Hello again! Welcome to part 3 of our hotel advice series. Today, we are going to focus on life in the hotel. Mainly, proper hotel phone etiquette, common concerns and how to handle them, and of course the dreaded walk.
- The lowdown on the phones!
There were many times where I wasn’t actually at the desk, I was answering phones in the back. This meant that I was the only one who answered the phones when guests called the hotel, whether that be from outside or inside. With internal calls, I took room service orders, made towel requests, set up wake-up calls, received rants about housekeeping not cleaning rooms, and concerns about toilets “that just won’t flush.” With external calls, I answered all general questions, fixed small billing issues, made room requests, and sent room receipts. Those were just calls from guests, I also was the go between all other hotel departments. There would be some days where it was so busy, I didn’t even have time to breath between phone calls.
Customer service over the phone can be extra difficult, as you can’t see the person on the other end. Therefore, you can’t see their body language and judge their mood. This applied to guests as well, as they could be ruder and less patient as they couldn’t see my face, I was just a voice.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to call the hotel, keep these things in mind. Keep it simple. Get straight to the point and tell the phone operator exactly why you are calling. “I would like to request connecting rooms.” or “I’m looking to book a wedding ballroom.” Don’t over talk. Not to be rude, but the operator could care less that you nephew is graduating from college with honors, you are not the only person who is calling and over talking can cause confusion. (Pro tip: Answer the question that the operator asked. If they asked you for your arrival date, give them your arrival date. Don’t just immediately rattle off your confirmation number, thinking that you are being helpful and making it easier. There is a reason they asked you question that they did.)
There is an above average chance that you will be placed on hold, so be prepared. (Pro tip: You will know you are on hold if the phone continues to ring or if you hear hold music. If all you hear is silence on the other end, that means you have been disconnected and need to call back.) Please be patient. Remember, there may be only one person answering the phone in the back or the front desk may be answering the phones. If the desk is busy checking people in, they may not be able to answer the phone right away and the phone will ring. They don’t need any smart-ass remarks, they are trying and they will get to you as soon as they possibly can. They are not purposely ignoring you. If you are in-house and need service right away and are afraid of being placed on hold, just come downstairs and talk to them in person. If it is an emergency, cut out the middleman and just call 911. I got an alert whenever a guest called 911 and we would very quickly send security up to you and of course first responders would already be on their way. (Pro tip: Please, please, please, do not let your young child play with the phone. This completely ties up the phone lines and prevents any other calls from getting through. I have actually sent hotel employees upstairs to bang on doors when this happens.)
Many hotels are moving away from making reservations in house, therefore you will be transferred to central reservations. This is true for special rates, corporate rates, and same day reservations. I have no idea where central reservations is and you will be on hold for a while. It is also very easy to lose connection when talking to central reservations. I recommend that you make your reservation online through the hotel’s direct website and only call the hotel if you have any specific questions. Also, know that the rates on the website are the best rates, you can not call and negotiate for a better rate, especially at a big brand name hotel. Those rates usually come directly from corporate and are based on the services the hotel provides, how full the hotel is, and what the other nearby hotels are selling at.
If you need to reserve meeting rooms, wedding ballrooms, fix large scale billing issues, or speak to “someone in charge” the phone operator will not be able to help you and you will be transferred. The important people that deal with these matters work normal 9 to 5s, they aren’t here late at night or on the weekends. These people do not work around your schedule, this is real life and you have to work around theirs. In fact, if you have an issue with the hotel, I would only call during normal business hours, it’s going to save you a headache and a game of phone tag. (Pro tip: Business hours are weekdays, excluding federal holidays, from 9am to 5pm.)
The phone operator has one of the hardest jobs. Work with them and they will work with you. Don’t yell or be rude or you might “accidentally” lose connection.
- Let’s talk about it!!
It’s not that bad, I promise. We can figure it out and we can either fix it or come to some agreed upon compromise. People freak out about everything imaginable, from room type to the color of the walls. I was yelled out for the brand of soda we sell and once had someone throw their keys at my face because they thought I had put them in an accessible room. Most of these incidents were because of a simple miscommunication, arrogance, or just plain impatience. The most common issues that would arise were billing issues, early check-ins, walk-ins, and a lack of understanding. Let’s take these one by one.
Billing issues. I understand that it is annoying when you feel that you have been overcharged. Saying that, billing issues are usually a simple fix. You don’t need to come down and yell and shove your reservation in the front desk’s face. All you have to say is, “I was told the wifi was free, but it has appeared on my bill.” From there the front desk will say, “our mistake, let me fix that.” It will literally take 30 seconds to remove that charge from your bill.
