“Τhey ruined my holidays”…
Τhese four words can be detrimental and devastating for every hotel owner and hotel manager and could lead if not taken under serious consideration to a serious impact of a hotel`s online and offline reputation .
Every complaint is different but the steps for dealing with them should be the same. As well as having a complaint policy, it’s essential to have a procedure to show staff and customers the steps that you take when dealing with complaints. A complaint handling procedure ensures complaints are dealt with the same way every time.
It is important to understand that any information given by ANY hotel staff member will be interpreted by your guest as the official position of the hotel even if that person is not authorized to do so. Thus it is imperative not to share internal information of the hotel and avoid making judgements about the hotel or its staff. Stay to the already planned procedures for your case.
Try to answer the question and / or complaint using the procedures and key messages. Do not avoid responding by saying “I do not know” or “I am not responsible.” In case you do not know the answer or feel you cannot handle the situation you have two options either ask politely to give you some time to learn the answer/resolve the issue or ask politely your guest to wait for a while and bring someone responsible. (ATTENTION do not send your guest to someone else but bring the responsible to your guest).
What is also important is to actually learn the facts and learn them fast in order to be able to assess the situation and pass the true facts to someone else if necessary. A safe guide for that is the Who, Where,When Why, How guide.
In every discussion, communication, negotiation or other form of communication the one who sets the agenda is in a favorable position. Thus it is important to quickly define a goal when you hear a complain. The goal may vary from trying to calm your guest, to offering an upgrade, to move him to a discrete environment. You should also try to define the length and style of discussion.
Here is a sample procedure for handling customer complaints consistently.
- Listen to the complaint. Accept ownership of the problem. Apologise. Don’t blame others. Thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention.
- Be understanding. Remember, the person is complaining about your business, not about you personally. Be calm, cheerful and helpful. Where possible, let the customer know that you will take responsibility for resolving the problem.
- Keep the tone and volume of your voice at a constant level throughout the course of the conversation
- Do not interrupt. Allow to be interrupted .
- Do not express personal opinion. Use the key messages and procedures.
- Don’t jump from one subject to another. Keep your guest focused to his/her core complaint
- Record the complaint. Detail the complaint so that you and other staff know exactly what the problem is. Have one place to record complaints and the actions taken to resolve them. This lets you see any patterns emerge over time. Complaints about a particular process or product might indicate that changes need to be made. Staff can also see what was done to resolve complaints in the past.
- Make sure you have all the facts. Check that you understand the details while the person is making the complaint, and ask questions if necessary. This will also let them know that you are taking their complaint seriously.
- Discuss options for fixing the problem
- Keep your promises. Don’t promise things that you can’t deliver. In handling complaints it is better to under-promise and over-deliver.
- Be quick. If complaints take ample time to resolve or are forgotten, they can escalate.
- Follow up to see if your guest is happy with how their complaint was handled. Let them know what you are doing to avoid the problem in the future.
- Reward your staff. Encourage and reward your staff for dealing with unhappy customers and handling their complaints well.
* Dimitris Maziotis is the Founder of the Strategic Communication and Crisis Management company W2Strategy and Founding Partner of “The Synergies Project” an innovative project in the field of Destination Management.
** This article is partly based on a 3 hours seminar conducted at Hotel Brain Braining Centre on December 2013 regarding “ Crisis Management and offline and online Complaint Handling”