Luxurious hotels. Sunny, lush grounds. Five-star restaurants with highly acclaimed chefs. So often, this is what comes to mind when someone thinks of the hospitality industry. And a lot of the time, these idyllic scenes are part of any tourism-related business owner’s day.
But, there can also be a darker side within the hospitality industry that insiders know all too well… customer complaints. In any business, complaints are never fun. But when so many of your customers choose you based on online reviews and ratings, as they do with hotels, restaurants, airlines, cruise lines, and the like, complaints can send your business into a tailspin.
How to deal with customer complaints in the travel industry?
What’s even worse is that travelers sometimes take their complaints to third-party agencies such as the Better Business Bureau or regulatory agencies when they are beyond dissatisfied, extremely escalated, or don’t know where else to turn. This can open a business up to financial damages, negative stories in the press, rumors on social media resulting in a bad reputation, and a sharp decline in customers.
So, what’s the answer? You can’t get rid of the ‘reviews and ratings’ digital culture that exists today, and you can’t always prevent an upset traveler from taking their complaints to third parties. But, there are still steps you can take to protect your brand’s high standards and customer service reputation from customer complaints and the glaring exposure that can come with them.
Examples of resolving customer complaints
1. Who’s on your team?
If you run a business in the hospitality industry, you need a customer relations team. This is the first step to proper risk management. Let’s use the example of a hotel. It’s not enough to have a front desk staff trained to check-in guests and answer their questions. You also need to have a dedicated team that understands how to deal with third parties should an issue arise, and get complaints resolved (quickly). This team should act as a communication bridge between travelers and third parties, mediating and de-escalating any hostile situations.
If you have a global business, it’s really important you have a team like this in each of your locations, as cultural norms differ from place to place. Whoever is interacting with third parties should have deep insight into policies and regulations, and should also have enough autonomy to try to fix customer issues before they get out of hand. If you don’t have a team in place for this type of next-level complaint resolution, you might want to consider outsourcing it to a qualified BPO partner like Conectys who can help you remedy complaints and shield you from the fallout.
2. Proactive vs. reactive.
When customer complaints become larger than life and attract media attention, it tells you that the problem wasn’t handled properly when it was minor. Sometimes a small issue, like an airline passenger that doesn’t like the seat they were assigned, can snowball out of control if the first person to respond to it wasn’t trained on how to do so effectively. First contact resolution in any industry is the gold standard, but it’s especially important for customer service in the hospitality industry. This means that everyone on your team who interacts with customers should be trained in first contact resolution, and given the tools needed to calm down an angry customer when needed.
The other part of this is that the best customer teams are trained to identify a budding issue before it ever rears its ugly head. For example, an airline flight attendant might notice that same passenger moving around in his seat, making disgruntled noises, and rolling his eyes while looking at the person in the seat next to him. Before he ever has a chance to complain, the flight attendant could preempt the situation, approach the man and offer him a change in the seat – or if that’s not possible, a cool drink on the house. Noticing and identifying customer dissatisfaction before it grows can aid you in proper risk management and keep your company insulated from unnecessary exposure.
3. Meeting expectations.
When an individual or a family takes a trip, they’re usually spending a lot of money and placing some high expectations around having a good time. Or if a business traveler spends their days they’ll come to expect stellar service, proper business amenities, and first-class treatment. Either way, if your business is a five-star restaurant, your guests are going to have sky-high expectations of the experience they’re planning to have. In order to meet (and even exceed) these expectations, you’ve got to have a customer service team that is well-versed in accommodating such travelers.
The quality of the experience that guests have at your restaurant (or hotel, cruise line, airline, etc.) should match what they’re paying for it and how you represented it online. If you’re unsure whether it does, you might want to engage with an experienced customer relations and risk management team that can do some digging to find out where any gaps are and how you can fix them. Meeting expectations is one of the surest ways to prevent squeaky wheels from turning into major problems.
The hospitality industry holds a lot of beauty and excitement, but it can also be a breeding ground for customer complaints if not handled well. If you’d like help designing a customer relations team that can offer first contact resolution and keep your brand’s pristine image intact, contact us to learn more about how we can help.
Read more about the disconnected customer experience.