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Guest complaints happen. It’s a fact of life in the hospitality industry. But instead of seeing that as a negative, consider it as an opportunity to demonstrate your hospitality.

We’re going to dive into how to do just that. By the end of this post you’ll know how to:

  • Deal with the 22 most common customer complaints
  • Turn angry guests into your biggest fans
  • How hotel tech can help busy staff handle upset guests

Ready to turn complainers into loyal fans and restore your hotel’s image? Keep reading.

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1. It’s Too Noisy

Without a doubt, one of the most common complaints we hear from guests are to do with noise. Think loud guests, guests who might have had too much to drink, guests who turned the TV way up…or even just guests who snore like a chainsaw (trust us on that one).

When a guest complains about noise you can offer them earplugs or a white noise machine to help them sleep. If the noise is a real issue, consider moving them to another room — no one leaves worse reviews than guests who’ve had a poor night’s sleep.

2. I Certainly Don’t Agree With Those Rules

Some guests may not agree with certain rules and regulations. Think check-in and check-out times, or noise levels. It’s important to enforce your rules — you implemented them for a reason. Which is why we think prevention is the best cure for this complaint.

One way to handle this? Send a pre-arrival email before they even check-in, to remind them of any rules that might cause issues.

3. I Have An Issue With A Member Of Your Staff…

What’s one of the worst-case scenarios you can encounter as a hotelier?

A guest has a problem with one of the members of your staff. That’s why you should prepare staff for this moment — think workshops, training, or an employee handbook. Ensure you’re training staff to provide excellent customer service and address any complaints or concerns promptly, and this can and should be avoided.

And if something does come up? Apologize, but don’t alienate or throw your staff to the wolves. Sometimes saying sorry, even if you don’t mean it, is the best thing to do. Consider throwing in a free perk (a drink at the bar, perhaps) to ease their pain – or be prepared to hear about their complaint online.

4. My Bed Is Too Small

Guests expect a good night’s sleep when they visit you. That’s why we recommend investing in:

  • High-quality mattresses and bedding
  • Extra pillows and blankets for added comfort
  • Different mattress options to suit guest preferences (some guests might prefer a firm mattress, others a softer one)

The good news? Bedding is a business expense and will pay for itself with positive reviews and happier customers.

Sometimes, guests might complain that the bed is too small. You’d be surprised how many guests don’t know what a queen size bed is. The important thing here is to stay calm and explain that the beds are the right size – and consider using this as an opportunity to upsell them to one of your bigger rooms.

5. No Room At The Inn?

Overbooking is a time-honored strategy that reliably delivers profits to hotels. But sometimes, it can lead to guests arriving only to find out that their room is not available.

There are a number of strategies you can adopt to avoid this situation in the first place — we wrote about that in detail in the post below — but if worst comes to worst, have a clear set of practices for walking guests.

Make a deal with a local hotel of similar quality to yours
Offer them a better room if available or a discount on a future stay
Get them to their new accommodation with a complimentary taxi

Learn More: How To Create A Smart Overbooking Strategy

6. My Room Is Too Hot

We’ve all stayed in hotels that get the temperature wrong. Either it’s blasting hot or colder than the Arctic. Luckily, this is a simple fix — ensure the room has proper heating and cooling and provide guests with extra blankets or fans if needed.

Don’t forget to take this chance to evaluate your temperature control system and address any underlying issues to prevent similar complaints from happening again.

7. There’s No Hot Water

There are few things in life worse than a cold shower. Hot water is a basic necessity and not having it can be a major inconvenience. That’s why you should check the water heater and make sure it’s working properly. If there is a problem, quickly apologize and move the guests to a room with functioning hot water as soon as possible.

8. There’s No Free Wi-Fi?

We live in modern times, and Wi-Fi is available for free almost everywhere. If this is something you haven’t invested in, consider changing your policy.

Hotels should provide free Wi-Fi to all guests, or at least make it available at a reasonable cost. Business guests can’t work without it, and not having it will lead to complaints and poor reviews online.

9. The Food Quality Is…Lacking

Taste is subjective — but if you’re hearing complaints about the quality of your menu consistently, then it’s time to take action. Make sure your food is of high quality and offer a variety of menu options to suit different tastes.

