Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tripadvisor - loving it and hating it at the same time

100% customer satisfaction or you can return it to the shop. That's something we all like to hear and when we buy an object that's usually how it goes…we take things home, try them again (or for the first time - LOL) and then if we don't like them we have a certain time frame to take things back. No cost involved, just time and perhaps gas for the car to go back. That's a nice insurance.
Other things have guarantees that if they don't work we can get free assistance. In Italy, almost free. Our less than two year old washing machine broke about a month ago (we use it super often because of the babies, so it had probably done its best). Lots of phone calls, 2 technician visits, washing at the laundry mat and 3 weeks later our washing machine finally worked again. Almost free, because had to pay a 25 euro as a calling fee to the technician. Huh…?! Oh well, never mind… When you're not obliged to hand wash baby clothes you are willing to pay almost anything to get the commodity back…

We are in the service business and like to give some sort of guarantee to our customers also. In fact, the best way nowadays is to get the opinion of other customers displayed to new potential guests. Easy would be to copy and paste the best feedback and selectively display them on their sites. That's not the whole truth though. In the travel business the best site to have your business rated by your customers on is Tripadvisor. However, you become vulnerable to the real opinions of people - all sorts of people!
I think as most hotel owners, restaurant owners and other tourist operation owners we now wake up, have our coffee and read the latest tripadvisor reviews. Most mornings we are pleasantly awoken by nice comments, some mornings take the opposite direction where a customer writes in with a complaint or not just positive review. First you ask yourself in disbelief if it could be true?! Then you realize that it's almost impossible to satisfy 100% even if you try ever so hard. People are just different and expect different different things. Of course, you ask yourself what you could do better? But sometimes it wouldn't matter if you were to take all your clothes off, stand on your head while singing Oh Sole Mio - some people would still be completely bored.

Luckily Tripadvisor gives you a chance to write a response to every review, to give your side of the story. But of course that doesn't make the unhappy guest more happy…and it doesn't really give you a better feeling either. Your activity drops in popularity and you now have to work extra hard to receive more positive ones to improve your ranking and credibility with future guests. It's like running after the carrot endlessly…

However, we wouldn't do without it. It's a great tool for us to promote our business and it is likewise a great tool for our guests to tell their story. We hope to give always the best and under most circumstances we succeed as statistically we have around 98% happy guests. And to tell you the truth, some people are just hard to make happy. It's like when you buy a ford and you're disappointed it doesn't sound or speed like a Lamborghini... Then of course if the Lamborghini sounds or speeds like a Ford I would get upset.
I always try to go into experiences with the right expectations - that way I usually only get pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


As we go through life this is a word and a relationship we all have to come to odds with...what it means to us and what may lie within. When I was a little girl I thought that it was an everlasting bond, now I realize it's a relationship between people which can be more or less intense. Friends are people who can rely on each other. Friends come and some go, some stay, some are paused and come back... Friends are people who come to your rescue should you need it.

Moving to Italy for me years ago and for my husband recently meant to say goodbye and put friends back home on stand by - and to start over in Italy.
I always joke that I'm not in Italy to gain friendships - it's not an easy place to get real friends.
Girls here have a different relationship to each other, and men are usually interested in going one step further from friendship.
So for me at least most of my girlfriends are other expats.

The other day we had an Opening party at the Tuscan Wine School in Florence. This made me think of friends, because so many came by and it was just wonderful to see how we do indeed have friends around us who came to support our new endeavor. Thanks to all for that!
Here are the pictures to be seen.

Me with Italian (exceptionally) girl friends - LOL!