I recently came across a review on a luxury hotel in Switzerland which made me think about the possible solutions in this unfortunate situation. At first look, it is clear that many luxury hotels have strict rules that help distinguish them from other hotels and that these rules should be applied to every client without exception. On the other hand, clients who inadvertently do not comply with hotel rules such as dress code should not be allowed to feel humiliated and should be encouraged to take away a positive impression of the hotel to the extent that they wish to return.

So here is the complaint followed by the reply from the hotel with minor deletions to protect the identities:

I went to an event tonight where I wasn’t allowed to enter for not complying with the dress code wearing leather flip flops. It is July by the way… and women were certainly allowed to wear it. It was the first time taking my wife to this event and I was extremely embarrassed in front of my very disappointed wife as we had to turn around and go home, being dressed similarly in purpose. Paying for a taxi, getting ready and looking forward to a fun night out with friends, who were waiting inside there. What a disaster! Others were underage, wearing trainers (even though the “dress code” sign outside said clearly, no training shoes. The reason given when I complained, is new management!! Obviously …” management”. I will stick to ***** (another) Hotel , from now on.

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Dear *******,

We would like to thank you for your sincere feedback and we are sorry to hear that your evening did not go as planned.

The ******* Hotel has a certain heritage and the dress code has been in place for many years.
We understand your disappointed and it would be much easier for us not to apply it. However, our hotel is appreciated also due to its elegance and flair and the Management has the responsibility to maintain it.
During the White Night, sneakers are allowed as people usually dress in white and not many other shoes match the color. Flip flops are not even allowed for women, on the other hand they are allowed to wear sandals.
Regarding the age limit of 17, our Vice Director and Food & Beverage Manager were on duty that night and you may rest assured that there were no underage people.

Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts that may help many other guest who will be visiting us in the future.

 

Yours Sincerely,

******* Deputy Manager

Reading these posts, some questions immediately arise:

  • Was there an issue with communication of the dress code for the event?
  • Were multiple levels of communications applied so that guests would be sure to understand the dress code for the event?
  • Did the personnel at the door have the required level of training to constructively deal with this kind of situation?
  • Could a different form of reply to this discouraged client have improved the situation, possibly turning him into a returning guest? What should be the reply then? An incentive to join another event? Or something else?

We need to remember that every complaint is a gift that provides an opportunity to improve service and to recover the client. Academic research shows that those guests who openly share their dissatisfaction are much easier to convert into loyal guests as compared to those who leave unhappy and spread the negative views which never reach hotel management. We never know for sure how powerful a dissatisfied guest might be and what might be the risk to hotel image. So every complaint or difficult situation must be treated in a hospitality professional way.

In this particular case, the situation is more complex than it seems at first. Reading other negative reviews on the same hotel, I noticed that they almost all finish with the suggestion to go to another luxury hotel in the same region. Each dissatisfied client recommends a competitor hotel which apparently does much better in retaining its guests. Just looking at one of the replies to a customer complaint (below), it is obvious that top management of this other hotel is aware of the best practices for guest satisfaction.

 

Dear *******,

Thank you very much for your candid review of your recent stay at ******* hotel.

Your feedback is extremely valuable to us, as we strive to improve with each and every stay.
I will personally conduct the extra training with our staff regarding the service delivery and their engagement with our valuable clients accordingly to **** hotel standards.

I hope that I can convince you to change your mind about another visit to our property. Please reach out to me directly at *****@********.ch, if you would be willing to give us a chance to turn your experience around.
It would be such a pleasure to personally welcome you back to *****hotel and to provide improved services and unforgettable experience.

With much appreciation,

******* , General Manager

We invite you to share your opinions on what might have gone wrong from the beginning of planning the event with the dress code incident, how it should have been managed at the door, and what would have been an appropriate follow up.

URPEAK Sarl

Av. Gratta-Paille, 2 | 1018 Lausanne | Switzerland

+41791511818