Always check your room folio before you leave. Hotel workers are only human and things can happen. A room service order may have been placed on your room by mistake or you were charged for a water you never actually drank. (Pro tip: The front desk will probably not want to argue about small charges such as mini bar or gift shop or wifi. It’s just not worth it. So, just be nice and they will take it off. Unless of course, they know for a fact that you did purchase something from the gift shop.) It is much easier to fix it while you are still in house instead of two weeks down the road. Remember, you are not actually charged anything until you have physically checked out, so fixing these billing issues are no trouble at all. Just calmly go to the desk and nicely explain to them your concerns. They will be more than willing to help you or explain why the bill looks like it does. (Pro tip: Don’t assume that the bill is wrong just because you don’t understand the taxes or a rate change. Know that when you assume something, you make an ass out of me and you, but mostly you.)
Early check ins are very rarely a thing. I don’t care if you are a rewards member or the President, if we don’t have a room ready, we don’t have a room ready and no, we can not and will not give you keys to a dirty room. Think about this logically, the goal of the hotel is to sell every room. So, every time you check in to a hotel you should assume that they were sold out the night before and that housekeeping needs to clean every room. If check out time is not until noon than housekeeping may not even get to start cleaning until noon.
It takes housekeeping roughly 35 minutes to clean each room and this is with the belief that people leave their room in relatively decent condition. Spoiler alert: they don’t. You wouldn’t believe how messy people can make a room when they know they don’t have to clean it. (Pro tip: Hotel’s have check in times for a reason. If I were you, I would always assume that you won’t have a room until that time and make plans accordingly.)
You know what won’t get you a room any faster? Screaming at the front desk. I don’t care if you have wedding to go to, it’s June and everybody has a wedding to go to. If you are worried about getting ready or getting to some place on time, than you should consider coming in a day early.
Walk-ins. A walk-in means that you show up to a hotel without a reservation and ask for a room. Most hotels are prepared for this and even have special walk-in rates. However, planning to just walk into a hotel is a form a gambling. That hotel could be sold out or even worse the entire area for miles may be sold out.
If a hotel doesn’t have a room, than they don’t have a room. Hotels don’t hide rooms and they very rarely keep rooms on hold for “VIPs”. (Pro tip: If a hotel has a room on hold for a “VIP”, you are not getting that room unless you are said “VIP”.) You’re lack of planning is not the hotel’s fault and they are not required to keep extra rooms just for walk-ins. If the hotel is sold out, they probably did a “call around” earlier in the day. This means they called all the hotels in the area to ask what their rate and availability is. The front desk will know where to send you or will be able to inform you if you are out of luck.
If they do have a room, remember, you walked into their hotel, they make the rates. Learn how to negotiate correctly. If you do it right, the desk might work with you. They usually have a price point that they can’t go below, you just have to figure that price point out. The best way to do this, is to nicely give them a reasonable alternative to the price they quoted. Don’t get stubborn and tell them that you won’t accept a room for more than said amount. They don’t care, they aren’t the ones who need a room and they don’t need to sell that room, they had already planned not to. Do know that if the area is sold out and this hotel only has a few rooms left, they are not going to negotiate.
The number one reason for a freak out is of course a lack of understanding. This can come from either side. I will say that if you are having trouble understanding what the desk is explaining, don’t lose your patience, just ask them to explain it in a different way. (Pro tip: Don’t throw things! Ever! Especially, if you want to continue staying in that hotel.)
There is always the possibility that the front desk just might not be able to understand what you are asking. Don’t get upset with them. They are human. Explain it in a different way. Another tip, be very specific. Examples, “I need to make a reservation”; “I need to modify an upcoming reservation”; “I am checking out a day early, will I be charged?” Also make sure you listen to the full answer, they may just answer your question saving you from said freak out.
Finally, if you have a problem just talk to the desk. They have the power to do anything. (Pro tip: Let the small things go. Don’t come down and complain because housekeeping only gave you one shampoo instead of two. Is that really the hill you want to die on?) Don’t ask for a manager, you don’t need one. The front desk has been told what is appropriate compensation for just about every situation.
Bring up problems as they arise. Don’t check out and tell the desk that you had no hot water and demand a refund. One, there is no way to confirm that you, in fact, had no hot water. Two, you never gave them a chance to fix this issue. They could have sent up an engineer to take a look or they could have switch you rooms and offered you a free meal for the inconvenience. The hotel cannot fix problems that they don’t know about. They also don’t want to give you a free nights stay, when you stayed with them the entire night and alerted no one to the fact that your room was lacking. (Pro tip: Don’t be dramatic or exaggerate. The last thing you want to do is lose your credibility.) If you are upset about the level of compensation you have been offered, then that is the time to ask for a manager, not the GM, the front office manager.
