Handling complaints is something that most hotel staff would  like to avoid, but unfortunately it is likely to happen at some time.

Sometimes these complaints will be justified, such as being brought the wrong order in a restaurant or not getting the kind of room that was booked or being over charged for a service.

Sometimes the complaints will be unreasonable, such as a guest demanding an up graded room at no extra cost or becoming anger over a short delay. Whether the problem or complaint is justified or not, it must be handled with dispatch and professionalism.

The kinds of problems and complaints that hotel employees are likely to encounter are as varied as the guests themselves. Look at a few of these examples.

Possible problems or complaints

There are not enough towels in my room.
The sink is leaking in the bathroom.
This tread mill doesn’t seem to be working properly.
How did my child get so dirty?
I seem to have misplaced my tennis racket. Has one been turned in?
I specifically requested an ocean view, but the room I was given has a view of the pool.
This soup is not warm enough.
This fish tastes like sour milk.
Why is our order taking so long?
We have no ketchup at this table.

Responses to problems or complaints

I’ll see to that right away ma’am.
I’ll correct the situation immediately, sir.
I’m so sorry sir; that should never have happened.
I’ll take care of that right away sir.
I’ll see to it immediately.
I’ll see what I can do about it and get back to you.

Dialogue- Handling Complaints

Guest: When I first arrived I was assured that a bottle of Chivas Regis would always be in the mini-bar. Well I’m here now and the bottle isn’t. What kind of hotel are you running here anyway!
Staff: I sincerely apologize for the oversight sir. We have been exceedingly busy today because of the convention. I’ll have a complimentary bottle delivered immediately. Please accept it with our compliments.
Guest: Well, I should hope it would be complimentary. Thank you. Good bye.

Guest : This tea is sweetened, and I specifically wanted unsweetened tea.
Staff: I’m sorry ma’am. I’ll bring an unsweetened tea immediately. Please excuse the mistake.
Guest: No problem, things happen.
Staff: Here’s your tea ma’am. Let me know if I can be of further assistance. Enjoy the rest of your meal.
Guest: Thank you.

Guest: I had reserved a tennis court, but it has has been taken over by someone else.
Staff: Yes sir, I understand. But we have a policy that if a party is more than 15 minutes late for a starting time, we schedule the courts for other waiting guests. I’m so sorry for the inconvenience. Would you like to reschedule?

Guest: I requested the eggs over hard, these are over easy.
Guest: Sorry about that sir, let me make you some more right away.

Guest: We ran out of toilet paper. Is it possible to get more?
Staff: Of course, ma’am. I’ll send more up immediately. Is there any thing else you require?
Guest: Now that you mention it, could you also bring up a six pack of Heineken?
Staff: Yes ma’am, I’ll notify room service and have them send some to your room.
Guest: That would be great, thanks.

Practice Activities for handling complaints
Remember that one of the best was to improve your English skills is to use the language over and over again. It may sound boring and tedious but it works to make the language readily accessible for use when needed.

1. Role Play

Practice using expressions for handling complaints by role playing the situations below. One person take the role of a hotel guest and another a guest. Use some of the phrases and expressions above. For additional practice switch roles.

No soap in the changing room
An exercise machine that does not work properly
A room not being cleaned yet
The room air conditioner is not working properly
The guest in the next room is playing music too loud
The room smells like smoke
A side of garlic toast has not arrived
There’s a bug in the salad

1. Individual Activity- Appropriate Responses

One student makes a typical complaint that a guest may have. Other students give a response. The teacher decides which student gave the best response based on language, grammar use, and pronunciation. The person with the best answer gets a point. The student with the most points wins. Have the students give several complaints.

2. Group Activity- Develop a skit

Divide the class into groups of 2 or 3. Students work together to develop a skit that is grammatically correct about guests having a complaint . The guest should continue to complain, even though the staff have dealt with the situation. Once the skit is developed, students present it to the teacher and the rest of class. The teacher judges the skit based on language, grammar use, pronunciation, originality, and acting ability. Be creative and have fun!

3. Discussion

Have a discussion about the things that guest typically complain about. What are the complaints? Are they legitimate or petty? Do people from different countries complain more than others. Do people from the same countries complain about the same things? What is the most unusual complaint you have had
to deal with?

4. Group Activity- First To Know

Put the list of complaints (in bold) on the board. The teacher reads a statement by a guest. Students listen to the statement and decide what the complaint is from the list written on the board. The first student who identifies the complaint races to the board and circles the complaint and puts their initials in the circle. The student with the most initials wins.

1. The sheets haven’t been changed.
2. The TV hasn’t been fixed.
3. The shower hasn’t been repaired.
4. Guest’s shoes haven’t been shined.
5. Guest’s luggage hasn’t been brought up.
6. The waste paper basket hasn’t been empty.
7. The carpet is dirty.
8. The towels haven’t been replaced.
9. A guest’s laundry hasn’t been returned.
10. The mini bar has not been re-stocked.

Read the following statements by a guest RANDOMLY to the students. They decide what the complaint is from the list written on the board.

Those things were so grungy that it will be hard to get to sleep.
It’s imperative that I keep abreast with the latest news for my job.
When will it get done, I can’t sleep with the constant drip, drip, drip.
They have to be done by 3:00; I can’t go to a meeting with them looking like that.
Well when will it be here; I want to take a shower and change clothes.
It’s disgusting; I can’t even walk across the floor in my bare feet.
What am I supposed to do, try to dry off with wet, soiled towels?
It’s already been 24 hours. I can’t keep wearing dirty clothes.
Do you really expect me to go to 7-11 just to buy a couple of candy bars and a beer?

Work Sheets for handling complaints

Other Links
Making Complaints
Complaints