Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Take Complaints Seriously

AN39-3-MGT-ComplaintsWhen accommodation rates drop, so does service.

The experience is not pleasant, especially when it relates to a major housekeeping failure. Bathroom-toilet cleanliness, above all, is something that every quality control manager/person or whatever should have as #1 on their checklist.

Some things are passable by a guest as they be minor in the scheme of things, others are totally unacceptable under any circumstances at any time. While they should not happen, they do.
When a guest makes a complaint over a serious housekeeping malfunction, that guest naturally expects the problem to be rectified instantly and, at least, an apology to follow. No guest expects a response like "we'll get to it when we can" from the front desk, serious issues need serious management involvement.

A four-hour wait after no less than five complaints to the front office is not a serious response. Especially as there was no management involvement forthcoming.

This frustrated guest followed up the infuriation a with an email complaint to the manager of the chain-operated hotel. Some while later, the guest received an email from the assistant housekeeping manager that read: "I would like to extend my thanks for bringing these issues to our attention. We truly appreciate guest feedback, as it enables us to learn and grow from difficult experiences and truly strive to improve the overall guest experience. We have followed up on the issues you have encountered and would like to apologise for these. Such details are an important component of our mission and a company-wide standard of consistency."

That's it. Note the huge sentiment of apology included!

Clearly the response was not the creative thinking of the executive housekeeper but of some spin doctor that had been included in the chain's manual for dealing with "difficult" customers – probably a verbatim response and therefore no redirection to the original complaint.

It was not what the guest wanted to hear and, needless-to-say, has had a lasting influence on his future bookings with that chain. The guest, at this point, couldn't give a monkey's what his experience had to contribute to the chain's "mission" and "standard of consistency". The response probably enraged the guest more than the original problem.

Quality control over the housekeeping side of an accommodation business is a crucial administrative function. Most businesses, from the husband and wife plus one helper scenario to a five-star resort with a team of cleaners, have basic quality control measures in place.

But do they work for the guest or is it simply a management satisfaction function?

There are many items that occur on a frequent basis that really get up guest's noses yet they are so repetitive that they are clearly not part of housekeeping quality control.

For example, the top cover of a bed is one of the most noticeable, first-seen items in a guest room. The average guest knows that these are not laundered after every one nighter and, for the most part, is not important. What is important is when there is an untreated stain on the top cover – lipstick, blood and wine being the most common. It is inexcusable. If the top cover is soiled in any way, get it off the bed and into the laundry.

Example two: Rubbish receptacles with a bit of rubbish left in them. Not so bad if it is just a wine cork but serious stuff if it is a used item of a sexual nature. It happens.

Then there is the electrical side of the guest room. After struggling for ages to find out how to turn on the bedside lamp only to find the bulb is blown is an unnecessary frustration for any guest.

Television remotes are programmed, it seems, not to work for a guest – especially if they are not technically minded. It is unbelievable that so many TV remotes in guest rooms are out of order...

Bathrooms are another source of irritation. When the guest is bombarded with the water saving propaganda wherever they look in the bathroom, it is annoying, to say the least, to see a tap that simply refuses to be turned off – usually the shower that drips noisily throughout the night, necessitating the placing of a hand towel where the drip lands to muffle the sound.

This is magnified a hundredfold when it is the toilet flush that won't turn off. The guest has to resort to turning off the water to the cistern in order to get some sleep, then turning it back on every time the guest has a you-know-what through the night and it is always after a night of heavy social drinking.

These irritating problems are just a few and come under the Murphy's Law syndrome of guest plagues. They are not isolated – they are, indeed, very frequent. And most guests will not announce to the front desk their frustrations on check out. They just never bother checking in again, ever.

It all comes down to staff training and quality control. Don't wait for a guest to complain – then it is too late.