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Hotel Management | How to Monitor Customer Satisfaction

The hospitality industry is a people’s industry. Your success relies highly on how you take care of your customers. Whether you are managing a hotel, resort, lodge guest house or restaurant, it is imperative to monitor the customer service delivered by your team. Customers will always come back and refer others if you give the best possible service.

In this blog, we will give you tips on how to monitor customer service in your establishment.

We will look at the following:

  • Customer satisfaction and communication
  • Customer requests and requirements
  • Common complaints and appropriate action
  • Promoting products

Customer Satisfaction and Communication

Cultural consideration

Culture is defined as the pattern of basic behaviour that a group has invented, discovered and developed in learning to cope with internal and external integration.


A cultural group is a group of people with the same norms, customs, traditions, values, behaviours and a standard of living.


Examples of a cultural group could be:

  • Population groups
  • Organisations
  • Clubs


Cultures differ from each other in many ways.  Below find some areas of major differences to consider:

  • Language
  • National Holidays
  • Dress
  • Food preferences
  • Body language (including, eye contact/gestures/head movements)
  • Traditions
  • Customs
  • Marriage practices
  • Religious beliefs


Interpersonal skills

Working with or interacting with customers/guests who look, believe, or act differently from you, may be difficult and uncomfortable.  You may feel self-conscious and intimidated or unsure of what to expect when those from another culture are around you. 

It is important to do something about understanding other cultures because there will be more diversity, not less, and the future of the world depends on it as it faces the challenge of uniting different individuals and groups to reach common goals.

Working together in harmony requires you to:

  • Manage your mind (how you think about yourself and others)
  • Manage your words (learn how to speak and listen to people with different backgrounds.)


Manage your unspoken language (Body language – pay attention to the non-verbal language of where, when and how you do things).


Building a Rapport and Relationship with Customers

To “establish a rapport” means to create a harmonious relationship.  This is especially important because guests make their future accommodation decisions on the basis of the relationships they enjoy the most.  They will choose to stay in a hotel where they have a rapport with the management and staff before they choose to stay in a hotel that they don’t know, or where they are not known.


Follow the guidelines below to ensure courtesy at all times to guests:

If guest approaches you while you are busy with something, stop what you are doing, make eye contact, smile and greet the guest, using his/her name if you know it.

  • Never say “hi” or “hello” as an element of formality is expected.
  • Never call a guest by his/her first name unless invited to do so by the guest.
  • Make an effort to greet guests in their own language – even if the greeting is all you know in that language.
  • If a guest looks lost or as though he/she is looking for something or someone, offer assistance.
  • Always observe what is happening around you and respond to signals guests give relating to their needs.

Guests are frequently asked, “is everything alright” by people who are not really interested and seem to be only going through the motions.  Take the time and the trouble to make conversation with guests while you are assisting them.  If you are checking their satisfaction whilst they are dining, you need to do more than simply asking “is everything to your satisfaction?”  The following questions are examples of how to open up a conversation:

“Is this your first visit to South Africa / Durban / this hotel?”


“How are you enjoying your stay with us?”


“Are you here on business or for pleasure?”


“I see you are golfers.  What do you think of our local golf course?”

  • If you are assisting a guest under any other circumstances, it is also appropriate to make conversation with them.  They are all important – and you recognize their importance when you make an effort to establish a rapport with them.
  • If you show a interest in your guests, pay attention to them, remember their names and their interests or preferences, you will have gone a long way towards establishing a rapport with them.
  • Use their names, and acknowledge their support for your hotel – our most importance guest are those who come back.  Use your guest history to give you information about the preferences of returning guests.
  • Maintain professional relationships.  The term “Professionalism” can best be explained by considering the characteristic behaviours of professionals in any field:
  • they are highly skilled experts in their field
  • they are constantly looking for ways to improve their performance
  • they learn, train and practice their skills both with the team and on their own
  • they accept that they are role models, and behave accordingly in their professional and private lives
  • they are supportive of their colleagues
  • they get involved in the training and development of newcomers to the team
  • they are respectful of their customers under all circumstances
  • always treat your guests respectfully, even if they are disrespectful towards you
  • if your personal friends are also hotel guests, remember that you are in a professional environment where people are always watching you, and behave appropriately – if your friends think you are being a snob, simply explain to them that you need to set the right example at work do not speak disrespectfully of guests behind their backs.  Your disrespect will influence the behaviour of your colleagues and subordinates towards these guests.


