Are you a problem solving people person?

The ability to solve problems effectively is one of the most important skills you can learn. Regardless of who you are or where you work in the hospitality industry, you’ll come across obstacles that will need you to put on your problem-solving pants! How you deal with these challenges will often be a determining factor in how successful you are in your working life… An unhappy guest won’t enjoy his or her stay, and they probably won’t return to the hotel – so it’s your duty, as the hospitality professional, to make sure this doesn’t happen. You can do this by handling guest problems correctly.

It’s not personal


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Separate yourself from the problem. A guest’s anger is not personal and you should never take it as such. As tempting as it may be to get upset yourself, you have to avoid this, as it’s not helpful to the situation at all. Remember that an angry, upset guest needs your help, no matter how much they might raise their voice or blame you for their problem.

Acknowledge the problem

Listening to the guest, recognising that there is a problem, and showing empathy towards the guest will go a long way toward restoring calm. Saying “I understand how this makes you feel, and I acknowledge that there is a problem because…” is what the guest needs to hear. They’re more likely to co-operate and agree with any solution you present, if you treat them calmly and with empathy.


Clarify the problem. You can only do this by listening to the complaint properly. Ask questions to identify the problem and devote all of your attention to listening. Don’t think about what you’re going to say next or how long this conversation is taking. If you concentrate on what the person is saying, the conversation will actually take less time. If the guest thinks you’re not listening, they’re going to start repeating themselves and they’ll work themselves up and become even more upset.

Take responsibility

Outline solution(s) to the problem. Tell the guest what you could do to solve his/her problem. If the problem is beyond your ability to solve, bring in the proper person and explain the problem. Stay involved ensuring the problem is resolved, so that the guest does not feel like you’re merely passing the buck.

Settle on a solution

Agree on a solution. Check with the guest that they’re happy with the way the problem will be addressed, and whether it will have the result that he/she was looking for.


Give a commitment on a solution. Verbalise the action you will take and set a timeframe for completion. For example: “I will contact the Maintenance Manager immediately to send someone to have a look at your aircon. If it cannot be fixed, I will call you within an hour, and we’ll move you to another room. My apologies for the inconvenience.” Follow through on the solution. Be sure you do what you promised. If other people are involved in the solution, follow-up with them to make sure that they live up to the commitment that you made.


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Follow up

Check back with the guest to see that they’re satisfied. This step lets the guest know that they’re important and that you care about the way that they feel.While all the other steps are important, the most critical is this follow-through. If the promised action isn’t taken, the guest will end up with three problems:

  • The original problem;
  • A second complaint on the original problem; and
  • Disappointment in your inefficiency and broken promise.

That means that someone must now deal with two additional problems and three times as much additional anger and frustration. It will also mean that you’re now part of the problem! Clearly it’s easier and will save time to follow through and get it right the first time, like a real problem-solving person would.