Complaints are just a part of the hotel business: There are going to be honest mistakes, misperceptions, and customers that are simply looking for a little something for nothing.
As each of these scenarios play out, there will be two things in common. That would be dealing with both the customer making the complaint as well as the staff member(s) with whom the complaint was made against.
Dealing with the Customer
We have all been there at some point where we are making a complaint and the manager or staff member offers a standard, empathetic response but does not really seem to care about the actual issue. Virtually every hotel company has some type of acronym they teach to deal with complaints, and I personally happen to disagree with them all.
When dealing with complaints, I wanted the guest to know they were the only thing that mattered at that specific moment, so the first thing I did was make sure someone else could answer any radio calls that came out. I simply did not want to be interrupted when I was talking to them, as that would surely set them off even further.
The second thing I did was immediately take out a notepad to write down the details of what they were saying, no matter how small. I never offered fake empathy but would rather express understanding as to what they experienced. I wanted them to know I heard every detail of their complaint and was going to do my best to address it.
If it was possible to rectify the situation on the spot, meaning a bill credit or something similar, I would take care of it right then and there. However, I would let them know that was also not the end it. I would want to fully investigate the matter and get back to them with the solution. I wanted them to walk away with the feeling they were happy with the solution or at least content one would be forthcoming very shortly.
The important thing here is to make sure the guest knows their complaint was actually heard and something was going to be done about it. The situation is going to get fixed, one way or the other.
Dealing with the Employee
Call the employee into the office or another private area where you can discuss the incident without being bothered. Give the staff member a run down of what was relayed to you by the guest. Then, and this is important, allow the employee to relay their version of what happened without interrupting him or her.
This situation needs to be treated just as you did with the hotel guest. Write down the details to make sure you have all the relevant facts, then you can ask your questions when he or she has completely told his or her story.
The truth of what actually happened is probably going to be somewhere in the middle of the two stories. See if there were other staff members in the area to see what they have to say as well. You should be able to narrow down a few key points to focus on and address the issue.
Once all of the facts are in, discuss the matter with the employee again, so he or she realizes the importance of the point of service. At times, it will be the perception of the guest, not an actual point of service. That is why it is so important for our staff members to go above and beyond all the time.
Even if discipline is warranted for the employee, it is important to end the meeting on a positive note. You don’t want the employee walking out of the meeting slamming doors and talking smack against management or guests. In the end, this is a learning experience for everyone and should be treated as such. It may also be a good idea to address this complaint during the next staff meeting to help avoid it from happening to other staff members.
When I handled situations such as this, I would sometimes ask the employee involved to describe the situation and walk staff members through the incident as well as where the communication or service breakdown occurred. This was my way of making the staff member a part of the solution rather than embarrassing them or just having them feel down about the incident.
Once the situation has been addressed internally, it is always a good idea to reach back out to the guest to let them know the situation has been rectified. Let them know if a new training procedure or process was put in place to ensure this will not happen again in the future. This will help alleviate any ill will the guest may still have and make them feel as though they have now become a part of the solution to ensure other guests do not have a similar problem. You can also invite the guest to come back free of charge or at a discount so they can see in person how the hotel has improved through their experience and suggestion.
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