Building Relationships

Internal customers are your colleagues and subordinates.  Building good relationships with both customers and people you interact with at work is critical to a successful business operation so endeavor to apply the following practices:

Step#1: Greet colleagues with warmth and friendliness.  Rather greet someone too often than not often enough.  Do not get into issues of who should greet whom first – there are cultural differences here which cause unnecessary unhappiness because people do not understand each other.  Everyone should attempt to greet everyone else first.


Step#2: When colleagues request your help, it is so that they can do their work properly.  We all rely on assistance from each other in order to get our work done to the required standard, so give colleagues whatever assistance you can in order to make it easier for them to do their work.  If you are unable to help, apologise, explain why, and offer an alternative suggestion.


Step#3: It is particularly important to remember that your subordinates are your customers.  In fact, they might best be considered your primary customers for the following reasons:

  • they tend to have more continuous direct contact with guests, whereas you tend to manage the service they provide
  • your subordinates can only do a good job if they are receiving service from you in the form of support, training, information and feedback

if your subordinates are not receiving adequate service from you, they cannot deliver high standards of service to guests.


Step#4: In terms of your relationships with colleagues and subordinates this means:

  • Always treat your colleagues and subordinates respectfully – no matter what the circumstances.  Do not raise your voice or use bad language , and never reprimand them in front of anyone else.
  • Do not speak disrespectfully or gossip about colleagues.  You will negatively influence the behaviour of your subordinates towards your colleagues, you will cause conflict and this will have a negative impact on team work and service.
  • Never speak disrespectfully or gossip about your subordinates.  You will lose the respect and trust of not only the specific subordinate, but also of your team, and you will damage the self-esteem of the subordinate.  If you have a problem with the work performance or behaviour of a subordinate, handle it with that subordinate in a professional manner – do not resort to gossip.


Supporting Subordinates

There will be times when a subordinate asks for your help in assisting a guest.  This will usually be when it is a situation that the subordinate cannot handle alone, either because the guest is angry or because the service desired requires a higher level of authority:


Step#1: If you are asked to assist a guest, make sure that the subordinate gives you the name of the guest and enough information before you approach the guest.  It is very annoying for the guest to have to repeat the same story twice.


Step#2: When you approach the guest, proceed as follows:

  • greet the guest by name
  • introduce yourself by name and job title
  • tell the guest what you have been told by your subordinate
  • check that this is correct and request any further information that you require
  • explain any policies that may influence the range of actions that can be taken
  • offer the guest some choices, and come to an agreement
  • confirm what you will do follow up to check guest satisfaction.


20 Tips to Improve Customer Service in the Hospitality Industry

Hospitality employees deal with the public daily and should always strive towards consistently improving customer satisfaction.

Here are 20 tips to improve customer service in the hospitality industry:

#1: Always display good manners.

#2: Show respect and make eye contact with the guest.

#3: Be bubbly and enthusiastic.

#4: Show patience even when under pressure.

#5: Listen and show genuine interest in the customer.

#6: Find solutions to any problems a customer might have.

#7: Be empathic and understanding about his/her needs.

#8: Think and act promptly to customer request

#9: Be familiar with your organisation and its products and services.

#10: Always be neat and clean in appearance and present yourself as competent and professional.

#11: Always smile and use pleasant facial expressions.

#12: Project your voice in a friendly and polite way.

#13: Give guests a feedback; they need to know what you are doing.

