Handling guest complains like a boss

Dealing with customer complaints
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In even the most effective establishments, complaints arise from time to time. Many things can go wrong in the hospitality industry, which deals with a wide variety of different establishments and individuals. Remember that problems and complaints can be turned into opportunities and a dissatisfied guest can be converted into a loyal one.

Bad service creates bad service

Hotels consist of a variety of separate departments. And it has been found that if a guest receives poor service from one department it raises the probability that a guest would be unhappy with another department in the establishment. The reason for this is that they begin to look for errors in service delivery. There should always be procedures to deal with disgruntled visitors promptly.

Listening to a guests complaint

Complaints will help us figure out what consumers want, what they expect, and what they are looking for. The following is a list of reasons why the guest must be listened to.

  • Before they become more serious, you will be able to fix any faults.
  • You can understand how one issue will lead to another.
  • You will be able to rectify shortfalls in standards.
  • You’re offered a chance to find out what the guest wants. Use it to see whether the guest wants to address any other issues.
  • You will have a chance to chat with the guest and get to know him better. Guests will often suggest or return to places where they are familiar with the staff.
  • You will have a chance to turn a prospective critic into a supporter.
  • You will be given a chance to offer additional services. When someone is complaining, it can not always be the best time to try to offer extra services, but try to make them aware that the service exists.

The 7 steps for dealing with angry guests

1) Pay attention and listen carefully

Maintain eye contact, demonstrate concern about the issue of the guest, and appreciate points made. Do not prejudge the situation. You will be able to find out the truth about the issue by listening attentively. Ask questions if you need clarification of a certain point or more detail to help you solve the problem. The timing of a reply is very important, pause to show that you have given the issue due consideration before answering a question.

2) Apologise for the inconvenience caused

Even if there is no fault on your part or that of the institution, you should apologize. Sometimes an apology serves no purpose other than to calm the guest down. It can be hard to apologize when you know that you are not in the wrong. But that is service delivery for you.

3) Sum up the situation

Let the guest know that the issue is understood and accepted and that something is going to be done once you have a clear idea of what the situation is and what can be done. Some circumstances are quick and simple to solve, others take a lot of thought and negotiation.

Consider the following when finding a solution:
  1. How does the scenario impact others?
  2. What logistical arrangements are required?
  3. Who has to be consulted?
  4. How long will it take?
  5. Are any expenses involved?

4) Try to understand the guests’ point of view

Let the guest know that his or her needs are important and that steps to find a solution are being taken. Do not blame colleagues, other departments, or the guest for this (even if the guest is to blame).

Because of misunderstandings, wrong perceptions, and poor communication, problems often occur. There may be different points of view on the issue and it is essential that the guest feels that his or her viewpoint has been taken into account.

5) Ask questions to clarify the situation

Ask questions on any aspects that you are not certain of or that may have been misunderstood.

6) Focus on a solution if you have one

If possible try to find an immediate solution and draw the focus of the conversation towards this solution.

7) Reassure the guest that you will take action or bring it to the attention of a senior manager if you are unable to deal with the complaint

Reassure the guest once you have found a solution and tell him or her what you will do and when. Whatever action is to be taken, take responsibility for it. Call your superior if the guest becomes angry and aggressive and you can not cope with the situation. The action of calling for someone in authority could also defuse a situation.

What action should you take?

You may not always be in a position to give the guest an immediate response until you have identified the specifics of the guest’s complaint. If the complaint can not be addressed instantly, you need to let your guest know what steps you are going to take, and when he or she can expect you to solve the issue.

Below are a few pointers to remember once you have committed to take action.

1) Follow up on promises made

It is important for you to stick to any commitments you make. Even if you have not solved the issue by the time you promised to phone a guest, phone the guest anyway to let him or her know what progress you have achieved.

Always ensure that the solution satisfies the guest. Inform other departments about any actions or decisions concerning what has occurred and inform them of any relevant issues.

2) Do not blame anyone else

Do not blame anyone else for an issue. This only poorly reflects on the establishment and undermines its legitimacy. Have a matter-of-fact attitude and persuade the visitor that it was not a mistake to do business with your establishment.

This does not imply that you have to take the blame for everything. Accept responsibility for correctly rectifying the issue. That being said, be cautious about taking responsibility until you are aware of all the facts.

3) Be tactful

If the issue turns out to be one that you can’t really do anything about, you’ll need to use tact to try to solve the problem. Do what you can, or call a superior if needed. If you can not solve the problem, try not to waste too much time taking the next action. Be tactful and polite, but strong.

4) Report complaints

You should report any complaint or incident to your immediate superior, even if you feel you have successfully managed it. Complaints (and compliments) are used by management to ensure that the levels of service are preserved. Management must determine what follow-up needs to be done and they can not make that determination if they do not know about the incident. Never try to hide your own errors, as even if you have corrected them, they always come back to you.

Guidelines for dealing with guest complaints

  1. Don’t argue with the guest.
  2. Listen to the guest and give him your complete attention.
  3. Don’t interrupt the guest. Sometimes a guest will just want someone to know that he has a right to be unhappy about something.
  4. Try to find out what the facts are so that you can pass them to the relevant department. Make an effort to record the details in writing as this is a way of showing interest and concern.
  5. Assure the guest that you will take the matter up and try to resolve it immediately.
  6. If you recognise that there is a ongoing problem, for example, theft by hotel employees, do not tell this to the guest. This will only make matters worse.
  7. If the guest becomes loud and aggressive in the front office area, you should try and remove him from the public area. Remember to stay composed at all times. Invite this person to an office or meeting room away from the earshot of other guests and allow him to tell his story.
  8. If the guest continues to be abusive, report it to a supervisor.
  9. Even if a guest is upset with good reason, there is no need to offend other guests or other people who need to make use of front office services in a calm and dignified environment.
  10. Complaints that have to be resolved by other departments need to be recorded in a logbook and followed through. Each hotel will have its own system of recording and resolving complaints but the important thing to remember is that you should record it somewhere and someone must take action.
  11. Usually you will complete an instruction in triplicate: one copy will go to the department, for example, maintenance and another will be kept in the front office for record purposes. You can attach the third to the complaint book.
  12. Recognise the limits of your authority and refer situations where necessary.
  13. Keep things confidential and don’t discuss problems within earshot of other guests.
  14. Make sure that you give feedback to the guest so that the issue can be closed.

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