Pelland Blog

Spring Cleaning Is Always in Season

June 27th, 2024

I recall years ago when the first days of spring meant that it was time for spring cleaning. Winter storm windows were removed, windows were opened, bedding was hung outside to air out, rugs were beaten, winter clothing was stored with mothballs, and it was a semi-official sign that winter was over. These household routines are a thing of the past, but every business that caters to an in-person clientele needs to go through a self-assessment and airing-out process at least annually, if not on an ongoing basis.

A spring opening procedure is more obvious for northern campgrounds that closed in the winter and go through a reverse winterizing routine prior to welcoming their first guests of the season. Wherever your park is located, there is more involved than simply turning on water lines and checking for leaks, and removing the mouse traps and sweeping out cabins that were closed up for the winter. The most important tasks involve the visual elements that can make or break an arriving guest’s first impressions. The last thing you want is to put that person on edge, wondering what he or she will find next that will fall short of reasonable expectations.

Those “first impressions” obviously include your entrance and registration desk, but they also include your restrooms, roadways, site amenities, recreational equipment, and much more. When you check into a hotel room, what is the first thing you do? You inspect the bathroom. I remember checking into a motel in upstate New York years ago, where the bathroom was pretty dismal, but rolling down the bedding uncovered a two-inch diameter spider nested on the center of the sheet. There was no way on earth we would be spending the night, and there was no possibility of that establishment ever recovering from that negative first impression.

Far from complete, here is a checklist of some of the factors that create first impressions and that deserve a periodic evaluation at your park.

  • Your Entrance: Is the landscaping maintained, healthy, and weed-free? Is the entrance roadway properly paved and free of bumps and potholes? Is your sign free of chips and peeling paint, is it properly lighted, or is it ready for repainting or replacement? Even if your municipality does not have a sign ordinance, or if your sign is grandfathered in, it might be time to take matters into your own hands with tasteful and appealing signage.
  • Your Front Desk: The people at your front desk and registration area are perhaps your most important employees, definitely not people who get replaced from season to season, earn the lowest wages, and are expected to excel in personal communications skills with little or no training. Keep in mind that, if you have a gate guard, he may have the opportunity to create an even earlier first impression – either positive or negative – prior to a guest even reaching your office. Prior to arrival, your front desk staff also has an opportunity to either excel or fail based upon their telephone etiquette as they field inquiries. If a guest is lost trying to find your entrance after a 7-hour drive, the last thing he wants is to be immediately put on hold! If you can’t handle the volume of incoming calls, it is time to add another phone or another person to answer the calls. Of course, callers will expect to reach voicemail during the off-season and off-hours; however, if you are available to take a call during those times, do so. The caller will be highly impressed. What callers do not want to sense is a lack of response, whether that is an unanswered phone, a non-reassuring outgoing message, or a phone that is answered in an unprofessional manner. It is essential for the business phone number to forward directly to either the owner or manager of the business and that the call be either immediately answered or returned within minutes.
  • Rental Accommodations: You want first-time campers in particular to have the kind of outstanding experience that will turn them into lifetime campers. Be careful about overselling your amenities, particularly at a time when “glamping” and some really exceptional rental accommodations are becoming far more commonplace. If a furnished rental unit is designed to sleep 6 people, the kitchen utensils should not be limited to 3 forks, 2 glasses and 4 chipped plates (as mentioned in an actual campground review). There should be a printed inventory of furnishings (that are checked and replenished by housekeeping between rentals) that will allow guests to know exactly what is included – and what is not included. Do they need to bring their own towels and bed linens, or do you offer a linen service, and if so, is there an additional fee?
  • Restrooms: At the risk of addressing the obvious, your restrooms should be modern, clean, well-ventilated (or heated or air conditioned, depending upon the climate and time of year), well lighted, and impeccable maintained. Nothing will create a worse impression than an out-of-order sign, broken tiles and empty soap dispensers. Hygienic standards that may have been commonplace two generations ago or in pre-pandemic times are clearly no longer acceptable.
  • Campsites: Would you dine in a restaurant where you were brought to a table that had not been cleaned after the previous diners? Would you stay in a hotel room where housekeeping had not cleaned the room after the previous guests? There is a reason that your check-out and check-in times are not one and the same. Without exception, every campsite needs to be thoroughly inspected, not only at the start of the season, but after the departure of every guest. The site should be clean of any trash and debris, with particular attention paid to fire rings, picnic tables, and any rocks that might need to be moved or tree branches that, if left untrimmed, might put a scratch on an expensive new RV.

Always be sure that both you and all of your employees understand that guests are both your lifeblood and your livelihood. Meet or exceed every expectation and do everything possible to make every guest feel both welcome and appreciated.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

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