#14: Give your customers personal attention.  It makes them feel special and important and gives your organisation a competitive edge.

#15: Always meet your commitment to your customer and deliver what you promise.

#16: Ask questions - the more you know about the customer the better equipped you are to deliver a product and service to meet their needs.

#18: Never say “No” to a customer; always offer alternatives.

#19: Never say “I don’t know” to a guest; always find out and get back.

#20: Be patient with a physically challenged customer and be careful to always address and to speak to him/her directly with the same courtesy you would to another customer. 

“The customer doesn’t care how much you know, until he knows how much you care.” Cavett Robert


Customer feedback
Obtaining feedback from guests / customers in terms of service provided is an important element in an organisation’s customer service strategy.  Feedback systems supply valuable information that will be of no value unless promptly acted upon and appropriate solutions for improvement are implemented.


There are 5 ways in which feedback from customers is obtained namely:

  1. Asking questions
  2. Listening skillfully
  3. Observing (managing by walkabout in area of responsibility)
  4. Surveys
  5. Suggestion boxes


Effective Survey Techniques

Ensure that you ask appropriate questions to measure what you are doing right and questions to measure where you need to improve.


Below are examples of 2 simple open-ended questions you should include in your surveys to measure this area:

  1. What do you like most about your stay?
  2. What didn’t you like and how can we do better?

Other questions could be to include closed questions which prompt a YES/NO answer.  For example:

  • Were you comfortable with your room?
  • Did you enjoy the cabaret?
  • Were you happy with the room service?


Customer Requests and Requirements


Customer requirements

It is important to recognize that all people who make requests or enquiries to you are either current guests or potential guests, and must be treated as such. The basic needs of a customer are as follows:


  • To feel important - Customers require your undivided attention when they are speaking to you and they expect you to greet them before they greet you.
  • To be recognized - If you know the guest’s name, use it.  If you recognize a guest, greet him or her in a way that shows recognition, and find out his or her name.  Guests especially appreciate it if you remember their preferences.
  • To feel safe and secure - They want to know that your food is healthy and prepared under hygienic conditions.  They want o know that they and their possessions will be safe.
  • To feel appreciated - Your guests need to know that you value their support, so tell them.
  • Identifying needs - All guests have two sets of needs, and both of these must be satisfied in order for them to judge your service positively.
  • “Practical needs” are the needs that bring them to you in the first place.  Examples include the need for:
  • a meal
  • a function
  • information

These needs are easy to understand because people ask for them – they tell you what they need or want.


  • “Emotional needs” are less obvious because guests do not know that they exist until they have either been met or not met.  Emotional needs relate to how people wish to feel as a result of their dealings with you.


Guidelines to establish and understand guest’s needs

To establish and understand the guest’s needs, follow the steps below:

  • Greet the guest: “Good morning, Mr. / Ms.  _____”
  • Offer assistance: “How may I help you?”
  • Clarify requirements:   Ask for additional information, for example:

“At what time would you like that?”

“Would you like two double rooms or a family room?”

“How would you like your steak prepared?”

  • Confirm action to be taken: Tell the guest what you will do.
  • Take action: Do what you have agreed to do.

Follow-up:   Check if the guest is satisfied, by asking questions, for example:

“Are you satisfied with your room, sir?”

“How are you enjoying your steak?”

“Is there anything else I can do for you?”


Providing Information

Here are some guidelines to provide information:

  • On receiving a request for information from a guest, respond by saying:

“Certainly, Mr./Ms. _____, one moment please.”

  • If you believe it may take a while to obtain the information, say:

“Certainly, Mr./Ms.  _____. I will call you back within 5 minutes.”

  • Find out from where the information may be obtained. If it is available in files, books or pamphlets that you have in your department, locate the information, and write it down on your note pad. If you do not have the information readily available, telephone an organisation which will have the information, and make the request. Write the information down on your note pad.
  • If you do not have the necessary information, and are unable to find it, take the guest to someone who will be able to provide assistance.


