Problem: We have had some instances recently of our booking system failing on us just as we’re checking in a lot of guests. Understandably guests have been frustrated at the time it’s taken to sort out and locate their bookings, but my colleagues and I on reception are getting fed up with dealing with angry people. Our manager has promised to get the booking system sorted, but hasn’t been very helpful in advising us how to handle difficult guests. Is there a formula or failsafe way of calming them down in this kind of situation?
Solution: To be let down by technology is incredibly irritating, especially when the problem has been reported to a manager and there is no quick solution. Your frustration at this situation is understandable but is something customers must not be made aware of.
The best way to do this is set up a temporary or back up system that helps keep things running. How did the booking system work before it was taken online? Taking the pressure off you and your colleague in a practical way will free up your mind to manage those angry customers more quickly and efficiently, and it is likely to reduce the number of people who lose their temper with the situation.
The key things to have front of mind when dealing with a customer who has been let down are empathy and action. Apologise. This is not an admission of guilt but it shows concern. Say that you understand that the situation is inconveniencing them and after listening carefully explain clearly and briefly how you will solve the problem for them. Give them an expectation of time; it’s important they know how long it is probably going to take to resolve the issue. If it is likely to be longer then a few minutes is there somewhere more comfortable you can give them to wait? Make sure you have all the information you need from them before they go elsewhere, and remember to offer refreshments while they wait.
Perhaps a way to convince your manager to fix the booking system more quickly is to say you need more front of house staff on Reception to support you with other customers when things are going wrong. After all, the time you’ll need to spend with each customer will go up if your system keeps failing.
Even after you have solved the immediate problem of checking a client in without the booking system online you should follow up with a phone call later, at an appropriate time, to make sure everything else is OK. The extra bit of effort will be noted and appreciated by most, as it shows your commitment to them as your customer.
Although almost all customers will be frustrated by this situation, once you have calmed them down, solved the problem and taken away the stress of the situation this negative experience can actually show how excellent your service is even in the worst, most stressful of situations. It’s all about building a rapport with the customer and exceeding their expectations, especially when the pressure is on. Remember to stay calm, smile, hold eye contact, listen and respond to concerns with empathy and you’ll feel much more in control.