Is there anything better than an angry customer?

Is there anything better than an angry customer?

Or Staff Responsiveness Best Practices on Engaging the “high-touch” side of our business #4

Keys to Success Hospitality Tips

Blog of Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS August 8, 2010

It may sound a bit odd, but it has been proven repeatedly in almost every kind of business:  the most loyal customers are ones that experienced a problem and then were overwhelmed with the corrective action that not only addressed their problem of the moment, but continued to impress them with the concern to make them satisfied to the point where they do not even think of competitive services.

Angry is defined as “feeling extremely annoyed, often about an insult or a wrong”.  As travelers, we understand the frustration of traffic or of flights that are delayed for hours with feeble or no excuses. Our hotel guests can also have this sense of annoyance from the wrong kind of room assignment, from inadequate hot water or air conditioning, from a room not properly cleaned, a missed wake-up call, slow food service, meeting room services not delivered as promised and more.

Am I suggesting we should look for angry customers?   An emphatic YES.  I am not suggesting we should intentionally make mistakes to upset a customer, but the literally hundreds of moments of truth that exist in hotels and hospitality businesses daily often create problems that are upsetting to guests.

The first three segments of this series on the “high-touch” side of our business included feedback and suggestions from hoteliers and managers who participated in some of my workshops.

·         Segment 1 underscored the need for hospitality businesses to deliver a memorable and unique experience or face the likely consequence of being viewed as a commodity.

·         Segment 2 focused on identifying ways to encourage hotel general managers and their staffs to think about the “guest experience” , whether you are an independent hotel or brand affiliated  It offered concrete examples ways to avoid being seen as ordinary or a “commodity” in the area every guest experiences, regardless of hotel location,  room rate or level of service:  SLEEPING.

·         Segment 3 examined another essential topic that is of considerable significance to hotel guests everywhere: BREAKFAST.  Specific suggestions from hoteliers and restaurant managers were highlighted.

This segment addresses staff responsiveness and how effective responses convert those angry guests into loyal fans.

Point #1 – the word “service”. There are “FULL SERVICE” hotels, which include all luxury properties and resorts, most casinos and many HOTELS.    There should be no such thing as “limited service” by title or mind-set.  Hospitality is a service business and industry and in every workshop when this topic was discussed, the consensus was always to provide what the guest needed and wanted.

Point #2 – A satisfied guest does not automatically mean a loyal or repeat guest.  This means that hotels of today must anticipate problem areas and respond immediately when one arises.  This means that hotel owners and managers must allow and insist that their staffs do whatever it takes to meet the customers’ needs.

Point #3 – How should staff respond to a guest’s concern or complaint? The answer from every group was IMMEDIATELY and as completely as possible

As consumers, we personally know that our satisfaction and loyalty is earned much more by responsiveness and trust, than by frequent flyer miles or comp room credits.  There are certain airline and auto rental companies I avoid whenever possible and there are others I always check availability first.

Successes shared included:

  • Managers who personally participate in managers’ receptions have consistently better repeat guest statistics
  • Hotels with staff who make certain their managers know of a problem (regardless of responsibility) tend to perform better, have lower turnover and higher guest reviews and reports
  • Active listening programs like the lobby lizard really do work
  • Hotel owners and managers that reward publicly staff who take it upon themselves to solve guest problems have more repeat guests and a lesser need to find replacement guests for those who will no longer stay with that hotel or brand
  • Hotels that log problems for corrective action and follow-up aggressively have better performing properties
  • Companies and hotels that publicize their staffs’ community activities and responsiveness to guest problems again have higher quality assurance scores, lower turnover, and an easier time when occupancy and rate pressures are in the marketplace

A number of individual properties, brands and chains have worked to refine their staff responsiveness to these guest annoyances.  One of the most comprehensive and meaningful service codes ever introduced premiered almost a century ago by one of the most successful hoteliers of all time.  Details and the code will be in the next column.

Feedback or ideas for future pieces are welcome – contact me at

Blog of Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS 8.8.2010,

John Hogan is a successful hospitality executive, educator, author and consultant and is a frequent keynote speaker and seminar leader at many hospitality industry events.  He is Co-Founder of a consortium ( of successful corporate and academic mentors delivering focused and affordable counsel in solving specific challenges facing the hospitality industry. is a membership site offering a wide range of information, forms, best practices and ideas that are designed to help individual hoteliers and hospitality businesses improve their market penetration, deliver service excellence and increase their profitability.   Special introductory pricing is in effect for a limited time that also includes a complimentary copy of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD- A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES.

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