Information, Policy and Practice

Below is a guideline to Policy and Procedure regarding providing information to guests:

  • Always make sure that the information you provide is accurate. If you are in any doubt, check with someone who has the correct information.
  • Whilst you are expected to give guests accurate information at all times, remember that you may not do the following:

Never tell any guest or member of the public the room number of a guest – this is a serious breach of confidentiality and security, and could embarrass or even endanger the guest.

Never give any information to members of the media – always refer them to the General Manager.

Never give out information regarding hotel occupancies – this is confidential information.

Never give out any information you may have regarding salaries – yours or anyone else’s.


Referring Requests Outside Your own Area of Responsibility

If a guest makes an enquiry that relates to another department, put the guest in touch with the correct person:

  • If the guest is with you, take him / her to the appropriate person.
  • While the guest is with you, telephone the department concerned and ask the appropriate person to come through and assist the guest.
  • While the guest is with you, telephone the department concerned and allow the guest to direct the request or enquiry over the telephone.
  • Inform the guest that you will ask the appropriate person to contact him / her - and pass on the request to this person.
  • If the enquiry comes telephonically from a resident guest, ask him / her to telephone the appropriate person or department, and provide the extension number.
  • Ensure that you still follow up to check guest satisfaction, even if another person or department handled the enquiry or request.


Following Up on Customer Requests

  • If you have assisted a guest by providing information or a service, it is important that you follow-up and check whether the guest is satisfied with the information or service that he/she received.
  • On most occasions you can ask whether the guest is satisfied immediately, while the guest is still in front of you or on the telephone. On such occasions, you could ask such questions as:

“Is there anything else I can do for you?”


“Does that meet your needs?”


  • There will be other occasions when you need to revert to the guest at a later stage to check satisfaction, especially if the required action took some time to complete. On such occasions, you should contact the guest by telephone to check if he or she is satisfied with the action taken.
  • If the guest is not satisfied, it is essential to solve the problem, or take further action until the guest is satisfied.
  • Take every opportunity to ask if guests are satisfied with the facilities and service in the hotel. Such opportunities include:
    • When checking out a guest.
    • When in a lift with a guest.
    • When providing a guest with a bill to sign
  • When the guest responds to your question, listen carefully to what the guest is saying, and ask questions to ensure that you understand.
  • Thank the guest for his/her comments.
  • Inform your Head of Department of what the guest has said, and if necessary or in your scope of responsibility, write the information in the handover book.


Problems with Meeting Guest Requirements

Problems and alternatives

  • If you are unable to meet the guest’s requirements, it is important to explain this to the guest, and to give a reason. If the guest knows the reason why you are unable to meet his or her requirements, he or she is likely to be far more amenable than if you simply say that something cannot be done. This is true, even if the request may have seemed somewhat bizarre to you. You could say something like:

“Ms. ______ I am unable to give you a sea-facing room as they are all occupied.”

  • If possible, you could then offer an alternative. For example:

“I see you will be with us for another three nights. I can move you to a sea-facing room for the last two nights. Would that satisfy you?”

  • If a guest asks you for information which you don’t have and are unable to find through your usual resources, explain this to the guest. If appropriate, suggest an alternative.
  • It is also important to explain any delays to the guest concerned. As long as guests know what is going on and why they are being kept waiting, they can make the choice either to wait or to do something else. The more information they have, the more they feel in control because they can still make choices about what they do.


Common Complaints and Appropriate Action

Evaluating/Dealing with Complaints

The importance of evaluating customer complaints and taking appropriate corrective action is critical to the success of a business as a complaint ignored, is a customer/guest lost forever.

This directly impacts on the profitability of the organisation and could result in loss of employment.

The statistics and the pie chart below further indicates why customers do not return:

  • 1% Die
  • 3% Move away from the area
  • 5% Make other business contacts
  • 9% Say prices are too high
  • 14% Say merchandise purchased was inferior
  • 68% Say they switched to the competitor because of the attitude of the personnel.



