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How to complain

22 Jul How to complain

So, it has been a while, but I am back after 2 weeks in Tunisia and then another 2 weeks catching up on my workload!

When we went on holiday, and when we returned, there were several issues that caused us to complain to the tour operator and the hotel. Now, having worked in the industry and having spent 5 years training people in complaint handling, I thought I would actually write a series of articles on how to complain most effectively. These will be related mainly to hotels, but the same principles can be applied to any service industry such as restaurants, theatres, airlines etc, and can also be applied to other businesses too such as your phone company, local supermarket or anywhere you may have cause to complain.

The first couple of things I want to cover are when to complain, and who to complain to:

When to Complain:

There is no ‘perfect’ time to complain. At some point or another, something will have to be said if you are unhappy with your experience. The vital thing to do is to make your concerns known as soon as possible after the event has occurred. This is the only way to ensure that the problems are rectified as quickly as possible and works to ensure your whole experience is not ruined. For example, if there is a stain on your bedding, let reception or housekeeping know as soon as you can. At least then the hotel can arrange replacement bedding or similar. Think about this logically and you are faced with 2 options:

  • Raise the issue as soon as you can and get the matter rectified

Or

  • Raise the issues when you leave, after spending the night on dirty bedding, and when there is no ability for anyone to resolve it

Which seems more logical to you? Surely having the replacement bedding is much better and comfortable than a night in dirty bedding!

Whilst this seems obvious when pointed out, you would be surprised how many people complain post-issue. If you leave raising the issue until departure or after you have left, the hotel will have absolutely zero chance to rectify the situation. This in turn actually leaves you more unhappy because the matter cannot be rectified and when the hotel state they cannot do anything about it at that point, you end up more annoyed and feeling like they are not willing to do anything; when in fact they are just pointing out the obvious because they cannot change history.

If the issue is raised immediately, and is something that requires a member of staff to attend your room, please bear in mind that most hotels do not operate at a ratio of one staff per guest. On this basis, it is fairly unjustified to call reception 5 minutes after raising the issues to enquire where someone is. As a general rule, ask reception how long it will be for someone to attend when you report the issue. If they say 20 minutes, allow at least 30 minutes before calling again. If a staff member needs to get something for your room, remember also that not everything they need may be on the way to your room; they may need to travel to other side of the hotel first, or into basements or attics and this all takes time, particularly as there are usually a series of doors that need to be unlocked, and this all takes time to do.

So, to sum up, complain when you have the issue and allow the staff time to rectify it. Do not expect instantaneous service recovery as this is not always possible, so be patient and always allow 10 minutes more than you are quoted.

Who to complain to:

You need to complain to a member of staff firstly! It may seem obvious, but again you would be surprised how irrational people can be when complaining. I have heard about guest complaints by overhearing people have conversations with other guests and relay every issue they have encountered, yet have said nothing to staff; please, I implore you, do not do this! This is not about protecting the hotel or staff, or stopping people knowing about issues, but because it actually does not aid you with your issues in any way. A separate guest cannot repair your toilet, change your bedding or serve your dinner more quickly.

When raising your issue to staff, you should raise it to the normal staff you meet instead of instantly demanding a manager. If you demand a manager immediately when complaining, you can actually make the staff member feel extremely undervalued. By demanding a manager, you have inadvertently just stated to the member of staff that you do not feel as though they would have the skills or competency to deal with the issues. This can be massively detrimental to someone’s own self confidence. At the end of the day, whilst you are unhappy and want to speak to someone to resolve your issues, most front line staff are equipped, trained and have the knowledge and authority to deal with, respond to and resolve, the issues you have.

It is fair however to request a manager if you feel that your issue is not being taken seriously enough or has not been resolved to your satisfaction. You should however always allow for front line staff to resolve the issues first, or at least try to.

So to sum up, speak to staff and not other guests and provide the front line staff a chance to resolve the issue.

These are only the first two points, and I will cover plenty more in future entries, including requesting compensation, voicing your complaint, and taking matters further, and will show you how to get the best out of your complaint. I will also be providing an insight in to being on the front line dealing with complaints to provide you wi some understanding as to why you do or don’t get what you want!

Until then, keep calm and carry on!

Matt Shiells-Jones
matt@chocolatepillow.com

Husband, Author, Hotel Manager and ambitious 'old cat lady'



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