Five common complaints in the hospitality sector

  • 15 December 2014 | Roela Hattingh

All complaints deserve to be considered in a solemn manner. Complaints should never be brushed off and the customer shouldn’t be blamed for complaining.

Hotels and other accommodation facilities with high ratings differentiate themselves from their competitors not only with excellent product offerings, but also by creating a culture that enables staff to personalise their connection with guests, to resolve problems on the spot, and to go the extra mile.

Always deal with your guest in a smooth, patient and honest way. Do not just say, 'I am so sorry' and leave it at that. Make sure you do your utmost best to not let patrons leave without resolving their problems.

Five things guests are likely to complain about:

1. False advertising or overcharging

Accommodation sometimes does not live up to what has been advertised.  This could include changes in pricing, an absence of amenities that have been advertised or photographs of the establishment that do not represent the reality.

Guests are sometimes charged more than they were quoted in advance. This most probably occurs because of forced upgrades or extra security fees.

Best be honest and upfront with guests and thank them for their opinion. Let a manager handle this situation. Some discount or compensation should be offered.

“Always deal with your guest in a smooth, patient and honest way. Do not just say, 'I am so sorry' and leave it at that. Make sure you do your utmost best to not let patrons leave without resolving their problems.”

2. Mishandled reservation

This should not happen but problems with reservations do occur – even when  guests have paid in advance. When this happens, make a point of finding your guests alternative accommodation that is on par with your establishment or give them the choice of a complete refund.

3. Dirty room, uncomfortable beds, unpleasant odours or infestation

If the room, bathroom, floor, carpets, upholstery and linen are not immaculately clean, staff members cannot blame patrons for complaining. Once again, acknowledge the problem, sympathise and get it cleaned up. Offer discounts, compensation and make alternative arrangements while guests have to wait for a room to be cleaned.

4. Amenities not working

It is extremely frustrating for guests when amenities that have been promised are not available or not working. This might range from the air conditioning to the Wi-Fi or an electrical appliance. Fix the problem where you can, or make sure that you sympathise and explain the situation. If the accommodation costs have already been brought down because of these problems, communicate this clearly to your guests.

5. Rudeness

It is indefensible when a staff member is discourteous or discriminates based on someone’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or social class.

In cases such as these, other staff members or the manager would need to acknowledge that the rude behaviour took place, sympathise with the guests concerned, get the staff member who was guilty of the offence to apologise, make sure it does not happen again, and, if necessary, even retrain or change staff members. 

In light of the above, there are five easy steps to deal with complaints:

  1. Acknowledge the complaint
  2. Sympathise with the guest
  3. Take ownership of the problem
  4. Do something about the problem
  5. Give feedback to the guest

The adage might not always seem fair, but the guest is always right.