Dealing with Customer Complaints Effectively


Here are guidelines to deal with customer complaints effectively:

In handling complaints, you will need to know the following:

  • What are the details of the complaint – what happened?
  • Does the complaint relate to a slip in standards or a mistake on our part, or was the guest expecting something that we don’t provide?
  • Does the complaint relate to something over which we have control?
  • Is there a solution, and is the best solution something that falls within my level of authority?
  • What follow-up is necessary to prevent a recurrence of the complaint?
  • Who needs to receive feedback about the complaint.


Manage the effectiveness of your communication as follows:

  • Keep your voice clear and calm.
  • Speak as you would normally do – do not speak faster or louder than usual.
  • Watch your body language:
  • Maintain a comfortable level of eye contact.
  • Keep your facial expressions calm. Look concerned and interested.
  • Use calm, friendly gestures – avoid any aggressive gestures – and keep your gestures small.
  • Maintain a professional posture and do not fold your arms.
  • Stand your ground – if the guest invades your personal space do not step back


Involve the guest in finding a solution – this increases the likelihood that the guest will be happy with the solution.

Identifying the Nature of the Complaint or Incident

  • Throughout the interaction, you should communicate in a way that promotes goodwill and understanding between the guest and the company. Speak quietly and calmly, and make sure that your body language is calming. Do not react to any aggressive body language that the guest might be displaying.
  • Acknowledge the guest - Stop what you are doing. Make eye contact and smile.

                                          “Good morning, Mr./Ms. _____.”

  • Offer assistance - “How may I help you? “
  • Hear the guest out - Listen to what the guest says without interrupting.
  • Do not show fear or anxiety – it is important to show confidence because the guest needs to know that you can handle the situation.
  • Once the guest has finished speaking, state your understanding of the problem.
  • If the complaining guest is disturbing other guests, calmly invite him/her to accompany you to an office away from the public area.
  • If the complaint is a telephonic one, transfer the call to another telephone where you can give the guest your undivided attention without disturbing other colleagues or guests. Establish the facts and use good questioning skills.


Reassuring the Guest

  • Thank the guest for bringing the problem to your attention.
  • Empathise:  State how you believe the guest feels, and why acknowledge that he/she has the right to feel as they do.
  • Apologise:  Apologise briefly and sincerely that the guest has experienced a problem.  Do not admit that you or the establishment is to blame.
  • Accept responsibility for solving the problem.
  • Never blame another person or department for causing the problem – it is unprofessional and disloyal to the company which you represent.  Do not make excuses.


Tools for effective Negotiation and Communication

This is defined as the means in which you communicate with others in order to reach a compromise and an agreement.


Consider the following suggestions and guidelines for a effective negotiation and communication style:

  • Appearance:  First impressions are formed within 30 seconds and are a major contributing factor to enhancing or diminishing your negotiating power.  By dressing for the workplace you indicate that you have respect for yourself, your work and your customers.  You represent yourself and your company well as you place a high value on good service levels.


  • Body Language:  Body language projects a message not only of our attitude towards others but about ourselves.  Positive body language sets the scene for success and negative body language sets the scene for failure. 

Refer to the table (on the next page) which highlights positive and negative body language.  Pay attention to how you make your body language work for you.


The Pleasing Principle 

P – Always be polite

L – Listen attentively

E – Empathise and ensure feedback

A – Ask questions and display a good attitude

S – Smile

I – Show genuine interest

N – Never say “No” upfront, reword negatives and offer alternatives

G – Go far and settle in the situation


  • Attitude:  this refers to a person’s way of thinking. Thoughts shape actions and behaviour, which impacts on relationships.


A positive attitude can be your greatest asset as thoughts create feelings, feelings brings about emotions and emotions create the excitement, enthusiasm, drive and commitment which results in action.


Therefore by improving your thoughts you are improving your actions, resulting in improved personal and business relationships – which have a great impact on your success.



