Tag Archives: Guest feedback

Are customer complaints a good thing?

Do you see complaints is a good thing?

Getting feedback from your guests is essential to gauge whether or not what you offering is right for your target audience. Whether it’s positive or negative and whether you agree with it or not is key to your success.

So why is it then that so many businesses seem to ignore this fact?

There was a time when customers were reserved about giving direct feedback, particularly complaints; they didn’t want to be seen to making a fuss, and anyway if they did complain they felt nothing would change. They would just vote with their feet and just not come back again.

Of course all that’s changed now with the advent of social media; people do complain, but all too often this comes too late for us to remedy the situation and instead of just telling us they tell the whole world.

So the more we can do to get direct feedback, warts and all, the greater the likelihood we have of resolving the situation there and then, turning it around and turning what could have been a tragic moment into a magic moment.

Unless we get people’s feedback we can’t do anything about it.

Most people accepted that with the best will in the world from time to time things go wrong, and how we resolve the situation gets remembered.

 

Prevention is better than cure

Make sure your guests feel comfortable to give feedback at every opportunity.

Face-to-face feedback will always be the most effective and ideally we need to get feedback before it’s too late to do something about it. If what you have provided fails to meet expectations you’d rather know about it before the guest leaves so you can resolve it, there and then.

As well is asking at the end of each course, the meal or their stay, be observant and look out for signs that things aren’t right or that someone wants to get your attention. For example if a diner has hardly touched their steak but eaten everything else that might suggest there was a problem with the steak. Or you hear a guest complaining about the temperature of their room to others in their party probably suggests something that needs investigating.

If you know that something’s not right be up front with your guests and let them know before it becomes a problem. Offer alternatives if necessary and then keep them informed of the situation.

For example if you know their room won’t be ready tell them the situation, offer them the option of afternoon tea in the lounge, or a nice walk they might like to take, and give them an expected time that their room will be ready.

Equally if you’ve a backlog in the kitchen and they may have a wait for their main course let them know as soon as possible. If they are on a tight schedule they may not be prepared to wait but at least they’ve been given the option to choose a simpler dish, skip a course  or as a last resort eat elsewhere before they are committed or you prepare something they don’t have time to eat.

 

Talk to your guests

Being visible in your hotel or restaurant, and making contact with your guests builds rapport and trust. Once you’ve gained this you’re in a far better position to gain valuable feedback first hand.  The same goes for your staff too, so encourage them to talk to your guests. Give them the appropriate training to ask for feedback in the knowledge that they are confidence to deal with feedback – good or bad – in a positive way. Bare in mind your guests will tell you things that they wouldn’t feedback to your staff, and vice versa.

 

Ask the right questions

Making statements such as “I hope you enjoyed your meal” or “was everything all right for you?” is not likely to get the customer to open up. We need to ask specific questions that will give something more than a yes or no. Open questions starting with how or what are the most useful; for example how would you rate …, how could we improve on …, what did you like most about ….

I don’t mean put guests on the spot. If you’ve already got a good rapport with your guests you’ll be able to do this quite naturally in a conversational way.

Guests will be flattered if you ask for their opinions. So also ask for their feedback on how things can be improved and their recommendations and new ideas. Then keep them up to date with the changes they’ve made to demonstrate that you have been listening. What a great excuse to invite them back again to show them the changes you’ve implemented?

Capture the good and the bad. Even if you don’t agree with feedback you need to find out (tactfully) what has led to their perception, as this may lead to the root of the problem.

Questionnaires are impersonal and few people like to fill them in except maybe when they’re really unhappy about something. The more you can find out through a two-way conversation with your customers the better. But it does give those who didn’t want to say anything at the time, perhaps because they were embarrassed or didn’t want to make a fuss in front of their party a chance to feedback.

 

Online reviews

Love them or hate them, online reviews do get read and will influence prospective customers. Sadly statistically people are more likely to be prompted to post a review if they’ve a bad experience than when they’ve had a good one. So aim to redress this balance, by encouraging as many as your guests as possible to post reviews, so you get the good ones as well as (hopefully only occasional) bad ones.

