Bad things can happen at your hotel. Your reservation may be lost. The front desk agent may be rude. The room may be dirty. A naked man may be sitting on the bed. The room may be too hot or too cold, and the thermostat may not work. The TV in the next room may be blasting. The soap or shampoo may be missing. The toilet may flush continually. The tub may not drain. Room service breakfast may arrive an hour late and cold. The line to check out may be long, and the room charges may be wrong.
Richard Laermer travels every week for business and has experienced it all.
"Hotels have put me in rooms with other folks already there, put me in rooms without beds, sent me to restaurants that were shut down and even ignored me because they didn't like my tone," Laermer says.
So what's an unhappy hotel guest to do? What will management do when things go wrong?
"A lot," says Florence Berger, professor emeritus of hotel administration at
and an expert on hotel management and customer service. "Hotels want to make up for their mistakes. They don't want valued clients to leave unhappy."
Studies show that customers tell twice as many people about bad experiences as good ones, so complainers can hurt a company's image. Customer happiness shows up on the bottom line.
What should an unhappy guest do when something goes wrong at his or her hotel?
"When a guest feels disgruntled, it may seem easier to live with the problem, write off the hotel and never go back," says Marilyn Suttle, co-author of "Who's Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer Into Your Biggest Fan." "There's a better way. Make a direct request. Decide what you want the hotel to do and ask as whether you are certain you will get it. Guests go wrong when they say, ‘I don't know if there's anything you can do for me, but...' Instead, express confidence that the hotel will take good care of you, ‘I'm sure you'll want to set this right immediately. Here's what I need. ...'"
Ask to talk to a manager, Suttle adds. Don't take a "no" from someone who does not have the authority to say "yes." Keep going up the chain until you reach someone who is allowed to approve your request. "A well-trained hotel manager understands that unhappy guests can become raving fans who spread good news about their establishment when they go the extra mile to remedy mistakes."
Check sites such as
to search out and gain access to high-level hotel management. A 140-word Tweet that asks for help with a problem just might accelerate your progress.
Also visit online review sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp.com to find out other guests' experiences. You'll see the good, the bad and the ugly. Then you'll be armed with what you discovered that pertains to your situation when you contact the hotel.
Some experts advise against threatening to write a negative review. "Take the opposite approach," Suttle says. "Offer to write a good review should they take good care of you and solve the problem quickly. There may be a part of you that wants to threaten, stomp your feet and yell. However, ranting often causes you to lose your credibility."
Hotel managers may not be the biggest fans of TripAdvisor and similar sites. They think the reviews are unfair, but such sites can be a good way for them to learn what guests are saying.
"If hotels monitor their online reviews, they have the perfect opportunity to address and fix problems to ensure that future guests don't experience the same thing," says Bruno Perez, a hotel industry expert and vice president of RevPar Guru, a revenue management software solution for hotels. "And don't think that a negative review has to stay a negative review. If someone gives a negative review, hotels have the opportunity to contact that person and make the situation right. In many cases, the guest will remove the bad review and even replace it with a positive one."
Peter Shankman, a frequent traveler and social media expert, says hotel managers need to listen.
"It takes five seconds for an unhappy guest to set up a
alert with your hotel name within 20 words of the word ‘Sucks,' " says Shankman. "Managers need to respond immediately and make it clear that they're working on the problem and want to find a solution. Nothing is worse for a traveler than to find that their hotel is using social networks and
not responding to them."