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How to handle guests' complaints in the hotel?

Guests' complaints in the hospitality business are almost a daily occurrence. Some of those complaints are smaller but some of them can do serious harm. In this post, we'll take a look at the best practices for handling guests' complaints.

Everybody knows the old saying that the customer is always right. Those, working in the customer service business might argue with this statement. However, each of us is a customer of some kind and feels that your truth is the one and only.

Esteban Kolsky's research shows that only 1 in 25 unhappy customers will share their complaints directly with you. And 13% of unhappy customers will share their bad experiences with 15 or even more people. And as you most probably know, guests complain much more often about bad things rather than complimenting good ones. So if you have one unpleasant incident with a guest, it has a much higher possibility to end up online, rather than several satisfied"thank you's".

"If you are happy - tell it to others. If you are not happy - tell it to us!"

Having this in mind, we have to know, that customers (guests) must be heard. Especially if they have negative experiences. The best practice for you is to listen to the guests' complaints on the spot. Then a solution is still possible and conflict or unpleasant situation can be resolved without causing a further negative impact.

Dealing with guest complaints

No matter how good your service is, there is always someone, who finds a reason to complain. And sometimes, it has nothing to do with your service or the product, but your guest simply has a bad day. members of the hotel staff always have to approach these situations with professionalism. Read our advice that can help in these tricky situations below.

Show empathy

Usually, when someone is complaining, they are angry and want to be heard. So, you have to show some empathy. Listen to what a person has to say. Avoid cutting them off, or starting explanations while the person is still talking. Let them finish. Sometimes just expressing frustration already gives a relief. Manage your voice tone and pick words carefully. An emotionally heated person can't cope with certain phrases or actions. Know some basic tactics for anger/stress management.

Be apologetic

Always admit your mistake, and apologize. Even if a guest is upset about something that has nothing to do with you or even the hotel. Various studies show that if the complaints are handled quickly, guests might even become returning guests. Admitting mistakes shows your honesty and can help to solve even the worst situations.

Find a solution

It is necessary to find a way, how to solve a situation. Sometimes a simple "sorry" can go a long way. People are not always interested in getting compensation for some unpleasant situation. But if you can offer an upgrade or something extra (like breakfast, drink, SPA day...), that would also work just fine.

Don't forget to follow up

Follow up with the guest. If you solved the situation, don't leave it as it is. A guest might feel that you just got rid of their problem and pushed them out of your head. Guest (customer) should always be in your focus. So even if you solved their issue, ask if now everything is fine, maybe they need something else. E.g. you solved the issue by giving your guest a room with a better view. Next time you see this guest in the lobby, ask if everything is fine in a new room; if they are enjoying the view; if there is something else they might need.

Exceed guest's expectations

Even if you follow up with the guest after solving the issue, go the extra mile. When they are leaving, offer a discount for the next stay, or offer a complimentary airport transfer. You admitted your mistake, apologised, and solved the issue. Happy goodbyes will be the very last impression of your hotel, so make sure that it is pleasant and that it's not the last time when you see this guest.

The most common hotel guest complaints to look out for

There are a few recurring complaint types in the hospitality industry. If you know what to areas to look at, you can take proactive steps to address potential complaints before they arise. You can also take this a step further and train your staff to recognise the early signs of the most common guest complaints, so they can also take the necessary steps

Some of the most common guest complaints:

  • Lengthy check-in process
  • No touch-free check-in is available
  • The room isn't ready on time
  • In-room cleanliness issues
  • Appliances don't work
  • Noisy hallways
  • Displeased with food and beverages
  • Displeased with hotel services
  • No online payment is available
  • Lengthy check-out process

Improve hotel services to avoid guest complaints

With SabeeApp's solutions, you can catch the above-mentioned issues. First of all, with SabeeApp, guests can check in online pre-arrival, so there's no need to wait at the reception. With the smart lock integration in GuestAdvisor, guests can open and close their rooms with their smartphones without using a physical key. Therefore, if you set this option up, your guests can go directly to their room without having to check in at the reception and receive their keys upon arrival. The checkout process is not more complicated than this either - SabeeApp enables online payment, so every payment can be settled via a mobile phone. Moreover, SabeeApp’s innovative app, GuestAdvisor, enables guests to post feedback in real-time 30 minutes after they arrive, rating the check-in experience. It allows staff to respond quickly, on the spot if there’s any issue. Like this, it's possible to avoid negative guest reviews after checking out.