Behaviours to avoid in negotiating:

  • Avoid getting involved in confrontational situations
  • Do not use forceful hand gestures, finger pointing or talk with your hands too much.  This is perceived as aggressive behaviour
  • Do not move into the other party’s personal space.  This is perceived to be threatening.
  • Avoid defensive body language i.e.: folded arms, indirect eye contact, etc, it creates distance between parties.
  • Avoid raising your voice and use of bad language.


The HEAT Approach

Using the Heat approach can be a useful tool when a customer is irate, upset and emotional about an issue of complaint.

The  “HEAT” approach is further explained below:

  • (H)ear them out, and listen - let them “give off steam”
  • (E)mpathize : “It must be very frustrating....”
  • (A)pologise : “I’m sorry for the inconvenience....”
  • (T)ake responsibility to put things right.


Customer Complaints Handling Procedure in Hospitality

If the complaint or incident is something which you can handle, then it is your responsibility to take appropriate action as follows:

  • Discuss with the guest what action should be taken, and come to a definite agreement on what will be done and by when.
  • Take the necessary action.  
  • Do not offer something the establishment cannot provide.


The following complaints can usually be resolved by the staff members involvement:

    • Lack of supplies
    • Wrong order
    • Misunderstandings
    • Delays in service
    • Spills or breakage’s
    • Lost property
  • At every level of staff, complaints can be handled. If the solution is something that the employee can do without the permission of his or her manager, then the employee has the authority to solve the complaint, and should do so.
  • If the solution is something that requires a higher level of authority, then it is at that level of authority that the responsibility for resolving the complaint lies.  As a manager, it is your responsibility to step in and assist subordinates to handle complaints that are outside the scope of their jobs which they don’t have the authority to resolve, or which they feel uncomfortable about handling.
  • It is still the responsibility of the employee who first heard the complaint to follow up and check that the guest is satisfied with the solution.
  • It is important that you set the right example to your team.  If you avoid handling complaints, you will lose the respect of your team, and service problems will worsen.
  • By handling complaints effectively, you are setting the correct example for your team, and they will learn from watching you in action.

It is valuable to use negotiation skills when handling complaints because:

  • When seeking an appropriate solution to the complaint, it is important to meet both the expectations of the guest and the needs of the company.
  • Negotiation skills are used when it is necessary to reach a compromise between what the guest wants and what company policy allows you to do.
  • The objective of negotiating is to reach a solution that represents a win: win – that is, the guest is happy and so is the company.

You have the following options available for resolving complaints:

  • Correct the mistake and give the guest what was requested or expected.
  • If appropriate, you could pass a “no charge” for the item or service that was the subject of the complaint – for example, a badly laundered shirt.
  • Replace the problem product – for example, offer another menu item.
  • Give the guest a complimentary item – for example, a liqueur coffee on the house.


Product and Service Complaints

Understanding company standards

It is important to understand organisational standards for products and services when dealing with complaints for the following reasons:

  • If you understand organisational standards, you can evaluate if the complaint relates to failure to meet the standards, or standards which are less than the guest expected.
  • This enables you to handle the complaint effectively. If it was a failure to meet organisational standards, this can be remedied. If the organisational standards are not what the guest expected, you can give an explanation to the guest of the standards.


If the organisational standards are causing repeated complaints this is an indication that the standard needs reviewing, and needs to be brought to the attention of senior management.



  • If a complaint relates to product quality, investigate whether the quality received by the guest was indeed less than the laid down standard. If it was, handle the complaint as described above and take action to resolve the problem.


  • If your investigation reveals that the product quality received by the guest was in line with laid down standards, revert to the guest and explain this. An explanation is usually sufficient. However, if the guest is still unsatisfied, you may need to take some action that is out of the ordinary to resolve the problem.