Display your confidence by encouraging your guests and website visitors to link to TripAdvisor and other review sites. One of the easiest things you could do is to put a link from your website, and on your post stay e-mails, and prompt people who have enjoyed their stay to post a review.

But the least you can do is show people you appreciate the feedback (good or bad) by responding quickly to the feedback you receive. Register with TripAdvisor, etc. and set up a Google alert so you know whenever anyone is talking about your business online, so that you can monitor your reviews by receiving notifications.

This is particularly important for negative feedback to show that you have looked into the situation and taken things on board. If I see a complaint online that the management hasn’t made a reply to I think they don’t care.

Feedback that you feel is unjustified can be frustrating, but the way in which you handle this will reflect on your professionalism and reputation, so deal with it in a constructive way. Take the discussion off-line as quickly as possible by asking them to phone you. This then provides an opportunity for you to get more detail and having a better chance of resolving the situation without having to share the discussion with the rest of the world.

Don’t be too concerned about the occasional negative comment. This demonstrates authenticity of the content and in some cases can actually help to highlight the type of hotel you are. For example, if you have a comment that the hotel is not child friendly, this may be seen as a positive for some potential guests.

Watch out too for feedback through Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites so you can respond accordingly.

 

Dealing with negative feedback

It can be easy to get defensive when we receive feedback, particularly when we feel it is not justified or we totally disagree with it. What we need to ask is what led to this customer’s perception. This sometimes involves asking questions in a tactful way. The key thing is to show some empathy with the customer’s point of view.

Even if we disagree, something must have triggered their perception.  So listen to what your guest is saying, and aim to turn a negative into a positive. The least you can do is apologise (even if you’re just apologising that they feel that way) and demonstrate what changes you’ve made if appropriate.

 

Empower your team

Develop a culture of customer service amongst your team. Give your team the skills and authority to deal with complaints as they happen. Encourage them and train them how to ask for feedback and just as importantly how to respond when they get complaints or negative feedback.

This is far better for the customer because it gets a quicker solution, far better for the team member because they’re able to deal with it which gives them pride, and far better for you because it means you don’t have to always been involved. This doesn’t mean to say that don’t want to hear about complaints particularly if there are common recurring problems that need to be resolved.

Don’t assume because you’ve told people how to do something they will be able to just go out and deliver it consistently.  It’s all very well knowing what to say, but you know how sometimes when you come to say something the words just don’t trip off the tongue as you might hope!  Let your team practise in a safe environment, based on different scenarios.

Agree with them their levels of authority so they know just how much leeway they have in offering the customer/guest compensation, and at what point they may need to involve a manager.

Observe how your staff handle complaints and give them feedback after the event on what they did well, what they could do more of, and give the appropriate support and guidance on areas where they need more help.

It’s all too easy when we hear of a complaint to blame someone in the team for the problem. Put the team first and they’ll reward you with avoiding problems.

 

Here’s a little checklist you may find useful:

LEAF

Listen

  • Listen to the customer – they want to get it off their chest – You need to identify the problem
  • Show you’re listening – remember your body language and keep eye contact
  • Reflect back to the customer to check your understanding and show the customer you’ve understood
  • Park the emotion and focus on the facts

Empathise

  • Apologise – this isn’t necessarily accepting responsibility, but apologising that they’ve been put out or disappointed or that they feel that way
  • Do not take it personally
  • Show you care and that you understand their concern, why they might be disappointed or why they feel angry
  • They’re not interested in excuses – even if the problem wasn’t your fault show that you’re looking to come to a solution to the problem for your guest

Action

  • And ask what they would see as an acceptable solution
  • Offer alternatives so the customer feels they are in control of the solution
  • Look to overcompensate by at least a few percent – there’s no need to go overboard but just consider what would be reasonable for both parties – It’s not always about throwing money at the problem
  • Tell the customer what you are going to do and not why things went wrong (unless that’s what they ask)

Follow Up

  • Keep your promise and deliver
  • Check that the customer is happy with the outcome
  • Learn from the feedback you’ve had and look into recurring trends – aim to prevent a similar complaint happening again
  • Pass on to your team so they know how to resolve similar situations in future

With the right approach complaints can turn a negative into positive. You can’t always get everything right, but when you don’t make sure you fix it!