Online feedback systems like GuestAdvisor can be highly effective in addressing guest complaints in real-time by allowing guests to provide immediate feedback on their experiences. This enables hotel staff to quickly identify and resolve issues, potentially preventing negative reviews. However, challenges in implementing such systems may include ensuring reliable internet connectivity for guests, encouraging guest participation, training staff to respond promptly to feedback, and integrating feedback into hotel operations effectively.

Balancing the need to address guest complaints promptly while maintaining operational efficiency requires careful planning and strategic implementation. One approach is to prioritize guest satisfaction by empowering frontline staff to resolve complaints autonomously within predefined guidelines. This not only streamlines the resolution process but also demonstrates the hotel's commitment to customer service. Additionally, investing in training programs that equip staff with conflict-resolution skills and emphasizing a culture of proactive problem-solving can help minimize the time and resources needed to address complaints effectively. Furthermore, leveraging technology such as guest feedback systems and automated alert systems can facilitate swift identification and resolution of issues while minimizing disruption to day-to-day operations. Ultimately, by prioritizing guest satisfaction and implementing efficient processes, hotels can effectively manage guest complaints without compromising operational efficiency.

How to improve your services and avoid guests' complaints?

"Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients." - Richard Branson

Hotels can employ several strategies to ensure that staff members remain empathetic and composed when handling guest complaints. These strategies may include providing comprehensive training in conflict resolution and emotional intelligence, empowering staff to make decisions to resolve complaints autonomously, offering ongoing support and encouragement, and fostering a positive work culture that prioritizes employee well-being and resilience.

In most cases, your staff is the face of your hotel. This means that receptionists will be the ones "absorbing" good and bad guest emotions and comments. You have to make sure that people, working at the reception, are emphatic and astute people. They have quickly come up with the solution and remain calm even in very awkward situations.
- Hold proper training for your staff. Not only about problem-solving and interaction with the guest but also about surrounding things. Make sure they are aware of areas around the hotel, so they can give appropriate advice for different types of your guests. Also, ensure that they are familiar with the systems that are being used at the hotel. Slow and insecure system handling can make guests nervous or impatient. 

- Keep an eye on your website. It happens that information and offers on the website are old and not accurate any longer. This can end up in the guest's disappointment, leading to a bad experience and a bad review.

- Do something with those complaints that you already received. You must track them and monitor them on every possible platform. Nowadays guests have multiple channels, where they can express their opinion about your place. Make sure you are aware of those platforms. Respond to the comments! This will show people that you are listening and you care. Check out how to manage your hotel reputation, when you receive a negative comment.
If you notice, that more guests are pointing out one or another aspect at your hotel (uncomfortable bed, noise from the street, grumpy receptionist...), that means there is an actual problem that needs a solution.

Consider guest complaints as an improvement opportunity

You are in the hospitality business. You need to see guest and guest's needs as the core of your business. Design all your products and services FOR your guests. If you hear negative reviews or complaints - listen. That's your key to a better service. If people are complaining about something, might be that there is a reason for that and you were unaware of that issue.

Guests want to be treated fairly and honestly. If you listen to their problems and apologise - they are most likely to forgive and forget the bad emotion. Guest's complaints can even be profitable. Just make sure to react quickly and pleasantly to solve the problem. When unhappy guests receive the solution, they are more likely to be your loyal guests and share a good word about you.

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