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Unrealistic expectations?
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COYS



Joined: 06 Jun 2015
Posts: 781
Location: Greek Islands

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:46 am    Post subject: Unrealistic expectations? Reply with quote

What started out as a fairly minor occurence has brought some long surpressed frustrations boiling up over the weekend, so where better to seek some balanced opinion?
Some background: Mrs COYS & I have become increasingly frustrated with our maintenance/cleaning team for a while now. Year on year complacency has replaced what started out as a fairly good service. Despite multiple attempts to broach the subject in a polite & reasonable manner in person, we are reassured with empty platitudes & no doubt a roll of the eyes in private.
We are absentee owners but are lucky enough to have multiple extended visits throughout the year, during which we seem to spend an inordinate amount of time bringing the property back up to how we reasonably expect it presented.
Last Thursday we had a same day changeover with guests leaving at 11.00 & guests arriving after 20.00 so no huge time pressures one would assume. Now, come Monday we still have not had a courtesy email/text confirming that I should refund their security/damage deposit.
'No news is good news' you might reasonably say. I'd argue that a one line email is well within fair expectation.
So imagine my surprise when Mr Departing Guest got in touch this morning saying how much he enjoyed his holiday & finished up by apologising (& offering to pay) for breaking a large ornamental floor vase in the bedroom. To be clear, the vase was a gift, treasured but not particularly expensive, nor irreplaceable. S**t happens. What is really starting to grate is the fact that Mr DG told our property manager of this before he left last week, a gesture that I much appreciate. But as I write this, I have still not heard a word from her. That really irks me, much, much more so than the breakage.
There are other things at play here but this seemingly minor issue has brought it to a point where we are all but resigned to accepting tardiness or changing service teams at seasons end.
So now I've had my rant; am I being unreasonable in my expectations that my property is afforded not only due care & diligence at changeovers but also to be kept regularly informed. Knowing some of you work both sides of the fence interests me a great deal.
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Zingara



Joined: 09 Apr 2013
Posts: 606
Location: Antibes, PACA

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know that my opinion would be 'balanced', but we paid a surprise visit to our apartment last week, and I'm still formulating the e-mail (I have to sleep on them for a couple of days until I calm down, and they're politely written..the last guests had departed 3 days before we arrived, checked out by the manager.

The cleaning had been 'done' (that morning)...er, really? What about the dusty surfaces, food residue in the cupboards and fridge etc...? It's a 24sq.m studio, with 2h cleaning paid for.

The sheets on the bed were stained / filthy (and not even ours!) I binned them. Imagine what a guest might have said!?

Shower hadn't been cleaned adequately, nor had the bathroom sink...perhaps the latter because the vanity unit lights weren't working...

I could go on...each time I go, sadly I have to point things out to the manager that really should be her job. It doesn't seem to sink in that she should be 'managing' the situation. She employs the cleaner, and invoices me. She invoices me for every visit she makes, including collecting and delivering the laundry.

I feel I'm between a rock and a hard place...as owners (LMHers anyway!) we try really hard to improve our guests experiences, but we are dependent on our local managers...sadly, I find, like you, that they start off well, with promises of improvement if you mention something, but then it deteriorates.

We try and keep the peace as we don't want to find ourselves without support mid-season (had that happen...toys out of pram)...my manager has had a preliminary e-mail to say 'cleaning not good enough', details to follow. She tells me she will go through the list with the cleaner, that she knows what to do next time...ummm...

'Fortunately' this season is quieter than usual for us, as it means I can do another visit in a few weeks' time. It's not ideal, but if push comes to shove I can do the changeover myself, and send the (returning) guests the keys...


And breathe....
My rant over....for now!
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Dusty



Joined: 19 Dec 2012
Posts: 308
Location: St Cernin de Labarde, Dordogne

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It sounds to me that you have both have reasonable grounds for complaint and that you must complain, but in a reasonable, factual manner, backed up with evidence wherever possible. At the end of the day its your reputation and business that would suffer should you receive negative comments and reviews from guests, the cleaners/managers don't have the same focus on standards as you as they are less directly impacted.
Having said that I appreciate its very difficult when you are dependant on them for your reputation and upsetting them could risk putting you in a worse position, which is why it must be taken up in a business like manner. Normally people respond well and respect it when criticism is done in a strong but reasonable way.

