eddy billard M5UD FyuDl8 unsplash

How to Handle Guest Complaints: A Comprehensive Guide

Tillie Demetriou
14 Apr. 2023

We all know that running a hotel or a similar business in the hospitality industry can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. You get to meet new people, provide them with top-notch service, and positively impact their lives. However, as with any job, some challenges come with the territory, and one of them is handling guest complaints.

No matter how great your hotel is, guests will always be dissatisfied with something, and they will voice their complaints. Whether it's the room, the service, the food, or any other aspect of their stay, it's essential to know how to handle these complaints effectively.

In this guide, we will discuss everything you need to know about handling hotel guest complaints. We'll cover common types of complaints and share tips on how to remain calm and handle all manner of guest complaints with ease. So, if you want to learn how to handle guest complaints like a pro and provide exceptional customer service, read on!

Understanding guest complaints

Before we dive into handling customer complaints, let's talk about some of the most common complaints that hotel guests might have. Some of these are small issues that can be easily resolved, while others can be more serious and require immediate attention. Here are some examples:

  • Dirty or poorly maintained rooms
  • Uncomfortable beds or pillows
  • Noise from neighbouring rooms, outside, or near guest rooms
  • Slow or unreliable Wi-Fi
  • Problem with the room temperature (too hot or too cold)
  • Unpleasant odours
  • Broken items in rooms, such as lights or remote controls
  • Broken elevators or maintenance issues
  • Rude or unhelpful hotel staff
  • Poor quality food or drinks
  • Overpriced amenities or services
  • Lack of available extra services or long waiting times
  • Lack of attention to guests arriving or leaving, requests or complaints
  • Other guests!

It's important to note that these complaints can be subjective and vary from guest to guest. What might be a minor inconvenience to one hotel guest might be a major issue for another. 

However, ignoring or dismissing these complaints as totally unimportant can lead to negative reviews and damage your hotel's reputation!

That's why it's crucial to understand the reasons behind these complaints and their impact on your guests. When guests feel heard and their concerns are addressed, they are more likely to leave positive reviews and recommend your hotel to others, and you can retain customers

On the other hand, ignoring or mishandling complaints can lead to negative online reviews and a decrease in bookings. It’s imperative you know the right action to take for each scenario.

So, let's move on to the next section and explore how to handle these vast array of complaints, and how to avoid guests making complaints entirely.

5 tips for handling guest complaints

When a guest complains, it's crucial to remain calm and professional while addressing their concerns. Here are some tips to help you handle guest complaints like a pro:

1. Create a positive atmosphere:

Creating a positive atmosphere is about making the guest feel welcome and valued, even when unhappy. Imagine a guest comes to the front desk and complains about a dirty room. You could respond by saying, "We can't do anything about it right now." This response is dismissive, unapologetic, and unhelpful - it's likely to make the guest feel even more frustrated.

Instead, try to create a positive atmosphere by greeting the guest warmly and acknowledging their concerns. You could say, "I'm so sorry to hear that you had a bad experience. Let me see what I can do to help." This response shows that you're willing to listen and that you care about the guest's experience. It’s a simple, but highly effective change.

Creating a positive atmosphere can also involve offering the guest a cup of coffee or a glass of water while you work to address their concerns. This small gesture can help to diffuse tension and make the guest feel more comfortable. Remember, creating a positive atmosphere is about treating the guest with respect and making them feel valued, even when they're unhappy.

Top tip: Learn how to improve your customer experience to make it more memorable in our recent guide.

2. Listen actively:

Listening actively is an important skill when it comes to handling guest complaints. It involves giving the guest your full attention, acknowledging their concerns, and asking questions to gain a clear understanding of the issue. Here are some tips to help you listen actively and effectively:

  • Be present: When a guest is complaining, it's important to give them your full attention. Put away your phone, computer, or any other distractions and focus on the guest.
  • Use verbal cues: Use phrases like "I see," "I understand," or "I hear what you're saying" to show the guest that you're actively listening.
  • Paraphrase their concerns: Restate the hotel guest's concerns in your own words to show that you understand what they're saying.
  • Ask clarifying questions: Don't assume that you know what the guest is talking about. Instead, ask clarifying questions to gain a crystal-clear understanding of the issue.
  • Take notes: Jotting down notes can help you remember the details of the complaint and show the guest that you're taking their concerns seriously.

Remember, listening actively is a key part of handling guest complaints effectively. By showing the guest that you're listening and that their concerns matter, you can build trust and resolve the issue more quickly.

Sign up to our newsletter

By submitting your details you agree to our terms and conditions & privacy policy.

