A guest who sends you a complaint letter is trying to bring a perceived service issue to your attention. Respond to the letter by fixing the problem when possible, apologizing when it’s not and offering a sincere and kind letter of explanation when the customer is mistaken. Remember that any time a customer of your business writes a letter of complaint, it presents an opportunity for you to correct your company’s service misstep and re-establish exceptional service guidelines with employees.

Offer to “Make It Good”

If a guest writes to you with a complaint that is clearly related to an error on your business’s behalf, respond to it immediately and make amends when possible. For example, a customer at a bed-and-breakfast may have experienced a hot water shortage, cold breakfast and inattentive room service. In her letter of complaint she expresses her displeasure at the experience. While you can’t go back in time and fix the problems, you can express your regret for the unacceptable service levels and offer to compensate the guest for her trouble. Example: “I sincerely apologize for your poor service, and I assure you this is not the norm for our establishment. I would like to personally invite you and a guest to return for a complimentary weekend at your convenience.”

Offer a Refund

Often, a guest complaint letter is written in an effort to secure a refund from the business in question. While replacing the product or service is likely the most cost-effective way for you to handle complaints, if a customer insists on a cash refund, consider it a good investment toward building repeat business. Example: “I’m very sorry to hear of your less-than-ideal experience at this establishment. To make up for any inconvenience this has caused you, I would like to issue you a full refund of your room price.”

Address Invalid Complaints

While the old adage says the customer is always right, in some circumstances, the customer really is wrong. If you receive a guest complaint letter in which the writer is the one at fault, you should still address it, using one of two approaches. You can gently explain the discrepancy and leave the situation as is, or you can explain the error and offer a refund or a make-good substitute. Example: “I’m sorry you were anticipating a live music ensemble during your recent stay. As you will see in the enclosed brochure, we have live entertainment only during the holiday season. If you would like to join us again during that time, I would be happy to extend you a 50 percent discount on your first night’s stay.” The latter has the potential to create goodwill with the customer.

Service Follow-Up

Every valid guest complaint should be followed up with staff members to ensure the same issues don’t arise again in the future. Keep a list of common complaints and address them during customer service training. If you notice the same employees making the same mistakes time and again, consider individual quality control counseling or probationary measures.