Some of you may remember the Victoria Wood sketch where a couple were eating a meal. Wife says to husband something like “I simply can’t eat this Ken”. The waiter comes up and says “Is everything ok with your meal” and she answers “Yes, it’s lovely thanks!”.
This demonstrates how a lot of guests are, many times an accommodation provider won’t even bother to ask if you had a nice stay, but if they do, the answer is often yes even when it’s a no.
How many times have you read an online review for a hotel or restaurant which has a long list of complaints, yet the response from management is “If you’d have said something about it at the time we could have done something about it”.
I do agree on the one hand that it’s unfair to review or judge a place when you haven’t highlighted that there’s a problem. Often it’s impossible for someone else to tell there’s an issue unless you point it out. If your food is not hot enough, the waiter won’t know this unless he stuck his fingers in it on the way to the table. If you’re too cold sitting in your hotel room and need an extra heater, the receptionist won’t know unless she’s decided to sit and do her work in your room with you.
So – yes you have to say something – but you have to feel like you can say something. An atmosphere has to be created whereby they feel able to speak out.
You need to offer a variety of ways for guests to communicate feedback to you as different people will feel most comfortable with a particular medium. Some people are quite happy to be outspoken and tell you exactly how they feel. Others would be happy to fill in a form in their bedroom but wouldn’t necessarily say the same to you face to face. Others might fill in an anonymous form on the internet as long as there were no personal identifiers.
The more you can encourage feedback the better. Not only does this help you improve your customer experience but it also avoids guests leaving you unhappy and then slating you online. I’d like to think that we’re friendly chaps and easy to approach so most people would tell us if there was an issue. We also have a feedback form in the bedrooms. We’ve had these for the last ten years and still gain benefit from them even now, although less so than we did in the early days.
I also think it helps us being so hands on. If a guest was to speak to a random receptionist, they would probably think there was no point giving feedback on an issue as they may feel it wouldn’t get to the appropriate person and nothing would be done about it.
Most people don’t like conflict so they’re not likely to raise an issue if they think they will be put down, shouted at, made to look stupid or ridiculed for their opinion.
I suppose another reason could be that people think it won’t make any difference. If they think their complaint will just be filed in the bin then what’s the point? Customers have to feel like they will be listened to, receive empathy and then action will actually be taken as a result.
Often they may have had a bad experience of giving feedback and so not wish to be in the same situation again. Sometimes, it’s better to let something go than be bothered to do something about it. We would always encourage our guests to speak out – if we don’t know the kettle keeps cutting out or a handle is loose then we won’t be able to fix them.
When we clean the rooms, it’s impossible to test everything and guests may only spot some issues when using the room – for instance sitting in the bath you then notice a dusty pipe under the sink - so it’s really useful to hear about these things. I’d much rather one guest spot something, tell us, then we put it right so it doesn’t affect others. If you create an environment where you don’t get feedback as readily, there could be scores of guests who see your lack of dusting.
Feedback is important, I think most people would agree with that. But you need to encourage it and be open to it to be truly successful. Making sure guests feel comfortable and at home is therefore very important.