Good luck!
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Hells Bells



Joined: 30 Apr 2005
Posts: 13145
Location: French Alps

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some bells ringing here. I've got to go back to work, but I'll try and compile some thoughts and post later.
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Hells Bells



Joined: 30 Apr 2005
Posts: 13145
Location: French Alps

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So, a few things that come to mind.
I've had similar difficulties, but to date no guest complaints. If they are things that have been missed by the manager, I've mentioned it. The majority of things have been dealt with in a professional manner, and not repeated.
None of the things on their own were major enough to warrant the stressful search for a new manager, although I have seriously considered it at times, when several things are obvious.
Not noticing a dog there until after you have refunded the damage deposit is my latest one. I will have to stump up the extra cleaning fee though.
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COYS



Joined: 06 Jun 2015
Posts: 781
Location: Greek Islands

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zingara, I feel your pain but I'll keep the story of my last 'surprise' visit under wraps until I stop foaming at the mouth over the latest bump in the road.
Dusty, I agree that any complaints should be handled calmly & professionally, & having spent almost all of my working life self employed I know only too well the value of a good reputation & how easily they can be damaged these days. The phrase "good enough" is rarely just that I'm afraid but so often seems to be the default standard.
To put it into context for you, we had a frank & honest discussion earlier this year as we had already noticed the drop in overall care & lack of communication unless there was an invoice due. I suggested the implementation of a basic schedule to ensure things weren't overlooked either indoors or out in the garden. Clearly this & the rest of our discussions were completely ignored or forgotten as soon as we left for UK. Out of sight - out of mind. This was only our second changeover this season so to say we are off to a bad start is a bit of an understatment. A bit more context - we have been paying a tidy sum, in excess of eu5K for what is essentially a 13/14 week season so it's not as if this complacency comes cheap, but cost is not the issue.
It's now almost 5pm there, so a full 4 days since the guest left & 3 days since I emailed/texted manager for appraisal - thus far, not even the common courtesy of an acknowledgement, so to say I'm a little wound up would be putting it mildly.
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Last edited by COYS on Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:12 pm; edited 1 time in total
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zebedee



Joined: 12 Sep 2014
Posts: 878
Location: yorkshire dales

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello COYS, a long shot, I know, but maybe the guest told your manager that he would notify you directly and your manager has put the matter out of his/ her mind??

This does not alter the problems though. I think photos of any areas that need more cleaning can be helpful, and I think I would insist on some additional "training" for the manager and cleaner together, provided by you.

Some cleaners don't seem to realise that guests expect immaculate standards, but it is your property and you are paying for this service. I would also be asking them what it would take for the property to be cleaned to the expected level. That way they should get the message that you may be prepared to go elsewhere in the near future.
If the cleaner has not provided a good standard at a changeover, I would expect the manager to get their sleeves rolled up. Again, stating clearly another expectation my be helpful all around. Done nicely, of course.

Do you provide a written checklist? that might help.
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NeatandPicky



Joined: 30 Aug 2007
Posts: 362
Location: Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sadly it all chimes with me too.

I found a sanding block under the sofa and a camera memory card under a cushion after paying for a 10h spring clean. We don't even get an especially good clean, so no doubt guests get worse.

Yet if cleaning is mentioned, it's usually positively (not always!) I put it down to the tiled floors, uncluttered look, and good paintwork. I also think guests tend to echo previous comments. (Plus most aren't going on holiday to find fault.)

But my gripes are not just on cleaning...

Communication is a big one for me too. I have to check every time if it's OK to return the security bond. I also send pre-guest info in umpteen different ways in addition to the spreadsheet from our manager (a poor imitation of mine). Yet still she forgets to leave change of linen for 2 week stays (oh, I forgot because I don't do it for any of my other villas), makes up the wrong beds, etc.

Trouble is we're in a village and I've already got rid of 2 cleaner/managers after being frustrated with their lack of effort and attention to detail. And I really don't like having awkward encounters when I'm on holiday. There are always plenty of people looking for cleaner/managers, so good ones have a constant temptation to take on too many villas. When you're off site, it's very easy for standards to slip.

Also I do like her. And she's honest - which I value hugely.

So I've started to think I'm the problem... That I expect too much. It's so frustrating because I try to be so professional, and I just keep feeling let down. Sad
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COYS



Joined: 06 Jun 2015
Posts: 781
Location: Greek Islands

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We must've cross posted zebedee but to confirm:
This is a registered cleaning & maintenance company so shouldn't require on site training. The cleaning side of things isn't a bone of contention & yes we expect (& pay for) high standards. This however seems to be a default setting - it's clean, no complaints therefore no problem. Just as importantly, we are struggling with accepting inadequate presentation, poor communication & general apathy towards what we are selling to our guests i.e when you are buying something predominantly based on photos, then I would reasonably expect that what you turn up to is a fair representation of that. I would also reasonably expect to be informed of large breakages or obvious damage in good time, something that we specifically discussed pre-season after we were forced to write off an expensive broken sofa that got 'missed' last year (long story).
To be honest zebedee I think I'm more than prepared to go elsewhere, I'm almost certainly resigned to it.
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NeatandPicky



Joined: 30 Aug 2007
Posts: 362
Location: Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry COYS to hijack your thread.

I would email/text again re security bond as your previous communication seems to have got lost in the ether, and see whether your management company remember to mention the vase.

Feel your pain over lack of communication and attention to detail, especially after you've had that full and frank discussion. That's where the frustration lies, because you've tried your utmost and they're still letting you down.

