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Hotel how-to: handling bad customer experience

Hotel how-to: handling bad customer experience

It's all about getting second chances right when it comes to customer service in the hotel sector.

May 25, 2011 3:23 by

You know that time when you went to a hotel looking forward to a pleasant stay and it turned out to be anything but pleasant? Whether it was the bed creaking, the dirty room, or that extra fee you were unwittingly charged, you find yourself ready to tell the world to avoid this particular hotel at all costs. And so you do your customary complaint to the hotel management, tell your friends about the less than perfect experience and even post it on Twitter, Facebook and hotel review websites. The latter is perhaps the most lethal. TripAdvisor, for example, is one of the world’s widely used travel websites, and negative reviews posted on it have the potential to affect brand perception.

You’re done venting. But, really, the issue shouldn’t be all over. In fact it’s the beginning of a golden opportunity for the hotel in question to show its prowess in damage control. Otherwise, well, they might as well throw in the rough and stain-ridden towel.

We ask hotels in the region how they respond to customer complaints and the positive feedback on hotel review and social networking websites, and find out what they should be doing.

“In today’s world, of course it can be very damaging because everything is online and the world is pretty much just a click away. Reviews are posted online and guests do read reviews before they make a decision to actually choose a hotel,” says Prajwal Halery, guest experience and training manager at Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach, which is part of French hotel group Accor.

Social media, too, can have an impact, as it can help a negative review spread like rapid fire. And when you think about it, the chances of people being vocal about their bad experience are higher on social media platforms. It’s easier to tweet, “Eeek! There is a lizard in my hotel room. #ABC Hotel #fail” than to post a review on a travel website.

“Hotels should really be monitoring the broader social media landscape, to find out what people are saying beyond the known social channels – beyond TripAdvisor too. So [they should monitor] blogs, forums, and the hundreds and millions of other sites out there that may be speaking about their brands in both Arabic and English,” said Meredith Tuqan, head of digital-Middle East for Action Global Communications.

Sofitel Dubai has recently hired a specialist to monitor review websites like TripAdvisor and social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter, says Halery. The specialist is in charge of checking these sites on a daily basis, making sure complaints are investigated, and responding to both positive and negative comments on the hotels’ behalf. Prior to that, Halery used to address the reviews himself.


Emma Fraser, director of marketing and communications, Raffles Dubai (part of Wafi Group and Singapore-based hospitality chain Raffles Hotels and Resorts), says, “We actually refer [the positive and negative feedback] to our general manager (GM) directly. So the GM directly responds in a personalised manner. It takes about two days to upload but we tend to respond within 24 hours.”

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