Service recovery plans need to be empathetic
Service recovery plans need to be empathetic
09 NOVEMBER 2015 7:05 AM
When it comes to service recovery, you should be authentic in your concern and empathy to create a solution for guests.
If we are truly trying to achieve our hotels’ highest potential, it’s imperative to exceed the guests’ expectations, or go beyond the expected.
To deliver excellent service our hospitality must come from a genuine and authentic place. Guests are people, too; they can tell when a smile is forced or when a concierge is just going through the motions to appease them and send them on their way.
This is never truer than in service recovery. Let’s face it: No matter the hotel or its brand, there are times we will fail (and likely already have failed) to meet expectations. So, how do we turn the situation into a positive, lasting impression or, at the very least, mitigate the negative impact?
This is where being authentic in your concern and empathy and creating a solution is critical.
Several months ago, I attended an out-of-town event with my family and friends. When we returned to the hotel that night, there was no hot water. For those in our group wanting a shower, this was more than a minor inconvenience. Unfortunately, my call to the front desk didn’t generate a response other than a confirmation that there was indeed a problem. 
The next morning when checking out, the front-desk agent inquired about our stay, and I told him about the hot water issue. He expressed his concern and told me that he would credit my loyalty account with a certain number of points. In theory, it was a nice course of action, but I was not a member of that particular brand’s loyalty program. His gesture, while well-intentioned, was not authentic; the attendant was simply paying me lip service rather than demonstrating actual concern and personalized service. 
While in the grand scheme of things, a night without hot water is not a huge issue. But the lack of empathy with which the situation was handled negatively colored my perception of this hotel and brand.
A better approach would have involved clear and empathetic communication from the staff. From the first mention of the mishap, the hotel staff should have showed concern and urgency to right it. Having a plan of action and communicating it to the guests would have underscored the immediacy with which the staff was tackling the problem. When the issue was solved, guests should have been notified, and the staff should then have gone about making reparations on a guest-by-guest basis for any inconvenience caused.
Marriott has a great acronym that comprises its suggested plan of action for when services fail, which is LEARN:
  • Listen to the guest’s issue. 
  • Empathize with the guest. 
  • Apologize for any inconvenience. 
  • React swiftly to rectify the situation. 
  • Notify the guest when the issue has been solved and then notify him or her of what else you plan to do to make up for the service disruption.
It’s important to deliver the proper solution when possible. If something is missing from the room, have it delivered. If the TV does not work, fix it or move the guest. It should go without saying, but if you have to relocate guests, you should offer to move their belongings so they are not further inconvenienced. 
Once the situation is rectified appropriately, go the extra mile to show your appreciation of the guest. Find out what is important to him or her. If the guest is a corporate traveler, reducing the rate or even comping the room might be of no value as his or her company is likely footing the bill. However, if the guest is traveling for leisure, this could make a huge impact. Would complimentary food and beverage be impactful? What if you send a bottle of champagne up to a couple’s room, but they don’t drink? As you see, the impact of the recovery plan needs to vary from guest to guest.
How will you know what matters to guests? You care. Ask questions and listen to their response with intent. Then show sincerity and authenticity when responding. That authenticity builds trust, which leads to far more long-lasting, deep loyalty than any rewards program ever could.
Since joining LBA Hospitality in 2005, Beau Benton has played a vital role in expanding the hotel management organization’s footprint from 27 to more than 65 hotels over the past decade. Benton has served in the roles of Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer, assuming his role as President in 2012. As President, Benton spearheads the company’s growth, which includes doubling the number of hotels represented by the company, maintaining a strong development program by developing and opening 26 Marriott and Hilton hotels, and overseeing the company’s transition from an owner/manager platform to that of a third-party management entity.
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