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British guests have mastered the art of making complaints

21 December 2006 by

Nearly eight in 10 hospitality professionals in the UK believe their customers are complaining more than they did 10 years ago, exclusive Caterer research reveals.

The study of more than 300 hospitality professionals from all parts of the industry shows that Brits are responsible for just over half of the complaints. North Americans accounted for nearly 20% of them.

Leisure customers are far more likely to take issue with service levels than their business counterparts: 62% of respondents said leisure guests complained most, whereas only 17% said business guests were more likely to complain.

The most common causes of complaint are unacceptable waiting times (30%) food being undercooked or overcooked (24%) and rude/unhelpful members of staff (15%).

When asked what the most unusual complaint they had received was, the hospitality professionals responded with a range of weird and wonderful answers.

Culinary knowledge isn't a prerequisite for complaining. One customer called the management, demanding they take his steak back as it tasted of fish. "Yes sir, it's halibut steak," was the response.

Television services in hotels are clearly a bugbear for many people. One customer informed the manager that the hotel was responsible for the poor quality of the five terrestrial channels, claiming it was all part of a conspiracy to make money from pay movies. Another complained that adult movies were not available 24 hours a day, revealing that porn was his main reason for staying at a hotel.

Nevertheless, many people still work to the old adage that "the customer is always right".

"I personally believe that when a customer complains, even though it may be a stupid complaint, they are always right because they are paying for the service," said one. "The situation is only worsened if you argue with them. I also would encourage the customer to tell me if they were not happy, as we value their custom."

As well as customer feedback, respondents believe staff training, exceptional service levels and putting the right processes in place are the best ways to avoid complaints. One hotel gives all its employees a notepad, so they can note down comments from the guests.

The whine list…

  • 79% of hospitality professionals believe customers complain more than they did 10 years ago
  • 62% of operators say leisure customers complain most
  • 54% of people complain face-to-face
  • 45% of businesses respond by taking money off the bill

Source: Caterer online survey of 320 hospitality professionals

By Daniel Thomas

E-mail your comments to Daniel Thomas](mailto:daniel.thomas@rbi.co.uk?subject=British guests have mastered the art of making complaints) here.

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