perspective. The world’s biggest brands spend millions of pounds each year on ‘customer journeys’. In my work to provide Lucy with coronavirus consultant advice, I’ve analysed the guest experience at the four cottages in detail. This includes:
- online marketing and booking
- the holiday itself
- gathering feedback.
I already knew of Exmoor Character Cottage’s reputation. The love and passion that goes into making this business so successful impresses me, as does the intimate understanding of customers, and what delights them.
The very beginning of your experience – enquiries and bookings
Firstly, I reviewed the website, bookings process and terms and conditions. With a few simple tweaks, guests can now book and pay online at any time. They can advantage of special promotions such as the popular ‘Exmoor Escapes’ currently running. The team added extra surety when booking during these uncertain times. They did this by introducing a No Risk Protected Booking Scheme on all reservations for 2020 and 2021. These protections have always been in place for direct bookings. However, they are now highly visible on the website and social media to give new guests complete comfort when planning their break or staycation.
Booking direct versus booking through an agent
New guests considering whether to book directly with Lucy or via an agency may want to consider the challenges customers have faced with the latter. Refunds (or even responses to emails and phone calls) with the larger, national letting agencies since the lockdown’s introduction in March is not always straightforward.
In contrast, for every single direct booking Lucy has either offered an alternative date – at no additional cost – or she has refunded in full. No quibbles. Some of the guests who booked through our letting agents have been unhappy with their outcome. The so-called ‘reassurance’ of booking with a large agency hasn’t in fact materialised. Lucy will tell you – small is sometimes better!
Next, we tackled cleaning protocols
VisitEngland has evaluated the housekeeping at Exmoor Character Cottages and highly commends it. Now the team has implemented enhanced hygiene routines in the light of COVID-19. This will unfortunately mean no late check outs, early arrivals and the temporary removal of toys and board games. However, all guests will continue to benefit from an individually deep-cleaned cottage on arrival. This now incorporates enhancements including sterilising surfaces, door-knobs and key safes, sanitising soft furnishings, and enhancing procedures for laundry. Each party receives a 250ml of hand sanitiser too – in case you can’t find your own.
Finally, you’ll now find no human contact check-ins. There are staggered guest arrival times at Stone Barn and The Old Sweet Shop which share a driveway. Courtesy calls are made once guests have arrived and unpacked. Hot tub demonstrations are now available on the company’s YouTube page too. However, they are still possible in person from a safe 2m distance.
Grocery deliveries and in-cottage dining
The team has provided information of local hand-made meals and grocery delivery services in our area. They come from trusted suppliers in Dunster, Minehead and Wootton Courtenay. As a result guests can pre-plan their in-home dining before or during their stay.
Let’s not forget things to do, too
Lucy and Lynne have also produced a map of activities to enjoy despite social distancing. For instance:
- Foraging on Exmoor
- Visiting lesser-known sites
- Referring guests to Lucy’s ‘Little Book of Walks’ which has 12 self-guided rambles across Exmoor – on many of these you’ll see few or no people. You can find this in each of the cottages upon arrival.
These small changes help us maintain a hygienic and safe environment. Moreover, they also help our guests make the most of their break and ensure that someone local is on hand in case of emergency.
Of course, much like the pandemic itself, official advice for hospitality businesses is updated constantly. However Lucy’s intention is to take best practice from across the world. Advisers like myself, the tourism bodies to which Exmoor Character Cottages belongs – UKHospitality, VisitEngland, Visit Somerset and Visit Exmoor – can help Lucy to continually enhance measures as needed.
It’s a real pleasure to work with Lucy and her team at Exmoor Character Cottages – a business which truly puts their guest experience first. I hope you’ll enjoy staying at one of their cottages as much as I enjoy working here.”
We hope the changes we have implemented as a result of this coronavirus consultant advice provide all our guests with reassurance and confidence when booking accommodation with us.
If this interests you and you would like further information, please find out other ways Exmoor Character Cottages has worked to become COVID-19 compliant and to safeguard our guests, our team and our local community.