Are guest complaints a good thing?
Are guest complaints a good thing?
22 APRIL 2013 6:09 AM

Feedback from guests is essential for hoteliers to gauge whether their offerings are right for their target audiences.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series about understanding and dealing with customer feedback and complaints.

Getting feedback from your guests is essential to gauge whether what you’re offering is right for your target audience.

So why is it then that so many businesses still shy  from complaints?

There was a time when customers were reserved about giving direct feedback, particularly complaints. They didn't want to make a fuss, and if they did complain, they felt nothing would change. They would vote with their feet and not come back again.

That’s all changed now with the advent of social media. People do complain, but all too often this comes too late for us to remedy the situation; instead of just telling the hotel, they tell the whole world.

The more we can do to get direct feedback, warts and all, the greater the likelihood we have of resolving the situation there and then, turning what could have been a tragic moment into a magic moment.

Unless we hear the feedback, we can't do anything about it.

Prevention is better than cure
Make sure your guests feel comfortable to give feedback at every opportunity.

Face-to-face feedback will always be more effective than other types of feedback. Ideally, we need to get feedback before it's too late to do something about it. If what you have provided fails to meet expectations, you'd rather know about it before the guest leaves so you can resolve it.
Look for signs  things aren't right or that someone wants to get your attention. For example, if you hear a guest complaining about the temperature of the guestroom, it suggests something that needs investigating.

Things go wrong, but it’s how we resolve the situation that gets remembered.

If you know that something’s not right be up front with your guests and let them know before it becomes a problem. Offer alternatives and keep them informed about the situation.

For example, if you know the room won’t be ready, tell guests about the situation, offer them the option of afternoon tea in the lounge, a nice walk they might like to take or something to make the best use of their waiting time. Also, give them the expected time their room will be ready.

Talk to your guests
Being visible in your hotel and making contact with your guests builds rapport and trust. Once you've gained this, you're in a far better position to gain valuable feedback firsthand. The same goes for your staff, so encourage them to talk to your guests. Give them the appropriate training to ask for feedback so they’re confident enough to deal with feedback—good or bad—in a positive way.

Ask the right questions
Ask open questions; starting with “how would you rate ...,” “how could we improve on ...,” “what did you like most about ...,” etc.

Don’t put guests on the spot. If you’ve already got a good rapport with your guests, you’ll be able to do this in a conversational way.

Guests will be flattered if you ask for their opinions. Don’t be afraid to ask for their feedback on how things can be improved and their recommendations and new ideas. Then update them with the changes you’ve made to demonstrate that you listened. What a great excuse to invite them back again to show them the changes you’ve implemented?

Even if you don't agree with feedback you need to find out (tactfully) what has led to their perception, as this might lead to the root of the problem.

Questionnaires are impersonal and few people like to fill them out. The more you can discover through a two-way conversation with your customers, the better. It gives those who didn't want to say anything at the time, a chance to give feedback.

Online reviews
Love them or hate them, online reviews do get read and influence customers. People are more likely to post a review if they've had a bad experience than when they've had a good one. Redress this balance by encouraging as many as your guests as possible to post reviews, so you get the good ones, too.

Display your confidence by encouraging your guests and website visitors to link to TripAdvisor and other review sites, prompting people who have enjoyed their stay to post a review.

Caroline Cooper is founder of Naturally Loyal who helps businesses to get more sales through their existing customers. Caroline specializes in working with hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses, helping them build loyalty through giving customers outstanding experiences and staying on their radar to trigger repeat business. She is author of the ‘Hotel Success Handbook’.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.


1 Comment

  • eric mueller April 23, 2013 1:50 AM

    fantastic Article and very true, guest appreciate recognition its all about it. show them you care and you will win friends for life

    Eric Mueller

    GM Holidayinn Munich South

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