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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 a 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 felt that your truth is the one and only.

Esteban Kolsky's research is telling us that only 1 in 25 unhappy customers will share their complaint 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. Meaning, that if you have one unpleasant incident with a guest, it has 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 practise for you is to listen to the guests' complaint right there. Then a solution is still possible and conflict or unpleasant situation can be resolved without causing a further negative impact.

How to deal with guests' complaints?

No matter how good your service is, there is always going to be someone, who will find a reason to complain. And sometimes, it has nothing to do with your service or the product. Might be that guest is having a bad day and you simply happened to be in the wrong time at the wrong place. Some advice, where should you focus when dealing with guests' complaints:

Show empaty

😡 Usually, when someone is complaining, they are angry and want to be heard. So, you have to show empathy for the situation. Always listen to what a person has to say. Don't cut him off, don't start explanations while the person is still talking. Let them finish. Sometimes just expressing a frustration can already give a relief. Manage your voice tone and pick words carefully. Emotionally heated person can't cope with certain phrases or actions. Know at least a very basic tactics for anger/stress management.

Be apologetic

😔 Always apologize and admit, if there was a mistake done. Even if a guest is mad about something, that has nothing to do with you or even your hotel. Apologize that guest is experiencing bad emotions and ensure that something can be done in order to make them feel better. Various studies show that if the complaints are handled quickly, guests are even highly possible to become loyal. Admitting mistakes show 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 do a miracle. People are not always interested to get 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) always should be in the center of your "business universe". 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 when 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 guest will be leaving, offer a discount for a next stay. Or offer complimentary transfer to the airport. Might be that unpleasant incident is already forgotten so these nice little touches will create a very positive attitude towards your hospitality. You admitted your mistake, you solved it and you made right apology gestures for it. Happy good -byes 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.

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 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 available
  • Lengthy check-out process

How to 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 prior the 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 smartphone 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.

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

In most cases, your staff is the face of your hotel. Meaning 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 the solution and still remain calm even in very awkward situations.
- Hold a 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 if 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 guest 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 disappointment, leading to the bad experience and bad review.

- Do something with those complaints that you already received. You must track them and monitor on each and 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 actually 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 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 guest. If you hear negative review or complain - 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 not aware 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. Actually guest's complain can even be profitable. Just make sure to react quick and solve the problem in a pleasant manner. When unhappy guest receive the solution, they are more likely to be your loyal guest and share a good word about you.

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