You don’t need to ask the agents for their names thinking that it will scare them. They are wearing a name tag for a reason. That is not a threat. Furthermore, threatening or trying to intimidate the agent is going to get you nowhere. In fact, it just makes you look like a self-righteous jerk. Another useless threat is saying you are going to call corporate. You need to complain to someone in house if you want fast and adequate results. (Pro tip: the agent will actually be fine with the fact that you are calling corporate, because that means they don’t have to deal with you. Also, corporate is just going to call the hotel and have the same manager, that you could have talked to in-house, deal with it.)
Just calmly go to the desk. Tell them exactly what happened. Present you own reasonable solution. (Pro tip: you are not going to get your stay comped because one minor thing went wrong. That is not a reasonable solution.) Don’t yell or scream or curse. Just have a conversation, the front desk wants to help you and they want to make sure that your stay is as enjoyable as possible.
Here is an open secret, hotels over book, just like the airlines. Hotel’s goals are to have a “perfect sell”, a head in every bed, every night. There is a lot of hotel math, that will take too long to explain, involved in getting this “perfect sell.” To accomplish this, we would regularly find ourselves over-sold, 99% of the time this oversold problem would work itself out. We could expect at least a few cancellations and no-shows each night. However, sometimes this wouldn’t happen and we would find ourselves with too many heads and not enough beds. Therefore, we would have to walk somebody to another hotel. Meaning, we, the hotel, would find a comparable hotel and pay for one night room and tax and usually a meal. (Pro tip: if you ever find yourself being walked you are perfectly within your rights to negotiate for more compensation with the front desk. If you are nice and reasonable they will be more than willing to work with you. Know that walking a guest is just as annoying as being walked.)
If you find yourself being walked, remain calm. The poor front desk agent that has to walk you is the inheritor of this mess and it is not his fault. You may be saying, “well don’t oversell” and yes, I hear you and I hated that we did, however, things happen. Don’t just assume that you are being walked because the hotel is oversold. There could have been a nasty storm and now several rooms have a leak and are unsellable. A guest could have left their room in disgusting and down right dangerous shape and the hotel has to hire an outside cleaning service to deep clean the room. I have seen both of these scenarios. Usually you are being walked because the hotel is oversold, but you never know.
Here is how to avoid being walked. First the obvious, don’t book through a 3rd party. Two, arrive early. I don’t mean you have to arrive at 10am, I mean don’t arrive past 10pm. It’s usually the last guests to arrive that get walked.(Pro tip: know the type of hotel you are staying in. If you are road tripping and you booked a room just for the night and you know you won’t arrive until after midnight, stay at a hotel that caters to those types of travelers, not at a vacation or business hotel.)
Third, call the hotel to inform them of your late arrival. It will be to your benefit if the hotel knows for a fact that you are actually coming in. This can be tricky though, you could call the hotel and even get the name of the associate that you talked to, but you still could be walked. Listen carefully to the language of the person on the other end. “We have your or we see your reservation” is not same thing as “we have a room for you.” This isn’t the hotel lying to you, it just could mean that you are on the short list of possible walks. They may not know who is going to be walked. This also might not mean anything. Ask the hotel if they are sold out. They may not tell you, but if they say things like “we are quite full tonight” than there is a good chance that they are. Also, if you call and they know for a fact that you will be walked, they will most likely tell you over the phone, saving you a trip.
Fourth, join the rewards program. The hotel tries its very best not to walk loyal guests and the top tier reward members will never be walked. Make sure that your number is actually on the reservation before you arrive. If you add it upon arrival, there is a good chance that you may not get some of your guarantees that are set in your profile and we will still walk you. We can’t give you your diamond/platinum perks if we don’t know that you are a diamond/platinum member.
Most importantly, remain calm. I know this isn’t fun, but think about it, you are getting a free night stay. The worst thing you can do is freak out. Remember, this is not the front desk’s fault. They are being asked to clean up someone else’s mistake. Call or come in the next morning and ask to speak to the manager, in this situation, they are the proper person to complain too. Moral of the story, relax, we can get through this together.
That concludes our hotel advice series! I hope you learned a lot and if you are looking for anymore insider information, just leave us a comment.
Lastly, I will leave you with this. The people behind the desk are usually young and energetic. They are well educated and are in this job because they love people and have dreams of a career in hospitality. They want to help you and they want you to enjoy your stay and come back again and again. They are here to please you. However, that does not give you the right to to be rude, make demands, or treat them as if they are beneath you. Things happen and your stay is not always going to be perfect, but there is no need to yell or take out your aggressions on the poor agent. Remember, the front desk controls your stay. The nicer you are to them, the nicer they will be to you. Treat them with respect and they will treat you like a VIP every time you enter the lobby, regardless of your rewards status. In fact, it would be good to imply this little piece of advice to every person who works in the customer service world.