The North Ocean Hotel is in a very privileged position in that we get very few customer complaints. Those we do get are usually minor and can be quickly addressed to everyone’s satisfaction. That isn’t the case for many hotels though as a colleague of mine was telling me over a drink the other night.

It got me thinking about how a hotel should handle customer complaints. To deal with them without compromising itself but while still satisfying the customer. I came up with five steps. They may sound obvious but from talking to guests who come through our Blackpool hotel, quite a few hotels seem to forget them.

Listen

Every guest is important and all have a right to be heard. That is especially true when they are paying for an experience and it falls short in some way. Letting them tell their story without interruption and with the correct attention will do wonders for both sides without you actually having to do anything just yet.

Acknowledge

If the hotel experience has fallen short for some reason, acknowledging that fact is essential. It demonstrates to your guest that you have listened, taken on board what they have to say and have taken responsibility for what has happened.

Empathise

Showing empathy isn’t for every situation but it works in the majority of cases. It’s about how you stand, how you acknowledge the guest, how you listen to what they say and what you say in return. It is also about how you say what you say and what you do next. If a guest feels that you have taken them seriously and appreciate their situation, you have empathised correctly.

React

Now the guest has had their say, knows you appreciate their position and have empathised, now is the time to react. Telling the guest what you are going to do about it is now essential. You don’t have to go into detail but you do have to convince them something will be done and at the soonest possible opportunity if not immediately.

Follow up

Once the situation has been addressed and any corrections made, it’s a good idea to follow up with any staff members responsible for that department and mention it to anyone else who might come into contact with the item, service, room or whatever it was at fault. Then follow up with the guest to ensure they are happy.

Things go wrong, it is the nature of the hospitality industry. However, it is how you act when it happens that will make you out as exceptional and prevent a bad customer experience. It can also turn around a potentially negative review which no hotelier should forget!