Join me on my webinar this Wednesday when I’ll be discussing:

“7 critical things to ensure you stay on your customers’ radar to tap into the EASY business that’s right under your nose”

Register here

 

Caroline Cooper


Educate and build credibility through your mailing list

Depending on the nature of your target market you could use your mailing list to engage with your customers by sharing your knowledge. For example:
Ask your head chef to provide a recipe of the month, tips on baking the perfect meringue or crusty bread, a buyers’ guide to choosing fresh fish recipe ideas based on what is in season right now, or anything related to your current menu.

  • If you are a park or garden, ask your gardening team to share seasonal tips.
  • If you have a golf course you might share tips on the latest equipment or techniques to hone their swing.
  • If you have a spa, ask your spa team to share information on relaxation techniques, aromatherapy remedies, tips for the perfect pedicure, skin car regimes, etc.
  • If you are an historical site share some of your story on how you preserve special features.
  • Ask housekeeping for tips on stain removal, cleaning household items such as glass, leather, silk etc. or ‘the day in the life of’.
  • If you are a wedding venue ask any of your joint venture partners or preferred suppliers such as florist, photographer, limousines, suit hire for their top tips.

What’s happening

Last but not least keeping in touch with your customers is an ideal opportunity to keep them up to date with what’s going on. Yes, this will include forthcoming events and promotions that they may be interested in, but it’s not just about this. No one wants to be bombarded with sell, sell, sell emails. You’ll soon get unsubscribes from your list if you do this. Create a sense of intrigue and curiosity; tell them about your plans, changes you’re making (e.g. progress reports on refurbishments), what’s new (e.g. your new menu, new toiletries, treatments or service, refurbishments, celebrity involvement). You then have a reason to invite them back or make an offer.

Don’t be afraid to tell people what they’ve missed; what are your success stories.

If you are an education centre share some of the projects you’ve been working on with schools. If your target market are families with young children, tell them about activities children in enjoy (with plenty of pictures too, to show them having a good time with their favourite TV or Book character!)  Historical site may cover recent discoveries. These also provide a great opportunity to share photos and testimonials, which all helps build credibility.

Maybe they missed it this time, but now they can see for themselves what they’ve missed out on it will be a lot easier to get their attention next time.

So don’t leave a return visit or referral to chance. Ensure you’re keeping yourself in your customers’ minds; keep in touch.

You can find more on building customer relationships in the Hotel Success Handbook


Show you appreciate your guests’ custom

Your relationship shouldn’t end the minute they walk out the door. Keep in touch with your guests. The first and most obvious way to make contact with them after they’ve left is to write and thank them for their business. Not a mass produced impersonal e-mail, but a personalised letter sent by good old-fashioned snail mail with a handwritten signature. Even better if the whole thing is handwritten on a thank you card.

What better way to show your appreciation (and giving an incentive to return) than with a voucher of some kind for them personally or to pass to a friend or colleague if a return visit in person is unlikely. Again make this personal; there’s little value in offering a complimentary bottle of wine to a teetotaller, for example.  If they have been celebrating an event extend this to their next anniversary.  Or if they only ever stay on company business on expenses, tailor the offer to something they’ll benefit from personally. If you missed out on the opportunity for the little finishing touches mentioned earlier, now might be the perfect time to send them the information, gift or little extra that leaves them with that lasting memory of “Wow, what an amazing place, that was amazing service”.

Delivering outstanding customer service generally stems back to getting people engaged, enthused and focused. This is what the Leading for Peak Performance 29 Day Challenge is all about, and starts on 29th February https://www.naturallyloyal.com/coaching/leading-for-peak-performance-29-day-challenge/


Leaving a lasting impression

We’re all familiar with the sayings about a first impression: a first impression is a lasting impression, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, you only get one chance to make a first impression, it will form a lasting impression within the first seconds, etc. So does that mean if you make a great first impression that’s all you need to do?

