How to Handle Common Guest Complaints

Posted by Jaimie Onasch in Branding |


free guest services photo (pexels)In hospitality, customer complaints are to some extent, inevitable. While complaints may seem like a burden, you should embrace them as a way to collect direct feedback about how your operation is running. Complaints can provide insight to a problem with facilities, services, staff, training, internal processes or even marketing.

Furthermore, guest complaints offer an opportunity to correct immediate issues, restore goodwill and protect your reputation. You will not always get this chance. Only 1 in 27 customers will voice their concerns to you directly, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs. The rest will simply keep quiet and stay with your competitors in the future.

Guest feedback should be encouraged in your hotel or resort, and any problems should be identified and resolved in a prompt and fair manner. Here are some tips on where to start.


Demonstrate a commitment to complaint management by making it a priority in your hotel. Create policies and procedures for logging, categorizing, tracking and resolving guest complaints for the five main ways complaints are expressed–in person, via email, online (including social media and review sites), over the phone or by mail. A clear, flexible and open plan is best.

Share your strategy with front-of-house and customer service staff and establish incentives for all personnel to strive for guest satisfaction. Emphasize the accountability of individual employees and give them the skills and confidence needed to identify and resolve common issues.

Hilton, for example, has established brand standard documents and service recovery guidelines for each of its brands and regions. One policy specifically focuses on onsite complaint management for elite status guests. It defines what compensation means, establishes a timeline for record-keeping and follow-up and even outlines specific plans of action for various recovery scenarios.


Best practices for handling customer complaints involve prompt acknowledgement, reliable tracking and timely resolution. Your communications staff–especially the people who manage your online presence–should follow these steps:

Monitor online complaint channels. Rather than expressing complaints privately, many guests share their experiences on public social media platforms and online review sites. These should be monitored frequently for guest feedback, as they can have a much larger impact on your hotel’s reputation than more traditional forms of complaint communication. Create email alerts and push notifications to help keep track of this information.

Acknowledge the complaint. Effectively handling customer complaints first requires understanding their foundation. Negative feedback should be shared with the appropriate personnel to gain insight about the underlying issue. Clear up any areas of confusion and respond to the guest in a polite, professional and timely manner. Trip Advisor recommends replying to all reviews within 24 hours, and several social media sites encourage a response within a few hours.

Apologize and take ownership of mistakes. Never underestimate the importance of an apology. Guests are more willing to forgive an establishment that offers an apology as opposed to being compensated alone. Thank the guest for taking the time to voice his or her concerns, recognize that he or she has suffered an inconvenience and take responsibility for shortcomings as an establishment.

Outline a solution and follow up. Explain the steps your hotel plans to take to fix the problem and provide a timeline for resolution. When possible, move the conversation offline and make the guest a partner in the problem-solving process. Monitor the progress of the corrective action and check back with the guest.

Invite the guest back. Once the source of the complaint has been identified and resolved, invite the guest back so he or she can experience the improvements you made. If appropriate, offer an incentive, such as a discounted room rate or a special offer. By taking this next step, you may turn a dissatisfied guest into a loyal customer or even a brand advocate.


Revelation PR, Advertising & Social Media offers hotels, B&Bs and resorts services related to media relations, community relations, branding, group sales, SEO/SEM and social media management. Please contact Brian Lee, brian [at] or 608-622-7767.


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