Running a successful hotel business is all about being hospitable – it’s the very essence of the industry itself. Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect world and every now and again hoteliers are bound to come across unpleasant scenarios that can threaten to ruin their hotel’s reputation. And although there’s nothing that can be done to eliminate this threat, hotels can learn to deal with them better.
Are guests taking advantage of your service?
With hotels desperate to avoid damaging negative reviews, unhappy guests are often compensated with room upgrades and free meals. It’s no secret that managers will go to often extravagant lengths to ensure that guests don’t leave their property with a negative mindset, and sadly we’re beginning to see an increasing number of guests take advantage of this.
Hotels are witnessing a rapid rise in the number of guests who use bad reviews as a weapon, with many demanding better rooms, bill reductions, free meals and other perks. The problem is becoming a serious issue according to Martin Couchman, deputy chief execute of the British Hospitality Association, who opened talks with TripAdvisor over the matter. “People threatening restaurants and hotels with bad TripAdvisor reviews to extort free things is a problem which has been growing,” he said. “People will either attempt to blackmail during the meal, or sometimes, more worryingly, people who have not even been to the restaurant will post a bad review to try to get a free meal, or a free stay in a hotel’s case. While it can be difficult to prove that somebody has blackmailed you, we would advise that business owners do not respond – or make free offers – to reviewers they suspect are malicious.”
If you suspect that an obvious blackmail threat isn’t going to go away, report the threat instantly on TripAdvisor via their Management Centre. By providing a detailed description of the threat – along with screenshots of the email trail if possible –, TripAdvisor can identify the review later and ensure that it never sees the light of day.
If a guest raises a legitimate concern online and you decide to compensate, make sure you inform them about it via a private message and not where the review is posted.
Dealing with the noise issue
Loud noises are one of the top complaints faced by the majority of guests around the world and these situations can be challenging for hoteliers to handle without offending anyone. While dealing with noise complaints can be tricky, they must never be ignored – the last thing you’d want is for two strangers staying at your property to confront one another, especially when it’s likely that they could be intoxicated.
Ensure that your staff are well trained to handle such situations, and that they adopt a polite but firm demeanor when informing the offending guest about the disturbance to neighbors. Often, guests aren’t even aware that they can be heard by others and will generally cooperate.
However if push comes to shove and certain unruly guests refuse to comply, don’t be afraid to have your general manager pay them a visit and inform them that the hotel will involve the authorities if necessary.
A good psychological ploy is to ensure that your staff visit the offending room in pairs – people tend to take the situation more seriously when they open the door and see multiple faces.
Although these are last resorts, you’re perfectly entitled to take action when required. After all, your primary priority is the well-being of all your guests.
Patience is the key
At times, what could appear to be a blackmail attempt may be nothing more than a weary traveler in a bad state of mind after long trip, taking issue with trivial inconsistencies that can be quickly set right. Showing genuine concern, regardless of how frivolous the complaint may seem, can disarm even the most ruthless of guests. Most guests are reasonable people and when they see that your staff is willing to take the effort to go that extra mile for them, any tension can quickly dissipate. It’s just a lot harder to remain upset with someone who seems to genuinely care about your stay!
—"Handling unpleasant guests – a hotel manager’s worst nightmare",