How Luxury Hotels should handle complaints
This is how to do it
Best Complaint Handling – Send Champagne & Treats immediately when a small incident occurred
I stayed at a Milan luxury hotel for the first time and once checking the bathroom I found an unused but opened vanity set. Also the cushion of the armchair was missing (I guess it still was in the dry cleaning). I therefore called the housekeeping to see how their reaction is. Generally these are the touch points I love when staying at a hotel, this way we can best inspect how flawless a service of a hotel really is. Once I called the housekeeping they apologized and send someone up to check. Indeed, it was not meant to be and they said they will take care of it. Since I went for a walk, they could access the room and when I returned, they cleaned everything again and brought up a bottle of their signature Ferrari as well as plenty of sweets along a handwritten apology letter. I mean for the small incident, their return was just overwhelming. Other hotels would just have said sorry, taken care of the removal and that’s it. And now imagine, it is still my favourite hotel and I stayed three more times afterwards. So costumer care well done!
Actually make use of Online Surveys and tailor the feedback
It was a German hotel which didn’t perform as good as their reviews and reputation shine. I didn’t have the time and energy to complain at the property and the incidents were occurring in hourly rhythm so whenever I would have complained, another problem happened. After three days, my emotions settled as well and I received one of those general online surveys just before midnight where I expressed my disappointment with the hotel. On the next morning at 9am I got a call from a manager who was talking in the most genuine and respectful way to me apologizing for the problems occurred. Telling me that my feedback is very helpful and much appreciated made me feel that the time to complain was worth it. I really felt they will use the feedback and improve their services. The manager of course offered to host a new stay so that I will be convinced by the great service of the international luxury brand that was behind it. For me this was the best possible way to handle such a stay that seemed to be a total crash and I am looking forward to experience the property in another light in summer 2019.
And this is not how to do it
Worst Complaint Handling – Call the guest, don’t show understanding and think you as a hotelier are still right
One of the most disappointing experiences (not worst hotel stays) happened in the Arlberg region where I was staying over two nights in the areas only leading hotel. I always wanted to check the hotel out and was so excited to stay there finally. Then it happened: the room looked like in the sixties and looked like a storage room, the staff was partly disrespectful apart form the sommelier who made the stay less bad. I sent a detailed complaint to the owner and of course I got a call from her. She did not express understanding as she was convinced her hotel would be great. I mean she did apologize for the staff’s behaviour but never offered a compensation nor said that the feedback was helpful for her and the team to improve the services. I had the feeling she did the call because she saw the urge to do it but did not want to do anything. Rather leave it then and do not waste further time of the guest. I never returned and the reviews totally represent (still after three years) my opinion from back then.
Try a bit of everything and then don’t follow up to convince your guests
My all time favourite story (not) is an experience from Milan again in a hotel that made it to my Hotel Blacklist and where I am also most probably listed on their blacklist. At least I never stayed at that property again or any of the three sister properties in Milan. From the arrival to the departure and even afterwards EVERYTHING went wrong and not a single thing could draw to the fact that back then this hotel was the Number one property in Milan according to TripAdvisor. Am I such a bad hotel guest that I cannot confirm the good reviews on the platform? Well, this situation went crazy and we even mailed the manager during the stay plus met him face to face at check-out. Even though we did not check out yet, he did not compensate us while we were there (with a free spa treatment or giving the extra bed for free). As you can tell, I don’t care spending money on extraordinary things and especially hotels worth every penny (eg Aman Sveti Stefan or One & Only Reethi Rah) but nothing’s wrong with a manager putting away some costs when you are totally upset in a hotel. The chat with him continued as bla-bla and again I never had the feeling he takes the feedback serious. He recalled that his house is number one on TripAdvisor already and so on. After the totally useless discussion he offered a free stay the next time we are in Milan. BUT he said that we shall contact him via email and he will offer a stay. Of course I could have contacted him but that is why you should always be precice in such a case. Tell the guests the amount of nights or send a voucher after a follow up email. This way I never contacted him obviously (due to time and also because I did not like his altitude) and won’t never stay at the hotel again – not even giving them a second chance. Not even talking about the tasteless design!
Remember, even if it’s just one guest, you never know what influence the guest can have. It may be press, politician or business owner and everyone has relatives, friends, colleagues or business partners. So try everything to get a second chance and perform, plus keep up the promise to be a luxury hotel!