3. Empathise with the guest:

Empathising with the guest is an essential part of handling complaints effectively. It shows the guest that you understand their perspective and are committed to finding a solution. Here are some tips for empathising with the guest:

  • Use body language: Your body language can communicate empathy and understanding. Maintain eye contact, nod your head, and use facial expressions to show that you're listening and engaged. (Don’t fold your arms, as this comes across as defensive.)
  • Acknowledge their feelings: Let the guest know that you understand how they're feeling. You could say, "I'm sorry you had to experience this. I understand that it must have been frustrating."
  • Put yourself in their shoes: Try to imagine what it would be like to experience the guest's issue. This can help you understand their perspective and empathise with their concerns.
  • Validate their concerns: Let the guest know that their concerns are valid and that you're committed to finding a solution. You could say something like, "I completely understand why you're upset. Let me see what I can do to help."

Remember, handling guest issues requires more than just technical solutions. It's important to show the guest that you care and that you're committed to finding a solution that works for them. By empathising with the guest and acknowledging their concerns, you can build trust and find a resolution more quickly.

4. Apologise sincerely:

When handling guest complaints, a sincere apology can be a powerful tool. It shows the guest that you take their concerns seriously and that you're committed to finding a solution. Here are some tips for offering a sincere apology:

  • Be genuine: A sincere apology comes from the heart. Make sure that you're truly sorry for the inconvenience or discomfort the guest experienced.
  • Take responsibility: Even if the issue wasn't your fault, take responsibility for the situation without passing blame on other teams in your hotel. You could say something like, "I'm sorry that this happened. Let me see what I can do to make it right."
  • Follow up: After offering an apology and a solution, follow up with the guest to ensure they're satisfied with the outcome.

Examples of sincere apologies include:

"I'm sorry for the inconvenience you experienced during your stay. We take your concerns seriously, and we're committed to finding a solution that works for you."

"I apologise for the discomfort you experienced. That's not the level of service we strive to provide, and we'll do everything we can to make it right."

Remember, a sincere apology can be a powerful tool in resolving a guest complaint. By taking responsibility, offering a solution, and following up with the guest, you can show that you care and that you're committed to providing excellent service.

5. Offer solutions:

Offering solutions is a critical part of resolving a guest complaint effectively. It shows the guest that you're committed to finding a resolution that works for them. Here are some tips for offering solutions:

  1. Be proactive: Don't wait for the guest to suggest solutions. Instead, be proactive and offer creative solutions that address their concerns directly. This can show the guest that you're invested in finding a resolution.
  2. Be flexible: Offer alternatives if necessary. For example, if the guest is unhappy with their room, offer to move them to a different room or upgrade them to a higher-tier room if available.
  3. Set expectations: Be clear about what you can and can't do to resolve the issue. If a solution is not possible, explain why and offer alternatives.
  4. Follow up: After offering a solution, follow up with the guest to ensure they're satisfied with the outcome.

TOP TIP: Download our Vouchercart POS integration to sell your service as gift cards or vouchers.

Examples of solutions to common guest complaints include:

  • Noise complaints: Offer to move the guest to a different room or provide earplugs.
  • Housekeeping issues: Offer to send housekeeping to clean the room or offer a discount, voucher or gift on their stay.
  • Maintenance issues: Offer to have maintenance come and fix the issue or offer a discount on their stay.

Remember, offering solutions requires creativity and flexibility. By being proactive and setting clear and realistic expectations, you can find a resolution that works for the guest and shows that you're committed to providing excellent service.

Host in style with the Epos Now hotel POS

Focus less on admin and more on guests. Free yourself by automating and integrating trade, and bring all your operations together in one hotel POS system.

Get your offer

How can a hotel POS help?

Have you ever had a frustrating experience trying to pay for your hotel stay? Well, a hotel POS system can help make that process a lot smoother for your guests. 

With Epos Now, guests can use a variety of payment methods, like credit cards or mobile payments, to pay for their room and other charges. This means no more digging through your wallet for cash or dealing with slow payment processing

Plus, the hotel can also benefit from a POS system by getting insights into their sales data. They can use this information to make better decisions about pricing and promotions. So, if you're a hotel owner or manager, consider getting a POS system to improve your payment processing and make your guests' stay more enjoyable.

Don't check out on good customer service

In the hospitality industry, poor customer service can lead to negative reviews, lost business, and a damaged reputation. As a hotel, it's important to prioritise guest satisfaction and address any concerns promptly.

You can turn a negative situation into a positive by showing personal interest and going above and beyond to address guest complaints. Remember, guests appreciate a sincere apology and a willingness to listen and offer solutions.

Preventing guest complaints is also crucial, and this can be achieved through effective communication, staff training, and attention to detail. By following best practices and focusing on good customer service, you can ensure that guests leave with a positive impression of your hotel.

So, don't check out on good customer service. Make it a priority to provide an exceptional experience for every guest, and you'll be sure to reap the rewards in the form of positive reviews and repeat business.

Want to learn more about running a successful hotel business? Check out our additional resources below:

Ready to enhance your hotel operations? Speak to our POS experts today and discover how we can help take your business to the next level.

By submitting your details you agree to our terms and conditions & privacy policy.