I have just discovered an app called 'Do it later' which allows you to schedule pre-written texts and emails. I've already set up my texts to guests for the rest of the season... considering also doing emails to manager re security bond. Shouldn't be necessary, but...
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gh



Joined: 01 Dec 2005
Posts: 738
Location: Poitou Charente/Moraira/UK

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have been in the same situation 8 yrs ago we are also not on site.

Great for the first season, then like you, we made a last minute decision to fill a cancellation ourselves. The house was proposed to be ready for cancelled guest, we didn't inform them we were coming.

Found a good few things not as we had discussed at the get together before the season started, not up to the previous years standard. Constantly chasing for agreement to send back breakage deposit.
Cracked patio chair when new spare ones are in storage; we had no guests welcome pack, though money taken from float.

Get together on our summer visit, explained again they said sorry blah blah blah.
The next season had a guest complain the grass was long weeds etc. towels forgotten to be left out. I mailed them no reply I called, apparently mail in spam. I had enough by this time. I felt sure these issues with them would continue.

Called them and said I no longer needed their services, they mocked saying how would you manage without us...
My friend and neighbour offered to do the changeover with her daughter when said guest left.

I arranged a few interviews from UK flew over stayed in a hotel for a few days where we found our current managers, absolute gems. Sometimes it is so stressful going through this, I just had enough of it and had no idea what the outcome was going to be.

Thankfully things are still of a high standard plenty of communication between us and many a praise written in our guest book about them.
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COYS



Joined: 06 Jun 2015
Posts: 781
Location: Greek Islands

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And there's me thinking it was just us.
Me & Mrs C have already agreed that a change is our only option. Unfortunately that's going to have to wait until September but if I could turn the clock back a few short weeks we really should have seen the writing on the wall then. Apparently travelling to our own house without prior warning isn't fair? But it is an eye opener.
I have to agree with NeatandPicky, it is all too simple to appear & smell clean & fresh with tiled floors, no clutter & so on - it is another thing entirely to ensure you continue doing what you are being paid for, no matter how mundane the tasks may seem. As others have said, attention to detail matters & in todays market poor presentation & disregard just will not cut it.
Our requirements haven't changed, from our very first meeting we have always been upfront about how & why we want things done - they provided a cost based upon it that has risen steadily over 4 years while the product has sadly gone in the other direction. It is blindingly obvious that they have taken on too many houses with not enough staff but shortly this will cease to be my problem. Maybe it's no bad thing to change things up on a regular basis if complacency is so common.
Roll on September!
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e-richard



Joined: 17 Oct 2004
Posts: 4963
Location: Algarve, Portugal

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

COYS wrote:
Maybe it's no bad thing to change things up on a regular basis if complacency is so common.

I hate to agree, but its definitely the way to go. We recently fired our maid (after 17 years no less) for all the reasons described above ... and some.

But it was remarkable how diligent the gardener has become, how caring the pool man is and how thorough the new maid is.
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Zingara



Joined: 09 Apr 2013
Posts: 606
Location: Antibes, PACA

PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 5:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"in today's market" is such an important realisation for all.
Bookings generally in our region have fallen (multifactorial), so we have to remain competitive. Whilst the managers may be hoping to take more properties on, the bookings for each property are fewer. They have less regular work to offer cleaners, thus the cleaners look elsewhere (boats, hotels).
We recently sold our villa : when the manager asked if I could recommend them to the new owners I was pleased to be able to tell the truth : they won't be renting it out.

Despite regular, polite discussions / emails about 'standards', we don't seem to be making much progress...but I'm not convinced we'll be better off changing...deckchairs and the Titanic? Our apt is on the market...and 14y, it may be a relief to sell...
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COYS



Joined: 06 Jun 2015
Posts: 781
Location: Greek Islands

PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 9:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

e-richard wrote:
COYS wrote:
Maybe it's no bad thing to change things up on a regular basis if complacency is so common.

I hate to agree, but its definitely the way to go. We recently fired our maid (after 17 years no less) for all the reasons described above ... and some.

But it was remarkable how diligent the gardener has become, how caring the pool man is and how thorough the new maid is.


Sad but true e-richard.
On reflection I'm amazed at how I let it happen - I'm generally not one to suffer fools gladly nor afraid to voice my opinions.
At the time, having amicably parted company with our previous husband & wife team, it seemed prudent to employ one company to provide a "complete home package" The reality has been anything but, & unfortunately much of the 'service sector' here seem to regard owners as easy pickings.
Private rentals are a relatively new trend here since licensing laws were modernized, so there are plenty jumping on the bandwagon but quantity is not driving quality. Buying a mop does not make you a cleaner.

I was just about to hit submit when *ping* a text reply finally arrives almost 5 days after I sent my queries.
One line: change okay, small ornament broken. End
Aside from the fact that I processed the refund blindly days ago & the 'small ornament' was a 90cm tall, 20+kg floor vase is now irrelevant. Is this really an acceptable timescale & method of communicating with an employer?
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