For example, there are hotels that offer a “Dial and Deliver” or “Call and Collect” service instead of Room Service. These meals are delivered in Styrofoam takeaway containers with plastic cutlery. This is the laid down standard. If the guest were to complain about this, in many cases an explanation would be sufficient. If the guest was still not satisfied with the explanation, it might be worth asking the supplier to provide this particular guest with proper crockery and cutlery.


  • A complaint about a service would be handled in much the same way. Investigate whether the service provided was in line with the laid down standard or not. If it was not, take appropriate action to correct the service problem. If it was, explain this to the guest.


For example, some hotels do not offer a valet service, but will lend the guest an iron and an ironing board. A guest who was expecting to have the ironing done for him or her by a member of staff may well complain about being expected to do his or her own ironing. The hotel standard would have to be explained to the guest. If the explanation was not enough to satisfy the guest, you may find it in the interests of the relationship with this guest to have housekeeping do the ironing.


Environment Complaints

There may be occasions when there are things happening in the hotel’s neighbourhood that are beyond your control. For example, if there is a building being constructed next door, the hotel management has no control over the noise. This will not stop some guests from complaining.


  • Handle the complaint in the usual way, and attempt to find a solution that will satisfy the guest. If moving the guest to another room away from the noise will help then do so, if you have an alternative room available – even if it means upgrading the guest to a better room. Make sure you check this with a superior manager if it is outside the level of your authority.
  • If there is nothing you can do to make the situation better for the guest, it is important that the guest knows that you do care.
  • Apologise and explain that you are unable to offer a solution and why. At this point you need to ask the guest what he or she would regard as a satisfactory solution. If the only solution that the guest can come up with is a move to another hotel, be gracious about this in the interests of the long-term relationship with the guest. Offer to make the arrangements and to assist the guest with the move. Attempt to obtain a similar room at the same rate.
  • Inform the General Manager that the guest has taken this decision – he or she will want to contact the guest and make amends.

If a guest complains about something in the environment over which the hotel does have influence, make sure that the appropriate person is informed and action is taken.

  • For example, if the area immediately outside the hotel entrance is a mess, ask the Maintenance department to take action.


Personal Complaints

If a guest complains to you about a member of your team, proceed as follows:


Hear the guest out:          

  • Listen to the guest without interrupting. Ask questions to check your understanding. Thank the guest for bringing the problem to your attention.



  • Describe your understanding of how the guest feels and why.



  • Simply apologise that the guest has had an unhappy experience. Do not indicate that you accept the guest’s story as the truth – you do not have the staff member’s side of the story yet.


Take Action:           

  • Tell the guest that you will follow up and take any necessary action. Discuss the matter privately with the staff member concerned. Make sure that you have a clear understanding of the details before making a decision about further action.


  • If the complaint is about a staff member in another department, handle the complaint as described above, then pass the information on to the Head of Department concerned.


5 Ways of Dealing with Written Complaints

  1. If written complaints are received from guests, they will be referred to you only after the General Manager and your Head of Department have read and discussed them. You will then be involved in an investigation about the complaint.
  2. Accept that it is the guest’s right to complain in writing to the General Manager or even the Managing Director, and avoid questioning why the guest did not bring the complaint directly to you – there is no answer to that question and you will only make yourself unhappy. Do not regard the written complaint as a personal affront or an attempt to make you and your department look bad – it is an opportunity to learn.
  3. If the complaint relates to something you personally have done, cooperate in the investigation by giving your side of the story as clearly and as unemotionally as possible. Be gracious and apologise if it is clear that you did not meet the required standards.
  4. If the complaint relates to a problem that affects the entire team, discuss it with the team with a view to finding a solution rather than finding someone to blame and punish. It is only by finding a solution that you prevent a repetition of the incident. Finding someone to blame and punish solves nothing, and only leads to poor morale and conflict.
  5. If the complaint is about the specific actions of a particular person, handle it privately. Your objective is to find a solution in order to prevent a repetition of the incident, so handle the discussion constructively.