We sometimes put so much energy into a positive first impression that we then forget all about the lasting impression. What is the impression that stays with your guests when they leave your hotel? What will be the lasting memory that stays with them when they’re thinking about booking their next visit, telling their friends or colleagues about their stay, or telling the world on review sites about their experience?

These are the three ways to be proactive:

 

Ask for their feedback

If what you have provided fails to meet expectations wouldn’t you rather know about it before the guest leaves? Simply relying on reviews, questionnaires or a visitor’s book when your customers leave is not only impersonal, but is leaving it a bit too late if things weren’t perfect. Face-to-face feedback will always be the most effective, but making a hurried statement such as “I hope everything was OK” as the guest checks out doesn’t do much to demonstrate that you’re really interested in the feedback and finding out how they feel about their stay. Make it easy for your customers to give you useful feedback by asking specific questions that will give something more than a yes or no. Open questions starting with how or what are the most useful; for example how would you rate …, how could we improve on …, what did you like most about …

 

Talk to your customers throughout

Of course leaving a lasting impression doesn’t mean only showing your interest when they leave. Being visible in your business, and making contact with your guests throughout their stay builds rapport and trust. Once you’ve gained this you’re in a far better position to identify guests’ needs and expectations and gain valuable feedback first hand.  The same goes for your staff too, so encourage them to talk to your customers. Give them the appropriate training to ask for feedback in the knowledge that they are confidence to deal with it – good or bad – in a positive way.

 

Problem recovery

Accept that from time to time things will go wrong; there may be occasional delays at breakfast, you’ll get power cuts, you might run out of their favourite tipple in the bar, fellow guests or deliveries may disturb your guests in the early hours, something may get overlooked by housekeeping. Most of our guests are reasonable, and they understand these things happen too, just as long as you’re prepared to listen, empathise and do something about it to resolve the situation and not allow them to leave with a bitter taste in the mouth.

The sooner problems are identified, the easier before they have a chance to fester. Be observant and look out for signs that things aren’t right or that someone wants to get your attention. Picking up a problem early on and dealing with any complaints (justified or otherwise) in a positive way before a guest leaves ensures you can not only deal with it before other guests experience the same problem, but ensures the affected guest has an opportunity to get it resolved to their satisfaction before telling the world about it.

Tomorrow we’ll look at those little touches which add the wow factor……………….

 

Delivering outstanding customer service generally stems back to getting people engaged, enthused and focused. This is what the Leading for Peak Performance 29 Day Challenge is all about, and starts on 29th February https://www.naturallyloyal.com/coaching/leading-for-peak-performance-29-day-challenge/


Key Steps for Protecting your Restaurant Reputation Online

Guest blog by Ken Burgin, Profitable Hospitality

Are you prepared for negative comments or critical reviews online? When they happen, most people go into an offended, helpless rage – it’s not a position of strength!

This video introduces a 3-step strategy to manage your reputation online. It was recorded from the recent webinar ‘Fast-Track Social Media Marketing for Restaurants, Cafes and Bars’.

 

For more from Ken go to Profitable Hospitality


Using the guest or customer relationship to build rapport and trust

Making personal contact with your hotel guests or restaurant customers builds rapport and trust. This starts with being visible – not just your staff, but some managers’ presence too. But being visible is only half the story. What are you doing to reflect and convey your values and attitude to customers and staff? The way you interact with your staff and participate in the operation gets noticed.

Talking to your customers directly is by far the best way to get feedback. They may tell you things that they wouldn’t feed back to your staff. Get to know your customers personally – their likes and dislikes, their routine, their suggestions, their network – all this not only builds rapport, but makes it a lot easier to upsell and tailor your offers to your market.

