Elizabeth and I recently visited a client, Martha, in her short term rental for a consultation on quick and easy improvements needed around the unit. We were there to see what we could do with a budget of exactly zero dollars to improve guests’ experiences while in her home.
We came prepared to rearrange furniture, find secure places for personal items to declutter living spaces, and add some notes to the guest book. We also brought our trusty Brother P-Touch, just in case a few labels were in order (they usually are!).
We’re big fans of nice labels in places where a guest may not know the best way to interact with a space. The cool thing about using a label maker is that the labels are clearly legible and stay in place. We’ve seen situations where hosts use hand-written notes on paper taped to important areas, which are not very polished and don’t last. Plus, it risks guests not being able to read your handwriting. A label maker is a good investment!
I will offer one word of warning: labels are meant to draw attention to minor details that your guests might miss or find hard to understand; too many labels has the opposite effect of the desired outcome. If you label every single thing in your unit, your guests will read a couple, find them unhelpful, and start ignoring them. This is proven neuroscience! Be strategic and think carefully as to whether to P-Touch or not.
At Martha’s rental, a few things jumped out at us right away. A handwritten note on a side table near the front door indicated that one light switch was to be left on (in the up position) at all times because it was connected to outdoor lights on a dawn/dusk timer. She said the note was only somewhat effective. She assumed some guests never read it, or didn’t understand exactly what it meant, because it was complicated and many of her guests are international, so language barriers may have also been an issue. This was the perfect place for a clear label, using simple words, right on the light switch.
There were a few other light switches that we thought needed a label: one in the hallway worked the overhead lights in the living room. This is an unusual situation where the switch is controlling lights in an unexpected location, so we decided that a label would be helpful. In the dining room a switch controls the back porch light, another confusing location. Lastly, on the back porch a switch worked a post light in the yard that was on a motion sensor. A guest could flip that switch, see nothing happen or that the light goes off quickly after coming on, and assume it either isn’t working or a light bulb is burned out. So a quick “Motion Sensor” label on that one ensures that confusion is quickly resolved.
That was enough for light switches – every other switch in the house was intuitively placed and functioning. Then we asked Martha one more question: “What do guests do in your home that you wish they wouldn’t or don’t do that you wish they would?” Two things came to mind quickly that had a label solution!
Martha’s washing machine is a high efficiency model that requires HE certified detergents, and it can develop an unpleasant odor if the door and drawer are closed/latched between uses. Clearly stated labels in the line of sight of the washing machine user will hopefully fix this problem!
The other complaint Martha had was that guests often left the dishwasher with dirty dishes, rather than running a cycle at check out. This could be because guests simply don’t know that she would like them to run the dishwasher at check-out, because let’s face it not everyone reads the guest instructions, or it could be because they can’t figure out how to turn it on – it’s a complicated model– we had to look at the manual. So we decided to label the dishwasher with both the request and the instructions: “Please run dishwasher at checkout” and “press start before closing dishwasher door” – which seems counter intuitive.
And that was that! Since we already owned the P-Touch, this investment was mere pennies for the tape we used to print. A good label maker is a small and worthwhile investment. A few pertinent, well-placed labels can really improve your guests’ experience and your experience after they’re on their way to their next destination.