Dealing with Difficult Hotel Guests

How do you simultaneously please a group of people with vastly different backgrounds and expectations? Hotel staff everywhere is tasked with answering this question on the daily as they rush to meet guest demands that can range from perfectly reasonable to downright outlandish. Here you can find some outlines and recommendations on conflict management and resolution that can be used to turn a difficult situation to your advantage.

1. Spot a Cloud on the Horizon

Let’s examine the following hypothetical, there are twenty guests in the lobby of your hotel waiting to complete their check-in, but only one front desk staff member to process them. Clearly, the registration would take too long, so they call the manager to ask for additional assistance. Even with the added help, the process would take some time during which some environmental factors will come into play.

For the most part, people are agreeable and avoid seeking unnecessary confrontation, but the added effect of a tiresome journey at the end of which they still need to queue before they can finally get the key to their room can bring out the worst aspects of anyone’s character.

An obvious balm to the situation would be to either have more staff manning the front desk or to offer guests to complete the entire process themselves with a self-check-in kiosk Regardless of how you choose to approach your staffing situation, you should still take the opportunity to learn who your guests are and what you may expect from them.

Some red flags can be spotted earlier than others, a guest demanding that they receive a free room upgrade because they’ve been made to wait is also a guest likely to threaten a bad review on TripAdvisor. A guest with very specific demands would likely be another source of trouble if your staff doesn’t find a way of meeting them.

Obviously, you can’t have a template for dealing with guests who are purposefully difficult and your response will vary according to the occasion. Maybe this time you’ll allow the room upgrade, but you’ll also take note of this fact in the guest’s profile in your central reservations management system.

If this truly is a one-off situation, making a good impression and keeping the guest happy would have been worth it. That said, there is a growing trend of travellers who are trying to get the most out of an establishment without paying for it and if the same guest were to visit your establishment or any of your other locations again, while making the same complaint repeatedly, you will already have the information on log and your staff will be able to act accordingly.

2. Train Your Staff to Please Rather Than to Spoil

Guest satisfaction is the top priority to each of your staff members, it is the first thing they learn on the job and it should be reinforced everywhere they turn. This is probably why certain guests get the idea that they could get away with much more than they should.

Conflict resolution training should be among the first things new employees learn on the job, as ironically hospitality provides one of the most hostile environments of the service industry. If faced with an angry or disgruntled guest staff members should remember to do the following:

  • Hear out the complaint

Interrupting the guest would be seen as dismissive and that’s a straight out insult. Guests can likely overlook a lot of unpleasantries during their stay, but being shut down or ignored will likely stick with them for good.

  • Look for the underlying issue

If there is a specific issue with your service you can address it, however, if a guest is becoming almost irrationally angry over something seemingly trivial, then you need to dig a bit deeper. More often than not the guest will inadvertently reveal the nature of their problem on their own, making this entire experience a game of nerves. There is nothing your staff can say or do to calm down the guest, the trick here is not to respond in same. They should politely reiterate the complaint, and excuse themselves to either address it directly or discuss it with management. In critical situations, the best thing they can do is to not get too drawn into the issue but to act quickly on addressing it.

  • Give a Timely Response

You can do this either by resolving the issue in an expedient manner or by offering apologies and compensation of some sort, a voucher to your gift shop or a session in one of your on-site services. If the guest has been experiencing this problem throughout their stay consider upgrading their room as a way of ending their stay on a good note. If a guest is displeased during the beginning of their stay then there are plenty of opportunities for this to change, but if they leave you on a bad note they would be less likely to return.

3. Two Heads are Better Than One

Encourage staff members to share their experiences of challenging guests with the rest of the team. Having unabridged communication would allow your staff to handle conflict with a fluency which would reduce time spent on resolving issues and at the same time diminish stress and improve communication between staff members.

Another line of communication that is crucial to problem-solving is the one with the guest. Guests more often than not can offer valuable insight on what could be improved. If they get your staff to agree that the propositions are reasonable this could lead to greater customer satisfaction and reduced complaints.

Give guests who’ve had more serious complaints during their stay an opportunity to express their grievances directly to you by following up with an email. If the guests feel that their concerns have been addressed and that their opinion is valued they would be less likely to leave a scorching review and damage your establishment’s reputation online .

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You may also find interesting:

The Pillars of Great Hospitality
5 Steps to Creating a Great Hospitality Team
Cloud PMS vs On-Site PMS: Is There Still Time to Hold on?

About Clock Software

Clock Software is a global provider of cloud-based property management systems (PMS), integrated online distribution, online & kiosk hotel self check-in solutions and mobile & in-room guest engagement systems with customers in more than 65 countries.