One of our jobs in the Web Services office is to read Message Boards pertaining to the Outer Banks. There are two that seem to be the most popular and active:
OBX Connection and OBX Bound
The OBX Connection site requires that you join in order to post a question or comment on the Message Board, OBX Bound does not. Both are free and both get a lot of traffic. NC Beaches is another great site to get information about the Outer Banks and the entire NC coast. They do not yet have a message board but they do allow reviews from anyone.
Getting to my point, several people read these boards and we do respond to questions from posters if we know we can answer their questions. It could be anything from "What is Corolla Light Resort like" to recommending restaurants. Many times people are asking about specific rental companies and want to know good and bad experiences others have had. Fair enough ... they are going to spend a lot of money on a vacation home and want some feedback. Happy to help.
However, anyone who works for a company, owns a business here, etc has to be careful because the rules are pretty strict. You can't actively and overtly promote your company ... cannot use the Message Boards to advertise in other words.
Sometimes the threads on a particular topic can get quite heated. Recently I ran across one that was really slamming the vacation rental companies here on the OBX. There were a lot of people spouting off how horrible "we" all were; that we do not care about guests, only want their money, terrible customer service and so on.
I watched and read the posts for several days as they got more and more hateful (and untrue) and I finally had to post my own response.
There are vacation rental companies here who do care about the guests. Many of them. There are other companies besides Village Realty which I would have no problem recommending to friends or family (IF we did not have anything available of course!). The owners have good reputations, are ethical and well respected.
One bad, or even horrible, experience does not mean that everyone who works in this business is out to get you or screw you over.
I am sure I can safely say that we (all the rental agencies) do want our guests to come back, want them to enjoy their time here and of course hope they refer us to others. We all appreciate that you (the guests) have chosen to rent from our company and we want your time here to be as carefree and relaxing as possible.
We are not meeting every week to decide whose vacation we are going to ruin or which home we will sabotage. Honestly. Nor do we know when the AC will decide to quit working or the refrigerator will go down. Stuff happens. If the guests before you trashed the house then we will not be able to give you the keys before check in time. If the carpets need to be cleaned, same thing.
Our website is as up to date as we can get it. If any guest has a specific question about a home that we do not know, we will try to get that answer for you. Our reservation agents personally go to the homes in the off season to evaluate them and make personal notes. Plus, we now allow online reviews and ratings of each home, by the people who stayed in them. Guests who have rented from us receive a link to an electronic survey and are asked to please fill it out and submit it. We go through each one and unless there is profanity (have not seen that yet) or someone just goes on a rant (nope, have not had that happen yet either) then we post it live.
So please, if you reading some negative posts about the people here or the vacation rental industry as a whole --remember that the OBX locals love it here and we are happy to share our beautiful island with visitors. Yes, we are competitors but we are also business associates and in many cases good friends.
The owners of the homes are not the bad guys either. They are our partners in this venture and want the same thing we want; happy guests. This is a business and of course we need to make money and the owners need to make money. There is the mortgage, the utilities, the insurance, the maintenance, refurbishing that the owners are responsible for. They depend on us to market their home, get it rented, take care of their (and our) guests and to clean and maintain their homes. Many owners have developed long term friendships with their guests and they exchange holiday cards, call each other and keep up with family events. That is always nice. Some of our owners call their guests while here, send or leave them gifts and furnish their homes with the guests comfort in mind. It is always nice to feel appreciated and know that you are welcome.
Do I think Village Realty is the best real estate company here? Yes, of course I do and I hope everyone at every other company feels the same way.
Short and sweet ... we appreciate our guests and we want you to feel welcome and return to the Outer Banks many times.
Thanks for listening
Your OBX Blogger
Wednesday, April 22 is Earth Day.
"Earth Day, celebrated April 22, is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment. It is held annually during both spring in the northern hemisphere and autumn in the southern hemisphere. It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in in 1970 and is celebrated in many countries every year."
I always feel guilty because I know I am not doing all I could to "go green". Yes, I turn off the water when I am brushing my teeth, I take short showers and I turn off the lights when no one is in the room. But I don't recycle at home.
At work, it is another story. We are full on Green.
- Recycle soft drink cans
- No paper brochure, all electronic
- Leases are signed electronically online OR can be emailed to guests
- We recycle office paper
- Pick up trash on Earth Day
- Turn off computers at night
- Re use file folders
- Combine trips to other offices
- No paper confirmations sent (unless guest does not have email)
- Email confirmations, payment receipts, etc are sent instead of snail mail
- Cleaning products are eco friendly
- Paper products in our office and our homes are recycled
- We use glassware and dishes in our kitchen--not paper cups or plates
In honor of Earth Day tomorrow we are donating $5.00 for any reservation that is made on that day, whether by phone or online. Our donation will go to the Nature Conservancy to benefit the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve.
So if you are thinking about booking a home this week, why not do it Wednesday and do your part to help Save the Earth.
