Ask anyone in the tourism and hospitality industry what they think is the most important factor contributing to success in what they do, and most will respond with “being service driven”.

Providing customers (who are often tourists from foreign countries) with satisfactory service has never been more important, as any patron who visits your hotel, travel agency, restaurant, or entertainment arena can post online reviews that are available for anyone to see in a matter of seconds.

Most industry professionals will also tell you that customers are much more likely to complain about bad service than they are to compliment good service. It is therefore essential that all individuals working in this versatile industry are aware of the most common complaints lodged by dissatisfied customers – and also know how to handle them in a professional, yet satisfactory manner.

Below are the top 5 customer complaints in the tourism industry, along with tips on how to handle them:

Complaint 1: “There’s no free Wi-Fi in my room?!”

Most people are so used to being connected to the internet that they now expect free Wi-Fi everywhere they go. This expectation seems to have led to a rapid increase in the number of complaints regarding internet services (or lack thereof) in hotels and other establishments in the tourism industry.

How to handle the situation:

If a customer complains about the fact that they don’t have free internet access from their room, there is nothing wrong with informing them about any free Wi-Fi that might be available in the restaurant or lobby area of the establishment, or of the Wi-Fi packages that they can purchase for the duration of their stay.

If your establishment doesn’t provide any Wi-Fi access, you can provide your guests with a list of nearby restaurants or coffee shops that do offer Wi-Fi access to their customers.

Complaint 2: “The attitudes and behaviour of your staff are unacceptable.”

Complaints about the attitude and behaviour of staff are some of the trickiest to handle, especially when there are two vastly different opinions about what happened in a particular situation.

How to handle the situation:

Firstly, try to assess the situation from both sides. It would be advisable for you to listen intently to the customer and to show genuine interest in the matter. You can then assure the guest that you will document the complaint, investigate it, and take further action if required. Depending on the nature of the complaint, you may also consider offering the guest some form of compensation for the discomfort or inconvenience that he or she may have experienced.

Complaint 3: “I cancelled my hotel room booking just before I was supposed to check in. Why can’t I get my money back?”

The validity of such a complaint will depend on your official policies. Policies regarding booking cancellations should be made readily available to all clients.

How to handle the situation:

The best way to cover yourself in such a situation is to ensure that your cancellation policies are explained to clients at the time that they make their bookings. Should a client insist on being reimbursed for a last-minute cancellation, even if your policies clearly don’t allow this, you could try to negotiate a compromise by offering a discount voucher for their next stay.

Complaint 4: “That’s not what it says (or looks like) on your website.”

Clients often take the images/photos displayed on websites and brochures as an accurate indication of what they can expect when they arrive at your establishment. An extreme example of this would be a situation where your guests see a picture on your website of a sunny beachfront surrounding the hotel, and become upset (and blame you) when they arrive for their stay and the weather is all cloudy.

Learn how to handle tourist complaints

How to handle the situation:

Always provide updated information and images on your website. This includes information regarding your establishment itself, as well as information relating to the weather conditions, on-site facilities, and activities available in the surrounding area.

If the cause of your guest’s dissatisfaction is due to a misrepresentation by you or your establishment, you could consider various options to make up for the disappointing experience, for example by providing free meal vouchers, or by offering a discount on their stay.

Complaint 5: “I’m supposed to pay extra for this? How was I supposed to know?”

Extra charges are often added to guests’ accounts for things like the drinks that they consume from the bar fridge in their hotel room, phone calls they make using the phone in their hotel room, or snacks they consume on day trips. And in many cases, guests are not aware at the time that they will be charged extra for these items.

How to handle the situation:

Inform all guests upon arrival of the items and services that are included in the price they are paying, and clearly explain which are excluded. If you still receive complaints about additional charges, handle the situation in a professional manner, taking into account the amount of money involved.

If the complaint is based on the fact that the extra costs were not made clear up front, you may want to reconsider the manner in which you explain the charges, both in your promotional material, and in conversations between staff and guests.

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