Tourism Unit 5: Dealing With Difficult Customers

Listen to the recording as you read the text. Then complete the activities.

At some point in time in your career in a hotel you will have to deal with customers. It is inevitable that there will be times when you find a customer's behaviour difficult to deal with and this can cause stress for both you and the customer. Knowing how to deal with such interactions is an essential skill of working with the public.

It is virtually impossible to control a customer's behaviour directly, but by a few simple ways in which you can learn how to manage your own behaviour. You can develop ways to communicate effectively and the interaction can become a better experience for both you and the customer. To make interactions successful then you need to be able to manage your side of the conversation. This allows the customer the opportunity to resolve their issues and for both of you to be able to leave the interaction in a positive frame of mind. If a customer leaves you in a state of distress, then they are more likely to complain to someone else and if you leave a conversation with negative feelings then you are less likely to be able to deal with the next customer in a respectful, positive manner.

Suppose that a customer starts shouting at you, what do you do? Firstly, you must recognise that the customer is angry at a situation and is not directing their anger at you. Therefore you do not need to defend yourself on a personal level. Of course this does not mean that you blame someone else in the hotel; the customer does not want to hear whose fault it is they want a solution for their problem.

As people, we naturally have a defence mechanism which starts to work when another person demonstrates anger towards us and this is what we need to control when dealing with angry customers. If we don't then the situation can very quickly become out of control and turn in to a very uncomfortable and unpleasant experience for both parties involved. To stop your natural defence mechanism from working then it is a good idea to try and deflect your thoughts to something more practical rather than argue with the customer.

An argument can only continue if two people are arguing, it will soon fade away if it is one sided. Your practical thoughts and actions could involve taking notes while the customer is talking, paraphrasing what the customer's problem is and summarising what the customer has said. These simple yet effective tasks will not only demonstrate to the customer that you have been listening but will also provide written evidence if needed. If the customer's allegations are considered a more serious nature by the hotel manager, then the notes taken might be required for proof of the customer's complaint.

Another good way to defuse a potential heated situation is to use non-verbal signs and signals. When first encountering a customer you must remember to smile and look pleased to see them, your verbal greeting should be a positive and approachable one such as "Hello, how may I help?" This immediately lets the customer know that you will try and solve their complaint. Continue to smile throughout the conversation and remain in an open body position. Open body positions are less defensive, which allow the customers to feel more at ease with you.

The most successful hotel employees will learn everything they can about their hotel and how it can serve the customer better. They will also find out what customers are likely to expect and want; this will help to avoid conflict situations. The employee should go out of their way to do this by asking questions and really listening to the answers and making the customer's stay the best possible experience they can have. The golden rule when dealing with customers is that the customer is always number one. The customer is not there to interrupt your real work they are your real work. If it wasn't for customers you would not be employed in the hotel trade. The customer's needs should take priority over all other work given to you. Customers will revisit the hotels where they feel the happiest and have the best experiences. Good customer relations are far more important to a successful hotel than any advertisements or image building. Discourtesy, disrespect, indifference and slow service will all leave a customer with negative feelings and they will simple stay away from your hotel or worst give it a bad reputation.

Now continue to the Activities