Why it’s important to Listen To A Guest Complaint

There’s a ton of articles on the internet about how to “handle” guest complaints, or how to deal with the complaint. If that’s what you want to know, click here to Forbes or this from trainingmag.com and they’ll all give you a ton of tactics about how to “handle” the situation, to stay calm, to listen to the customer, etc etc….

But I’m not talking about that, and nor do I want to. There are far better resources on the internet for this than I can produce.

What I want to talk about is how you process the information, and learn, but really learn from it. If you want the answer now, skip down to the paragraph “What I learned about complaints”, but I strongly advise you to read this first,

In my experience, the best complaints to learn from are from the really unpleasant guests. The ones that are rude to you, the ones that are really looking to pick a fight, and the ones that almost or do make you loose your cool. Why? Because if you can learn to learn from people like this, you can surely learn from anyone.

Let me give you an example:

I had a Swiss family stay with me recently. They called me at 7:15pm, but because I’d had a long day my phone was off, and I had missed the call – it’s unusual for guests to call at this time anyway.

So I messaged the guest in the morning apologising for missing their call and asking what I could do to help.

No reply.

I walked to the car park, as it was about checkout time, and there the lady was packing her car with the rest of her family still in the apartment.

She was horrible. Really nasty. Her complaint was that the bed linen wasn’t ironed, and there was a hair in the shower. I tried to play this down, and build some personal chemistry with her, but she wasn’t having any of it. Cold as ice.

I went to our next-door apartment to do some basic maintenance, and wait for these people to leave. Eventually, 40 minutes after checkout time, they left, but not before the entire family watched Mum and Dad moan about the hair, the bed, suddenly the whole apartment was very dirty.

They left. I was still perplexed, as I’d checked the apartment the day before and I thought it looked fantastic.

After a few days, I calmed down and started to process the information. I realised a few things about guests complaints that I thought would be valuable to other people, so here they are:

What I learned about complaints

Don’t worry about one bad review if most of your reviews are 9s or 10s.

The fact is that what really counts is your review average. On all sites, or most sites, reviews run on a twelve-monthly average, so if you get a bad one now and again, don’t stress, don’t react immediately, and try and put yourself in the shoes of the guests.

In the example I raised previously, the guests were absolutely horrid, and could have been far nicer about their “issues” but that does not mean to say their feedback was not valuable, it was valuable, and it taught me one of the lessons I deal with in the next paragraph:

Guests do not see the world as you see them.

The fact is, the guests I mentioned in the example said that the apartment “was not clean”, and I took this really personally. However, in fact, cleanliness is not objective, it’s entirely subjective. Unless something is absolutely brand new, then what’s clean to one person may not be to another. Therefore what I should have done (but did not) was try to understand specifically what they felt was not clean. Armed with that information I could then do something about it.

Therefore, deal with the “moment” as calmly and nicely as you can, and then try and step into the guest’s shoes and understand what they meant.

If you can learn this, then you can change it. Use the insight the guest is giving you, irritated or nice, to change and improve your guests’ experience.

The Best Way to prevent complaints happening in the first place is to add a personal touch prior to the guests’ arrival.

Without doubt, if you have made a personal connection with a guest before they arrive, or when they arrive, it’s human nature that if they like you they will overlook minor details; whereas if they’re upset about one thing, the chances are then quite high that they’ll become upset about another.

Now, you have to balance the need to build a connection with your guest with your own quality of life. If meeting and greeting each guest isn’t practical or is simply going to take too much of your time, then call them, or at least make sure that in addition to your automated informational emails, you send the, a personalised email too. People can easily tell the difference.

It’s also important to understand the different requirements of different guests. Conclude the following from the booking information you have:

  • Which country are they from, and what do guests from this country expect? (My guests in the example were from Switzerland where it is very normal to expect bottled water – this was of their complaints)
  • Are they there for one night by themselves or are they there for a week’s holiday? (If they’re there for a holiday you absolutely must triple check the kitchen and make sure it’s super clean and tidy because it will be used; if there a single guest there for one night, the chances are they’ll order a takeaway..)
  • How much have they paid? (If you have a group who’ve paid a refundable price (i.e. much higher), booked well in advance, and are staying for 10 nights, then this will be a substantial booking – why not prepare a “guest welcome basket” of wine, bread, and coffee etc? – this may very well save you complaints about minor issues.)
  • What might their priorities be? (If you have a family with a young baby, their priorities will be different to a solo traveller from the other side of the world. Anticipate these. It won’t go unnoticed)

Do not take negative feedback personally.

Whatever you do, when you get negative feedback, which you ultimately will, because, as the saying goes – “you can’t please all the people all the time”, don’t – whatever you do – take it personally. If you do, then stop renting short lets!

I am a member of an Airbnb Facebook group, and there are constantly people getting very upset about one or two negative reviews. Don’t let it get to you. You just can’t please everyone, and not everyone will be nice – even when you’ve done your best. One or two genative reviews will not kill your business. 90% negative reviews will. But if you’re trying your best and running your business in good faith, then you will never get this number of bad reviews.

Use the feedback to feed your business.

Listen to what guests are telling you. Implement what they say – their feedback will feed your business. Unless you regularly stay in your own property, there may be issues that you’re simply unaware of, so take onboard what people say, and take action, if appropriate.

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