Ways of Documenting Complaints and Giving Feedback

  1. Complaints received by the Night Manager or a member of the night shift team must be recorded in the Night Manager’s handover book. Describe the complaint, the action taken, and whether the guest was satisfied with the action taken.
  2. Complaints received by Reception must be recorded in the shift handover book so that the next shift knows what happened, what action was taken, and whether the guest was satisfied with the solution. This enables the new team to take appropriate action should there be a sequel to the complaint.
  3. If you handled a complaint that related to another department, make sure that you give feedback about the complaint to the department concerned.
  4. Give feedback to your direct manager about complaints that you or members of your team have handled. This ensures that he or she is able to act appropriately if there is a sequel to the complaint. It also ensures that you create useful opportunities for the team to learn from the complaint.
  5. Discuss creative solutions to complaints with your colleagues – this enables them to learn from your experiences, and take opportunities to learn from them.


Efficient Work Practices

  • Handling complaints effectively is more important than any other work, so handle them immediately – even if it means completing other work later.
  • Never keep a complaining guest waiting – this will only make the problem worse.
  • As soon as a complaint has been resolved, document it and / or give feedback to the department concerned. If you wait, you will forget some of the details and will not be able to pass on complete information.
  • Get back to work straight away. Avoid spending ineffective time discussing the complaint – especially if you or your team feel that the complaint was unjustified. The guest has the right to complain – even if you disagree with the nature of the complaint – and this must be accepted. If the discussion is not making a contribution to improving the work of the team, it is a waste of time.
  • As a supervisor or manager, your role is to manage guest service. This means that you must make it possible for your team members to deliver service by giving them the training and support that they need. You must then monitor their work, reinforce their good performance, and give them feedback when problems arise.
  • It is also important to remember that guest service comes before any other work. If you find that you are spending so much time at your desk that you cannot interact with guests in order to obtain feedback, then you need to consider delegating some of your paperwork.
  • If you delegate some of your tasks so that you can spend more time managing guest service, make sure that the people to whom you delegate these tasks receive the necessary training. It will still be necessary to check their work, even if you do not do it yourself – because you will still be accountable.
  • Make sure that paperwork is delegated fairly, and that everyone is doing his or her fair share.
  • It is useful to use checklists to manage the operational tasks that need doing through the month. This ensures that nothing is forgotten.
  • If you were asked by a subordinate to solve a problem with a guest, make sure that the subordinate in question is told how you solved the problem. As soon as you have finished assisting the guest, discuss the solution with the subordinate so that he or she has the opportunity to learn. This will enable him or her to handle similar problems in future.


Promoting Products and Services

Take every possible opportunity to promote the company’s own facilities and services.

  • The more information the guest has about the products and services of the hotel, the more use he or she is likely to make of them. By increasing guests’ awareness of our products and services, we are creating increased sales.
  • By promoting the products and services of the hotel, you are also in a position to obtain feedback about the products and services that guests are most likely to use. This information can then be passed on to the relevant department head.
  • If a guest asks for information about restaurants, bars, foreign exchange transactions or any other services which the hotel can accommodate, always give information about the hotel’s facilities and services first.


Tips on Promoting Product Services

Mention features and benefits - When describing the hotel’s products and services, it is useful to explain the “features” and “benefits” of the product or service.

  • A “feature” is some characteristic of the product. For example, a “feature” of the restaurant is that it has an a la carte menu.


  • A “benefit” is something that the guest will get out of using the product. For example, a benefit of taking a family room rather than two double rooms is that the children and parents will be together, but will still have some privacy.


Only if the hotel’s facilities and services do not meet the guest’s needs should you provide information about outside facilities and services.


Important Tip You Need to Remember

You must at all times ensure that the satisfaction of customers is maintained through effective communication.  This includes all aspects of customer care especially dealing with complaints and requests. The better the customer care given, the more repeat business you will generate.


Are you a manager in the hospitality industry? Did you find this article helpful? Please leave us a comment below.

Kind Regards, 


Samkeliso Nkwanyane

Hospitality Coach, Speaker and Consultant