Top Tip: Consider using local ingredients and recipes to 1) show local guests you’re really a part of their community and 2) show guests a taste of local life. Advertising your use of local ingredients and the implied reduction in your carbon footprint is also a great way to demonstrate how green your business is.

10. This Hotel Stinks

Unpleasant odors in the hotel can be a major turn-off for guests. That’s why you should regularly clean and air out their rooms, and address any issues with sewage, mold, or smoking. You might even consider installing scent diffusers or developing a signature scent for your hotel.

11. Why Should I Have To Pay For Parking?

Some guests may be surprised by unexpected fees — like parking or resort charges. To solve this issue, hotels should clearly communicate any additional fees to guests before they arrive.

The best way to handle guest complaints is to address them immediately and with empathy. Acknowledge the guest’s feelings, take ownership of the issue, and provide a solution that is fair and satisfactory for both parties. Remember, a happy guest is a return guest

J.W. Marriott Jr

Founder of Marriott International

12. Your Staff Didn’t Respect The “Do Not Disturb” Sign

Guests may feel disturbed by housekeeping or other staff entering their room despite a “Do not disturb” sign being displayed. This one is an easy fix: just remind your cleaning staff to respect guest privacy and ensure that they are aware of the “Do not disturb” protocol. If the guests are feeling particularly upset, consider offering them a perk like a discount at the restaurant.

13. The Electronics Are Faulty

It’s hot and the aircon is out of order. The TV isn’t working. The lights are bust.

These problems happen, which is why you should keep a maintenance team on standby to fix any faulty electronics as soon as possible and provide guests with alternative options if the problem cannot be fixed immediately.

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14. The Room Doesn’t Look Like The Picture

Don’t go catfishing for guests online. Show them what your hotel is really like or be prepared to face the consequences.

Make sure your online presence accurately represents the property – that means getting high-quality, professional photos of the room, and ensuring the descriptions match the facilities so guests know what they’re getting.

15. My Room Is Filthy

A dirty room can ruin a guest’s stay — and their day. Are your housekeeping staff thoroughly cleaning rooms, paying attention to detail, and using the appropriate cleaning products?

If you’re getting repeated complaints about this, then something has gone wrong. You can either retrain your housekeeping staff or start looking for new ones. Either way – a clean room is not something you can compromise on.

16. The Complimentary Breakfast Is…Disappointing

Just because it’s complimentary doesn’t mean it should be low-quality. While you don’t have to hire a 5 star chef, you should make sure your complimentary breakfast is fresh and palatable.

Food is an important part of your guests’ experience and you should ensure it’s as good as you can afford to make it — or be prepared to hear about it in your online reviews.

17. There’s A Roach In My Room

Nothing sends a shiver down a guest’s spine like spotting a rat or cockroach in their hotel room. Make sure you’ve got a regular pest control schedule in place and take immediate action if any pests are spotted.

If this is a regular problem consider whether you’re encouraging pests with your cleaning or food storage protocols. A good pest controller will be able to advise you on this point.

18. Something Was Stolen From My Room

It has been known to happen — personal items may be stolen during a guest’s stay. Sometimes items might have simply been misplaced, but whatever the case, make sure you have a clear procedure to:

  • Search the room thoroughly
  • Ensure security measures are adequate
  • Investigate any reported thefts promptly

Theft is a rare occurrence in hotels, but one that you must take seriously. Drop the ball with complaints of this nature and it’s sure to damage your hotel’s reputation.

19. What Do You Mean, No Pets Allowed?

Many people are very (very) fond of their pets. If you’re not too keen on allowing furry friends into your hotel, make sure you’ve communicated that clearly before potential guests make their bookings.

Pet owners who want to travel with their companions are a growing market sector. It’s worth doing the research into your guest segments and considering whether that’s a service you could offer.

Learn More: Advanced Guest Segmentation: The Secret To A More Profitable Hotel

20. The Traffic Is Too Loud

All things considered, there’s not too much you can do about the traffic.

If your hotel is in a high-traffic area or by a busy road then this should be clear in the description. If guests are complaining about noise, offer them earplugs, provide them with a white noise machine, or try to move them to a quieter non-road-facing room.

21. Where Are My Toiletries?

No toiletries or towels in the room? Make sure you’re keeping everything properly stocked with the necessary supplies and replenish them as needed.

