Hotel Professionals

Complaints and How to Handle Them.


Human beings will complain naturally when something they buy, or are served, fail to please them, or fall below their expectations. Some are more vociferous than others. Those who complain also spread their experiences to their friends, family and business associates. This can generate a lot of business losses. Then there are those who do not complain, but also never return to patronize your establishment, be it a restaurant, or hotel, or retail outlet.

It behoves every business owner to listen carefully to complaints, and provide compensation if and when they are legitimate.

There are people, to be sure, who complain all the time to get something for free. Front line employees must be educated to discern genuine complaints from fraudulent ones.

When a restaurant-guest complains, the first rule is to listen attentively, and sympathetically. Arguing never helps and makes the situation more critical in restaurant settings, where time is of the essence, and guests are demanding because of high prices, and taxes they must pay for goods and services rendered.

It is important for restaurant owners/managers to empower servers to make decisions on the spot for compensation within limits.

If a guest complains that the food is undercooked/overcooked or not hot enough, the remedy should be easy and immediate.

If the complains involves texture or taste, the situation becomes more critical. Experience shows that replacing the dish with another is the best solution.

Guests expect to be served exactly as promised or better. In my opinion, it is better to under promise and over deliver.

A faulty wine (be it corked, otherwise faulty) must be replaced with a profuse apology. In some high-end restaurants where even expensive and totally acceptable wines are rejected, servers never argue, but offer to serve another wine in the same price range. (There are exceptions to this suggestion).

Small complaints can be remedied by offering a dessert or liqueur.

A satisfied guest is always god advertising. It is also important to train servers to take orders knowledgeably, attentively, carefully and by using at least some psychology. When a steak is ordered, always ask how the guest wants its cooked. If a guest wants potato replaced with rice or pasta, comply or in the case of vegetable provide another if possible. It helps to know what the kitchen can deliver quickly.

Liver, brains and other variety meats, at least in North American restaurants, are rarely on the menu, because of low demand. If someone asks for such an item, should it be on the menu, you have to advise accordingly.

Food and taste are very personal, and individuals vary a great deal. Servers must be thoroughly trained to discern between all, and pay particular attention to those who state their food allergies.

In hotels, complaints vary, from small, uncomfortable room, to room location (next to the elevator), absence of hot water, slow room service, out-of-order service elevator, poor chambermaid service. Poor quality TV, or dirty linen, or poor telephone connection, or absent connectivity to Internet. The list goes on.

While some of these shortcomings can be overcome by inviting the guest for a free breakfast or a small discount, in other cases a sympathetic and heartfelt apology may suffice.

In some cases guests complain about the quality and comfort of the bed, in others, the location of the hotel (too far from the beach, or noise form other rooms). The question is far is too far? Is it 100 metres, or 500 from the beach? Obviously, when a travel agent or brochure states close to the beach, the potential guest must ask how close is the hotel? That question will solve all future problems on location.

Another problem is the definition of large room. To some guests a large room may mean 10 m2 (900sq.ft), to others 8 m2 (720 sq. ft.) is large enough; it all depends how people perceive space.

Japanese restaurant spacing is very limited, in North America the minimum requirement per seat is one m2 (9 sq. ft.) and in luxury restaurants much more.

If you want to have fully satisfied guests who recommend your establishment and return frequently, the best way to achieve your objective is to deliver every good and service as promised, in a pleasant and efficient way.

In service industries, details matter, and matter greatly. People observe and judge the level of service and how professionally it is

delivered, and decide accordingly. You may not hear a complaint, but lose business; then again you may encounter an irate guest who may be appeased, and can become of your best advertisers.

It is up to your business acumen and personal beliefs how you want to satisfy your paying guests, your success depends on it.