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Hotel Complaints – what & how to handle them

I’m not saying that you are whingers, but when you do complain about a hotel, make sure you do it with the right attitude and here's how:

I’m not saying that you are whingers, but when you do complain about a hotel, make sure you do it with the right attitude and here’s how:


I explain to my staff frequently that they can expect to get one of these calls:

“Someone jet-lagged in a foreign country on another time zone has a major drama at a hotel. They offload onto the Travel Agent. Some of that’s going to carry on into the phone call you get. Don’t take it personally, look for the resolution.”

Can I give advice to a Travel Agent on how to get the best result quickly?

Remember that when you call, you are doing so to find a resolution for your customer. You may be letting off some steam, but if you are dialing that number, you are expecting us to resolve. The earlier things begin the quicker they are resolved. An Agent’s ability to communicate with their service provider is a big part on resolving an issue.

Broadly speaking, there are three high-level groupings of issues.


There is no record of booking


See above. It’s exacerbated by foreign languages, early-morning arrivals, jetlag, time zone, and the first feeling of drama on the trip. These ones have to be handled efficiently. The good news is we see this happening less.

There are two causes. The first is technology and the second is at the hotel end. Whether it be technology or the human error, worst scenario is the preplanned “walk” to a sister property… don’t get me started…

A key early on for the Agent is to get as many details including names of people spoken to at hotels. Accountability makes people react more considerately. It’s worth taking the time to bullet point the key aspects in writing, including any email correspondence from the guest before you call your support.

If we have these details, we can start leveraging this accountability. It gives us the chance to call the person at the front desk, ask for them by name and whatever it takes to get a person in a room whilst we resolve stuff in the background. Their name then gets passed along to everyone in the resolution chain. It puts people in the centre.


2. Reality not meeting expectation

hotel feature

“They have sent me this email complaining and it says.”

Three stars can deliver a broad range of experience. Regional New South Wales has brighter stars than regional Bangalore. Lets, for the sake of this explanation, call these more the petty complaints. These include: “I didn’t like the colour of the cushions”.

On the other end is the legitimate and well-founded shortcoming. It might be a mismatched room type, lacking facilities promised on the voucher or generally crap (a photo to prove crapness goes a long, long way).

I cannot think of an example where there has been a complaint accompanied by a photograph that has not been swiftly resolved. Complaints resolutions are sometimes, in part, outside of our control. But if we see immediately that there is a real problem with a room that is not acceptable, we can act in a much faster time frame. Pictures make it hard to lie. Grumpy customers can post pictures to social media.

Secondly, encourage your guests, if they are still there, to complain to the manager and see if it can be fixed on the spot. It’s faster, and if resolved quickly is less likely to leave a lingering negative memory of the trip. That’s an important consideration for ongoing business between you and your customer (and you and your supplier).


3. I have this charge on my card…

hotel check in

A very easy way to circumvent the main problem is to let a guest know that, on occasion, when they travel, their card will be used as security. It still seems to throw a lot of people. We also see some guests forget that they had a massage or had dinner in house. Maybe it’s a resort fee (scam).

The one we are concerned about is the real, unaccounted charge which more often than not, translates to a room charge. Some hotels, particularly new ones, may have staff selling to B2C booking engines that collect on check-in. They get confused and think they need to put a charge on the card. I’ve seen this on a few bookings in , for example, more remote cities in China.

You will need a credit card statement. The refunds often seem to take up to two weeks and sometimes the hotel “forgets” to refund the amount minus any international fees. It’s important to understand the refund process. These are treated as high priority issues but the process can be a bit sticky.

But seriously, remember that in most cases of an unexpected charge remaining on a card, particularly one that is a nice, round number in the local currency, in most cases this is the security deposit still showing on their card. It is worth doing a quick currency conversion.

How do you handle customer complaints?