Some hotels don’t restock toiletries or clean towels due to environmental policies. If that’s the case with you, just make sure that’s something you’ve communicated to guests beforehand in their pre-arrival email. And make sure to remind them of it again with signs in the room explaining this clearly.

22. The Elevator Is Broken

The final common complaint on our list is broken elevators. Of course, it’s a major inconvenience. Call an elevator maintenance crew to get this fixed as quickly as possible — but while waiting you can help guests carry their luggage up the stairs. Some guests may have mobility issues and need to wait for the elevator. If that’s the case, have a member of staff check in on them and offer them a drink or snacks from the bar.

How To Find Out About Grievances

There are several ways to find out about grievances and ensure that guest complaints are being heard and addressed.

  1. Front Desk. Encourage guests to share their opinions and concerns with front desk staff during check-in and check-out.
    Surveys. Don’t forget to send guests a survey after their stay to gather feedback and identify areas for improvement.
  2. Social Media. Keep an eye on the hotel’s social media accounts to see if any negative comments or complaints are posted.
  3. OTAs. Monitor online travel agencies like TripAdvisor or to see what guests are saying about their experience.
  4. Housekeeping. Encourage room attendants to report any issues or complaints they observe or hear from guests during their cleaning duties.
  5. Guest feedback cards. Leave this in guest rooms for them to fill out and deposit anonymously – great for guests who are non-confrontational.

By monitoring these various channels, you can find out about grievances from guests and take action to address them. This will help you to improve your service and build loyal customers.

How To Deal With Guest Complaints

Handling guest complaints can be a real challenge, but with the right approach, it’s a great opportunity to improve your service and build loyal customers.

“Guest satisfaction is the cornerstone of success in the hospitality industry. Addressing and resolving complaints is not only a means to retain current guests, but it also serves as a means of attracting new business.” – Cornell University Hospitality Expert, Professor Chris Anderson.

6 steps for handling guest complaints:

1. Listen

The first and most important step in dealing with guest complaints is to listen. Guests want to feel heard and understood, and actively listening to their complaints is the best way to show that you care. Give the guest your full attention and make sure you understand their concerns before responding.

2. Stay Calm

It can be easy to become defensive or upset when faced with a complaint, but it’s important to stay calm and composed. Guests can sense when you are upset and it can make the situation worse. Take a deep breath and approach the situation with a positive attitude.

3. Accept Mistakes

No one is perfect and mistakes happen. If the complaint is valid and there was an error on your part, accept it and apologize. This shows that you are willing to take responsibility for the mistake and that you are committed to making it right.

4. Train Your Staff Well

Your staff are the face of your business and the first point of contact for guests. It’s essential that they are well-trained to handle complaints effectively — think employee workshops and clear procedures for every eventuality. Make sure staff know how to listen, stay calm, and take appropriate action to solve whatever grievances your guests have.

Learn More: How To Improve Your Front Desk Operations: 7 Practical Tips

5. Follow Up

Once the guest has made their complaint, it’s essential to follow up and resolve the issue. This can be done by providing a solution, offering compensation, or making a change to your service. It’s important to keep the guest informed of the actions taken and the outcome.

6. Act

Use the feedback to make a change and improve the guest experience. This shows that you value them and are committed to providing the best hospitality possible. Some complaints can be challenging to handle, but with the right approach, they can be an opportunity to improve your service and build loyal customers.

Get Your Complaints Handled – With Duve

Handling guest complaints is the perfect opportunity to show off your hospitality.

But with ongoing staff shortages putting your people under pressure, staying calm in the face of upset guests is easier said than done.

Duve provides hotel technology that takes the burden off your staff and lets them focus on providing truly excellent hospitality with a human touch.

We offer a centralized platform for managing and resolving guest complaints. This allows you to track and respond to complaints, regardless of where they originate, in real-time — so you can respond quickly and keep your guests smiling.

Duve has been helping hotels of all sizes reach their full potential since 2016. Curious about how we can help you grow?

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About the author

Hi, I'm Tal Lavi, a hospitality enthusiast dedicated to transforming your guest experience to an unforgettable one. With a passion for crafting engaging narratives and deep insights into guest behavior, let me take you on a journey to the future of guest experience.

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