Every bit of feedback you get from your customers is valuable to you, whether it’s positive or negative and whether you agree with it or not. Take on board the good and the bad. If you don’t agree with the feedback, find out (tactfully) what has led to their perception, as this may lead to the root of the problem. If you don’t know what disappoints customers, you can’t improve on it, so make sure you are prepared to listen to, and take on board any thoughts on what lets you down, so you can learn from this and address it. Show them that you appreciate the feedback. Then demonstrate you’ve acted on it if relevant.

Be flexible. You can’t bow to every request a customer ever makes. But don’t be so bound by the rules that any request is met with a hostile ‘jobsworth’ attitude!

If you cannot meet your customers’ initial requests, look at offering an alternative. Catering for one off special needs is the sort of attention to detail that builds you loyalty and referrals.

What is there that makes your hotel, restaurant or offer unique, that they might want to take home or share with others? This shows your appreciation of their business and well as acting as a memento and reinforces your relationship (as well as potentially an opportunity for additional sales). Could you offer any of the following either as a gift or as additional sales? Convert your renowned menu or signature dishes into a recipe book, package your hand-made petit fours into a gift box to take home; offer birthday or celebration cakes for customers celebrating special occasions; offer a hand-tied flower bouquet for anniversaries or special occasions; sell your homemade bread, marmalade or other preserves and chutneys; sell luxurious bathroom accessories, robes with your logo, and toiletries. A win-win, the guest has something special to take home and you get an opportunity to ensure they remember you long after they’ve left (and maybe an upselling opportunity too!)

Tomorrow we’ll discuss how to continue to build the guest relationship even once they’ve left you, to set the wheels in motion for repeat business and referrals – one of the easiest ways to market a hotel.

Learn the 7 fatal mistakes hoteliers make in getting more business on this complimentary tele seminar


What’s the point of a business card?

Whenever I visit a hotel or B&B I like to take a business card – well, I do if I think I will want to remember the place.

But I sometimes wonder why people bother with business cards. I mean, why have them if they are tucked away, where guests can’t see them?

Let me give you a couple of recent examples. One B&B I visited recently had cards for local businesses neatly displayed, and I picked one up, thinking it was for the B&B itself. (This is what happens as you get older and your eye sight goes – if I have not got my glasses on I never quite know what I’m reading!) When I asked for the right card, the owner could not even remember where she had left them!

Then at another a few days later I simply forgot to ask, as they weren’t visible. The chances are I’ll have forgotten the name of the place by next week.

And worse still at one hotel where we dined last week and had a fantastic meal with excellent service, the cards were kept in a locked drawer!

Do any of these ring true for you?

So what’s the point of a business card?

  • A memento for the guest of a good time
  • To find you easily if they have some feedback, either directly or on TripAdvisor
  • So they can remember you to make recommendations to others
  • Something to pass on to friends or colleagues so they can find you easily
  • So they can remember your details for a future visit, and help you get repeat business

Use your business cards to help build and maintain that connection with your guests. They are part of your marketing and PR armory. You’ve gone to all the trouble and expense of getting them printed, now make sure you are getting a return on that investment.

Hear it from the experts. Join me on my regular FREE interviews when I talk to hospitality experts and specialists and ask them to share their insights, strategies and secrets that can help to give your hotel a competitive edge. In my next interview I’ll be talking to Petra Clayton of Custard Communications, PR for hospitality businesses.  Find out more and register here.


Guests’ first and last impressions

Yesterday I ran a workshop at a hotel. This was for a third party, so I had not been involved with the booking, but had the conference organiser’s name. Ironically the word “Welcome” was in the title of the workshop….

On arrival there was just one person at reception at the normally busy checkout time. She happened to be dealing with a guest’s bill, which one might expect at this time of day. But, I received absolutely no eye contact or acknowledgement that I had even been seen. I decided to try and locate another member of staff, or at least the meeting room where the workshop would be run. Any signs? No.

I came back to reception, laden with my bags, reluctant to leave my laptop unattended. By which time of course the lone receptionist was deep in the transaction of the next guest.

I waited.

Finally I had her attention and asked for my contact. “That’s me” she says, without a hint of apology for keeping me waiting.

