I don’t think it’s any secret that customer feedback, good and bad, is essential in any customer service field, especially hospitality. Generally staff, managers, and owners don’t get to spend the night in their rooms terribly often or partake of the other facilities. Sure, someone is generally walking around the place a lot and that should catch a lot of things, but sometimes you just don’t know that there’s a sag in the mattress or a certain light is out until someone tells you. Or any number of things. On top of that, managers, like myself, try to be out on the floor and try to observe their own staff in action, but we’re biased in any number of ways when trying to observe interactions.

I can look at one of my staff and think to myself that they provide really good service from my side of the equation, but it’s hard to know that unless guests stop to give me their own input. Maybe I’m overlooking a flaw in their presentation, because I see that person in action so much, or because it’s not something that particularly bothers me, or any number of things. Similarly, I might miss something particularly great that my staff does. In fact it’s a lot easier to miss the great things they do, because far fewer people stop to express their appreciation for great service, then they do for bad or disappointing service, so often we only hear about bad things.

I have a friend who also works in the industry, and when we go out for a meal, if our server is particularly great, we’ll try to find some way of conveying that to the management (on top of leaving an appropriate gratuity). We know how difficult it can be for word of good service to get back to the people in charge. Sometimes managers just have to assume someone is giving good or adequate service because they don’t get complaints (not a great barometer for success) . And when someone stops, takes time away from their day, to give a manager positive feedback it’s always appreciated, and sometimes surprising. The person you’re complementing is likely to have a much better day because of it, and that only serves to improve their service further.

That said, negative feedback is just as important, and though I dislike taking guest complaints, when they’re valid and reasonable I truly appreciate them. We can’t improve without that negative feedback and any manager or customer service provider that doesn’t welcome the good and bad feedback it is asking for failure.

What does irk me, are the people who assume that just because something went wrong, or wasn’t to their exact liking that they’re automatically entitled to something more than a thank you. I’m not saying that negative experiences don’t sometimes warrant compensation, because there are certainly situations that call for exactly that. We also deserve a chance to fix it for you, the guest has to meet us half way. For instance, complaining that your heat didn’t work at check-out after a 2 night stay. I agree the heater should have been working when you got in the room, but sometimes things break and we need a chance to fix them for you. I’ll grant that if you realize the problem at 1 AM on your first night that you might feel it’s too late to fix it, but to not inform us the next day and to wait until you’re about to pay the bill. Honestly, it just looks cheap and grubby from my side of the counter, and I’m inclined to do very little for you at that stage other than apologize. On top of that, have a reasonable expectation of what I might offer you, not every situation calls for a complimentary night, or a 50% discount. If 95% of your visit was enjoyable, then why should you only have to pay for 50% of the stay because of that last 5%? Granted a hotel stay or a spa service can always be broken down into percentages very easily, but when you’re evaluating your stay try and evaluate the entire picture and not dwell on just the negative things. Was it all horrible? And was any of it because maybe we just weren’t the right resort for you? Sometimes that does happen, not every destination (especially in leisure travel) is the right fit for every person or every vacation.

This all brings me, in a round-about way back to feedback. I admit that we need it. We want it. And good or bad I try to welcome it and see it from your perspective. Generally people in my industry are very empathetic individuals who enjoy providing good service, especially when you start dealing with the managers of establishments.If they’re not those kinds of people, this business will eat them alive until they’re a dark, hollow, bitter husk….or they run away from it.

Also, just because someone says “No” to you in service position, doesn’t mean they’re providing bad service. Generally we always want to say “Yes” It’s much easier to say “Yes” to every request. If we’re saying “No” it’s not bad service, at least not always, sometimes it’s just reality clashing with your hopes or expectations.

So when you’re out there receiving customer service, and it’s good or great, stop and take a moment if you can. Tell the clerk helping you that you really appreciate they’re service. Speak to a manager and tell them about a pleasant experience you had. Fill out a comment card. Write a letter or and email to management or the owners. Write an online review (I check Yelp and TripAdviser for my property daily). Call and leave the manager or owner a voice mail. Guess what? We’ll appreciate it more than I think you’ll realize. Not only that, but we’re far more likely to remember you if you come back and you’ll get even better service the next time. And oh yeah, gratuities are almost always appreciated if you have the inclination and/or means.

When something goes wrong, if something breaks, doesn’t work, bothers you, or you have a negative experience. Stop and tell us about that too, and the more immediately you do the better our reaction should be. Give us a chance to fix it and to make things right. Don’t put your hand out right away. Stop to think if compensation is going to really fix anything, is it going to enable you to let it go and feel better? Will you not be a customer again regardless of what the establishment does for you. And is what happened so bad that it warrants something punitive? I’ll admit that those situations do arise. And if you don’t stop to talk to us, then you can do those other things, call and speak to us later, fill out a comment card, write a letter, send an email, and yes if necessary write an online review for the public. Just consider that the more direct and discreet you are with us, the more appreciative (and sometimes generous) we’ll be with you. Aggressive, loud, abusive, or nasty approaches are far less likely to get the desired result for you. Honey and vinegar and flies and all that jazz.

As good old Wil Wheaton says “Don’t be a dick”


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