Thanks for reading.
Until Next Time
Your OBX Blogger
FYI we do allow holds for guests who phone in too ... same rules apply. "Hold It" seems to be very popular ... from the stats I have seen on this.
We still call each guest who books online to go over any questions they may have and make sure they understand when their first rental payment is due, when the balance is due and so on.
Our powers are working overtime lately because we also have two new applications that will benefit guests who have already made their reservacations.
Guest Web allows a guest to (a) see their lease and all terms of the agreement on line, anytime (b) make a payment online, anytime (c) check their balance due (d) contact us in a secure manner (you know, like the banks do .... they never email you to give you the information ... they email you to ask you to log into your account and then you check your emails there). Guests can either enter their credit card information ... again, all secure ....or print out a coupon to send in with their check. Or or course, they can still call us. Since the lease is accepted either at time of booking online or when a guest goes to the GuestWeb site ... we are also saving paper! Village has been "going green" for some time now and this is just one more step. And last but not least, this is guest friendly and also saves our staff a lot of time.
RezMail Pro has automated our email contact with guests, giving us more time to answer phone calls, questions and concerns and provide better customer service. Guests will get an email when they book a home (whether onine or by phone, etc), when payments are due and five days before they check in. That email gives them directions and information they will need once they get here.
Then, emails go out to our guests after they leave thanking them for staying with us and asking them to complete an online survey. Finally, six months later the final email goes out asking them to come back!
More "greening" of our reservation processes. Emails instead of mail (although we do call or snail mail guests who do not use email) saves time and paper and emails are more likely to get read quickly as opposed to mail that you throw on the counter and open later.
More good stuff on the way.
Hope you are having a good week and making plans to visit the OBX soon.
Until Next Time
Your OBX Blogger
I have seen the quilts she has donated to the March of Dimes fund raisers and they are simply beautiful. Perfect for a baby gift or new home gift or any time at all. I wish I had the patience to do this type of craft but since I almost failed Home Ec in high school I am pretty sure that is not in the cards for me.
There is something so comfortable about a quilt, very welcoming and homey. I love them!
We have many talented people who work with us and will tell you more about them in future posts.
Here is wishing all of you a safe and happy holiday. The beach is coming alive again with visitors and they are very welcome back!
Until Next Time
Your OBX Blogger
Been a busy week ... as always. Lots to talk about so here we go ...
Corolla Wild Horses
Karen Gregory, one of our seasoned vacation specialists in the Corolla office is always one who is willing to help out those in need.
Not only is she willing to drop off towels for a guest on her way home, helping out her fellow co-workers is very common. During the winter she has also been known to stop by houses on her way home where a guest may be arriving late to turn on the outside light for them. In addition she is also a volunteer with the Carova Volunteer Fire Department, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, and a volunteer for the Network of Endangered Sea Turtles (NEST).
Last week while on the way to work, we received a call that she was going to be late. It turned out that she was the first one on the scene when she spotted a stallion that appeared to be severely injured near the ramp to the Carova Fire Station. Many thanks were extended from the director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund to Karen who took the time to set up stakes and yellow tape to keep people back and call for help. Unfortunately it appeared that the horse may have been hit by a vehicle in the previous night’s fog, and had to be euthanized because of the extent of the injuries.
In a small community such as Corolla and Carova, it's the dedication and efforts of the many locals that make living in a small town such a wonderful place.
We all appreciate Karen’s hard work in the Corolla office as well.
Great Vacation Giveaway 2009
The Great Vacation Giveaway has begun! For the third year in a row Village and OBX Connection are co-sponsoring this annual Sweepstakes. This year the property is a luxurious, brand new condo in Kill Devil Hills.
Some of the Amenities at Croatan Surf Club
Large, Oceanfront Pool
Indoor Heated Pool with Fireplace and Translucent Roof
In ground spa
“Spray Ground” for kids
Dune top Gazebo
No purchase necessary to win. You will need to go to www.OBXConnection.com and register. Please read the sweepstakes rules. The winner will be announced after July 8, 2009. Date of stay is the week of August 22-29, 2009.
We now allow guests to "Hold" a home for 24 hours; either by phone or online. We just launched the online capability a few weeks ago and have had a great response from our home owners and our guests. Since we can email leases or have a guest accept the lease online, hold its can be converted into confirmed bookings quickly once we have a payment. Guest Friendly!
Are You Ready?
For taxes? I am not ...filed an extension.
For Easter? Me either
For Guests to come back to the beach? YES!
Speaking of Easter ... the Easter Bunny left a nice surprise for the Web Geeks ....a basket filled with goodies. Gourmet crackers and jelly beans, chocolate, cheese straws, yum. The Easter Bunny has not disclosed her identity yet but we have a pretty good idea who it is. It has to be a woman ... we do know that. She has to be generous ... kind and caring. I think her initials are Maggie but until she fesses up I cannot be sure.
Until Next Time
Your OBX Bloggers