So she finally comes out from behind the typical unwelcoming barrier of the reception desk, to appear in the most inappropriate dress I think I’ve even seen on a receptionist!  (Leggings, low cut smock top, bare ankles).  Mmm, not a good first impression……

Did they redeem themselves? Well, they could have done.

But, when it was time to leave, I passed 3 members of staff on the way out. Not one of them offered to help with my bags, not one of them thanked me for my custom, and not one or asked for any feedback. Not only did I not feel valued as a customer; what a wasted opportunity to get some feedback. Although I was not paying the bill, I’m sure that one booking earned the hotel considerably more revenue than any single accommodation bookings that day. And they certainly weren’t so busy that they could not have taken 2 minutes to ask me.

What seemed to be lacking was any hotel management, training or systems.  Did anyone recognise the  importance of first impressions?

The thing is, what was delivered in between was actually quite good. But it’s what your guests see first and last that leaves the greatest impression. And it’s that impression I’ll be thinking of when my client asks for feedback on the venue.

Caroline Cooper

The welcome is just one of the topics discussed by my guests on the tele seminar series How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge


Do you dread reading your online reviews?

Love them or hate them, online reviews do get read and will influence prospective customers. Sadly statistically people are more likely to be prompted to post a review if they’ve a bad experience than when they’ve had a good one. So aim to redress this balance, by encouraging as many of your guests as possible to post reviews, so you get the good ones as well as (hopefully only occasional) bad ones.

Display your confidence by encouraging your guests and website visitors to link to TripAdvisor. One of the easiest things you could do is to put a link from your website, and on your post stay e-mails, and prompt people who have enjoyed their stay to post a review.

It’s considered unethical to offer incentives, such as room discounts, in exchange for positive reviews. But the least you can do is show people you appreciate the feedback (good or bad) by responding quickly to the feedback you receive. Register with TripAdvisor so that you can monitor your reviews by receiving notification. A quick thank you in acknowledgement might be all you need for a positive review or feedback.

With negative feedback it’s important to show that you have looked into the situation and taken things on board. Feedback that you feel is unjustified can be frustrating, but the way in which you handle this will reflect on your professionalism and reputation, so deal with it in a constructive way. By asking them to phone you provides an opportunity for you to get more detail and having a better chance of resolving the situation.

Don’t be too concerned about the occasional negative comment. This demonstrates authenticity of the content and in some cases can actually help to highlight the type of hotel you are. For example, if you have a comment that the hotel is not child friendly, this may be seen as a positive for some potential guests.

Watch out too for feedback through Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites so you can respond accordingly.

Caroline Cooper

Download the full article on Making the Most of your Feedback and Reviews and other free articles


Talk to your guests

Simply relying on questionnaires or a visitor’s book when your guests leave is not only impersonal, but is  leaving it a bit too late to get feedback if things weren’t perfect.  You need to talk to your guests throughout their stay.

Face-to-face feedback will always be the most effective and ideally we need to get feedback before it’s too late to do something about it. If what you have provided fails to meet expectations you’d rather know about it before the guest leaves so you can resolve it, rather than waiting for them to put their comments on TripAdvisor.

As well is asking at the end of each course, the meal or their stay, be observant and look out for signs that things aren’t right or that someone wants to get your attention. For example if a diner has hardly touched their steak but eaten everything else that might suggest there was a problem with the steak. Or you hear a guest complaining about the temperature of their room to others in their party; this probably suggests something that needs investigating.

Being visible in your hotel or restaurant, and making contact with your guests builds rapport and trust. Once you’ve gained this you’re in a far better position to gain valuable feedback first hand.  The same goes for your staff too, so encourage them to talk to your guests. Give them the appropriate training to ask for feedback in the knowledge that they are confidence to deal with feedback – good or bad – in a positive way.

Bare in mind your guests will tell you things that they wouldn’t feedback to your staff, and vice versa.  So ask your staff what feedback they have received, and listen to their ideas on how to make improvements and how to capitalise on positive feedback and your strengths.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss how to ask for feedback. Or download the full article here (log in or sign up required)