improve guest experience

3 tips for using guest complaints to boost your independent hotel operations

No matter the location, size or rating of an independent hotel, providing exceptional customer service is always the top priority.  In an industry where competition is tight and your reputation can propel or hurt profits, independent hotel operators must ensure their teams are dedicated to delivering hospitality that attracts new guests and keeps returning guests loyal.  However, the tough reality of the hotel business is that, regardless of how well your team executes, your property will still receive complaints from some guests.

Unhappy guests will not hesitate to tell you that their room door slams too loud, the elevator runs too slow or the pool water is too cold.  No matter how big or small, serious or silly, guest complaints cannot be ignored.  In today’s digital age, a batch of negative online reviews can push a hotel into online crisis management mode.  Independent hotels will never please every guest, but they can control how they respond to their complaints, address the issues and apply the feedback toward improving operations.  Here’s 3 tips for using guest complaints to your hotel’s advantage:

The critical first step in handling complaints is to quickly acknowledge them.  Operators should establish a process that tracks guest feedback, details who’s responsible for responding and provides guidelines on what should be said.  Not having a process is what usually causes hotels to respond late or not at all.  If making time to respond is an issue, a clever delay tactic is to ask guests who reach out via social media to email you directly with more detail.  This shows the guest, as well as other followers, that you care about their feedback and buys you a little extra time while they type their email.

When acknowledging complaints, it’s important to specifically address the issues that have been brought to your attention.  Generic responses, like “We’ll look into it,” make hoteliers seem uninterested and dismissive of what their guests have to say.  Whenever possible, let your guests know that you have a plan to fix their problem.  For example, if a guest complains about the food running out before your free breakfast ends, a response like this may be in order:

“Hello.  First off, thank you for staying with us this past weekend and we apologize for running out of food during our free breakfast on Saturday.  We underestimated the amount of food needed and disappointed some of our guests, so we hopefully adjusted your bill accordingly.  We’ve spoken with our culinary team and put a plan in place so this does not happen again.  Again, we apologize for this mistake and hope that you will stay with us again the next time you visit the area. ”

By providing a sincere and detailed response, guests know their complaint was taken seriously and that you truly care about delivering great hospitality.

Responding to guest feedback takes lots of effort, but the process shouldn’t end there.  Top independent hoteliers treat guest complaints as research data about their property and apply it toward improving their operations.  Whether speeding up check-in/out or improving lighting in some areas, operators must make the adjustments needed to keep their guests happy – especially when promised.  “You can’t please everyone” is a saying that holds true for independent hoteliers, but part of what separates good hotels from great hotels is how they learn from guest complaints and use their feedback to improve operations and the guest experience.

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