About Last Night…

…or “What to do if there’s an issue with your hotel room.”

Like many people, I don’t really enjoy telling someone there’s a problem. Sometimes, however, it is appropriate and maybe even critical that you bring an issue to someone’s attention. When that issue impacts your stay at a hotel, you may find yourself having a conversation that starts with the phrase, “About last night…”

Over the years, we’ve had our fair share of these conversations and have developed a few tips to help them go as smoothly as possible. Regardless of the complaint, or the venue, when you want something resolved – instead of just venting at the front desk – keep these five things in mind.

On a scale of 1 to 5, how bad is it really?

I use a simple scale to rate the relative seriousness of an issue, with 1 being “eh” to 5 being a threat to someone’s safety. Anything on the 5 side of the scale gets immediate attention, while the 1s and 2s are sometimes let go. That’s not to say it’s not right to complain about something minor, just be realistic about the problem and act accordingly. You don’t want to be the lunatic yelling at the front desk agent because there was only one packet of decaf coffee in your room.

Know what Right looks like.

Before you bring an issue to someone’s attention, know what kind of resolution is expected. Asking the front desk to “do something” about a problem may result in some action, but probably not what you were hoping for. If you want a new room, let them know that is what you expect. Be prepared with alternate choices in case you need to negotiate an appropriate resolution. Would you settle for a complimentary meal or service, or maybe the coveted free nights? These solutions are generally within their power.

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Sometimes, you shouldn’t expect the best. The Hans Brinker Budget Hotel in Amsterdam is proud to be “the world’s worst hotel.” You probably won’t get much sympathy from the desk here. (source: Hans Brinker Budget Hotel)

Be sure #2 is commensurate with #1.

You may think a free drink or a few points in the loyalty program are cheap and easy ways to soothe an upset customer, but the truth is that everything has a cost. When asking for some form of compensation from the hotel, be sure the inconvenience is worth the cost for the hotel. Asking for a free night because housekeeping came knocking a little too early is probably not going to work out in your favor.

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One easy gauge for the relative worth of your complaint is to ask yourself this question: If you read a review that included your issue, would you decide to stay somewhere else? If you can honestly say yes then bargaining power is likely on your side. But, be sure you…

Choose wisely.

When you have a complaint that warrants compensation, what you ask for can make a difference. Low-cost amenities are most likely to be agreed to. A few loyalty points, a discount coupon or free meal at the onsite restaurant, or a free Wi-Fi code are a few examples that desk agents likely have at their disposal. Upgraded rooms and free nights are not out of the question, but likely take some level of approval. Whatever the offer is, be sure it actually has value for you. Free Wi-Fi is great if you’ll use it, but a complimentary breakfast might be even better.

Be humble and be helpful.

In all fairness, most hotels work hard to provide a good experience. When something does go wrong, a good hotel wants to know about it, and will work to fix it. They are on your side and, when approached this way (instead of adversarially) will usually work harder to make things right with you. Similarly, being humble about the experience will win friends behind the desk. When you are rude or demanding, you get characterized as “the crazy customer” nobody wants to help. Instead, let them know there’s an issue they can fix so the experience is better, for you and for the next guest, who just may be that crazy customer.

Have you encountered issues with a hotel room? How did you handle the issue, and how was it resolved? We would love to hear about your experience in the comments.

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