How Should Your Hotel Handle Guest Complaints?

Mar 23rd, 2022 in

Hotels are bound to receive guest complaints. Whether in-person or online, how hotels handle complaints is vital to their success.

If not appropriately addressed, complaints can have a detrimental effect on your business. They can damage your hotel’s reputation, decrease your opportunities for repeat business, and create a challenging working environment for your hotel staff. 

Luckily, there are ways to handle complaints that have a long-term positive impact on your hotel. This article will review common complaints, ways to handle complaints in-person and online, and how you can improve your business with complaints. 

Common Complaints

While you can’t predict every complaint, you can prepare yourself and your staff with some common ones:

  • The room is too hot/cold
  • Can’t access the wifi
  • Noise complaint
  • Uncleanly room
  • In-room amenities aren’t working
  • Poor customer service
  • Shortage of complimentary items

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The Basics Of Handling Complaints

No matter what the complaint, there’s a framework you and your team can apply for a professional and service-focused guest experience. We’ve outlined five steps to refer to no matter the type of situation:

1 – Listen

It’s possible that the guest(s) who are complaining may be angry or upset. When emotions run high, it’s essential to remain calm and listen to your guests. Don’t interrupt or make assumptions about the information. It seems like a simple step, but listening is a skill we all need to practice. 

2 – Empathize And Apologize

People want to be heard and validated. The next level of listening is to empathize with your guests and apologize. Show that you have a personal interest in the guest’s problem and acknowledge what they tell you. Don’t blame anyone, but do make sure you concentrate on the issue and offer your undivided attention. 

3 – Find The Root Of The Problem

This may not apply to all complaints, but make sure you understand the real problem. Is your guest’s complaint a symptom of something bigger? Again, make sure you and your team understand the actual situation.

A complaint about the room temperature, for example, maybe straightforward. There’s an obvious problem. On the other hand, a complaint about poor customer service may have some subtext that is cause for further investigation. Some guests may be the type who are complex by nature to satisfy, so use your judgment when finding a strategy that fits the given context.

4 – Offer A Solution

The next step is the problem-solving part. Give your guests solutions. Offer to send help to fix the room temperature, to have their room cleaned, or other resolutions to their issue. To avoid problems in the future, your team should not make promises that exceed their authority. This is where having hotel policies to refer to can be helpful. 

Tell your guests the approximate time of completion and monitor the situation. 

As a general note, don’t pass a complaint along to another department. Talking to a new person and re-explaining a situation is frustrating.

5 – The Follow-Up

Maybe the essential part of all is following up with your guests. Contact the guest to assure they’ve been taken care of, and the problem was resolved to their satisfaction should be a minimum. Send your guests a thank-you note acknowledging their loyalty to your hotel to go the extra mile. Small gestures like this can go a long way. 

Tips For In-Person Complaints

Take Notes

An excellent way to actively listen to your guests when they approach you with a complaint is to write down what they say. It makes sure they feel heard and can be a proactive move if you need to refer to it again or another team member steps in for support. 

Isolate The Situation

If possible, spatially contain the situation. You don’t want other guests to be bothered or overhear what’s going on, especially if emotions are running high. This can be a tricky one, so use your discretion. 

Negative Online Reviews

Responding to negative online hotel reviews is an art form. Many guests use digital platforms to voice their complaints rather than discuss problems in person. There’s no perfect way to do it, but you can use the five steps we discussed to help guide your response. Stay professional, respond sincerely, offer a solution, and ask for a chance to receive better service. 

For more details, read our blogs Improve Your Hotel Marketing Plan To Boost Bookings where we discuss why reviews are important and Boost Hotel Direct Bookings With These Strategies where we discuss how to manage your online communication. 

Last General Tips

  • Don’t take things personally. Some guests can be challenging to deal with but remember not to take everything to heart. You and your staff need to take care of yourselves just as much as anyone else. 
  • Be polite and don’t argue. Staying calm helps assure that things don’t escalate. 
  • Create a logbook of guest complaints so you can track trends and gain insights. It could be worth investigating if you see a larger volume of complaints about the same thing. 

Final Thoughts

Guest complaints are an inevitable part of running a hotel. When you address them properly, they’re an opportunity for you to turn a negative experience into a positive one. Complaints can provide your hotel with insight and qualitative data on how things are working and are a chance for you to make things right. 

Hospitality is a service-focused industry, and naturally, guest complaints should be handled to reflect that. Let us know in the comments below your thoughts on handling guest complaints.

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