Dealing with criticism – the bad review!

These days there are blogs and review sites popping up everywhere and the chances that your establishment will get a glowing review 100% of the time, is slim to none. However, in the unfortunate circumstance of an unfavourable review, how you deal with it says more about your business than the review itself.

Firstly, is it true?

Read the review carefully, consider the comments that have been made. Is this a genuine review or a malicious attack? Most of the time, the reviewer does not have something against your business or enterprise – they are simply being honest about their experience. Does some of what they are saying ring true?

Secondly, reach out to the reviewer

This obviously all comes down to your PR guidelines, but we would suggest contacting the reviewer – not in a public forum (i.e. send direct messages not Facebook posts or tweets). Thank them for their review. Ask them if they would be willing to set up a call or a meeting to discuss the review.

Listen to what they have said

This is valuable information on your client / customer’s experience. Put away any anger or embarrassment you may feel and address the concerns raised. Often the issues are very easy and simple to fix and improve the overall experience.

What to do when you've received a bad review!

What to do when you’ve received a bad review!

Fix the problem

Remember that although it might seem like a PR nightmare, the problem is actually not the poor review. The problem is the poor experience one of your client’s had at your establishment, and the likelihood that others feel the same but are just not voicing  their concerns, but they will talk with their feet…

Once you have reached out to the reviewer in question, consider a public response. Something along of the lines of an apology to the reviewer for the awful experience, thanking them for bringing this to your attention and followed by an undertaking to rectify the issues.

Invite the reviewer again

Once you have addressed the concerns raised, invite the reviewer to come and try your establishment again. Throw in a free night’s stay or some other encouraging factor to get them to come back and ask them to let you know how they have experienced their second stay at your hotel, meal at your restaurant or spa experience.

We are not suggesting you specifically ask the reviewer to write a positive review, but hopefully they will be so pleased with the changes that they will want to let their readers know that you have taken their criticism to heart and improved the customer experience for everyone!

What not to do :

  • act in a defensive manner, sub-tweet, defame the reviewer;
  • ignore the review altogether, block the reviewer and put your head in the sand;
  • send threatening letters to the reviewer demanding they remove the post/publish an apology (this will only result in them writing further articles or posts about how poor your management style really is and how you have threatened them…);
  • any other action that is aimed at trying to “silence” the reviewer and/or the bad review.

Prevention is better than cure

Of course, your best option is to ensure that you never receive such a review, by contacting Guestwho Mystery Guest Services to come into your organization and conduct a review for you. Remember that our reviews are confidential and private and will not be published – the information is for your eyes only, so you can rectify any issues and ensure that you only receive a sparkling review from the public!

Should waiters take notes?

How to train your dragon waiter*

*waiter, waitress, waitron, server, steward etc – replace with whichever term you find least offensive

Fancy waiters without notepads

Yes, yes, for many years now, a sign of a classy restaurant is the fact that your possibly college-educated waiter takes your order without the need for a pen and paper.

“Paperless” waiters create an impression that staff members are well-trained and educated. However, the service must be impeccable for your establishment to get this one right. It’s no help if the waiter gets the order wrong or forgets to bring the starter!

If the waiter manages to remember the order correctly (without the need to come back to the table and confirm it) then your patrons will be impressed, but it is something that can easily backfire when things do not go according to plan.

Train ’em up

Waiters need to be very knowledge with respect to your restaurant’s menu. Ideally, the waiter should be able to answer questions as to ingredients in dishes and address diner’s concerns in line with their particular dietary requirement (without needing to excuse themselves to go and ask the chef).

Far more impressive (than a waiter who does not need a notepad) is a waiter who understands dishes that complement each other, and even more so, can suggest wine parings.

Waiters should not only undergo training in respect of their duties and the menu when they first begin at the restaurant, but refresher courses should be mandatory.  Alternatively, you should conduct an internal audit / review process, or make use of a mystery diner service such as Guestwho.

All waiters need kitty notepads and sparkly pens

(Not really). In fact, preferably, not at all! If waiters will be making use of notepads, either provide a standard notepad to staff, or insist upon a particular style of notepad being used. It is most definitely off-putting when a waiter whips out a scraggly and scruffy old notepad and then searches for an open space within which to record your guest’s order! The neater the presentation of the notebook, the better the impression created as to the strict requirements of the restaurant (and its general cleanliness and tidiness).

The standard-issue kitty notepad & sparkly pen

The standard-issue kitty notepad & sparkly pen

What’s in a name (tag) or a uniform?

As you may have realized by now, we at Guestwho Mystery Guest Services, are all about making a great first impression, and what better way to do that than to ensure your staff members are neatly presented and well-dressed?

Do uniforms make a difference?

  • they instantly create a team and unite staff (even if it is over their loathing of the uniform);
  • uniforms ensure all staff look similar and are easily identifiable by your guests / patrons;
  • they can immediately make an impression on guests (clean, neat uniforms translate in the minds of guests to clean, neat rooms and facilities);
  • regardless of your employees’ personal circumstances, providing them with uniforms means they do not need to worry about how to dress or be concerned about additional financial implications of “dressing the part”;
  • uniforms can further establish your brand – through colour, style and use of your logo.

What’s in a name?

Often going hand-in-hand with uniforms are personalized employee name tags (as opposed to name tags that simply reflect the individuals job position or title such as “manager”).

Are name tags important? Absolutely! They allow patrons to identify your staff members and create a more personal atmosphere.  They also allow guests to know the name of the individual who assisted them when complimenting (or complaining!) about your business. Name tags establish a bond between your guests and staff and should be worn at all times.

Do it properly or not at all

Uniforms and name tags are both great tools that can be used to further the image and professionalism of your establishment, however, if not well-maintained or well-implementing, they can have quite the opposite effect.  Often restaurants and hotels try to save costs by asking employees to wear all black or black and white.  While this can work for smaller establishments, you lose control over the style of dress worn, the quality of the clothing and the overall picture of unity, neatness and cleanliness. So, if you do require your staff members to wear uniforms and name tags, do it properly or not at all!

Uniforms - she isn't wearing one!

Uniforms – she isn’t wearing one!

Do you have any additional comments on wearing uniforms and name tags? Let us know in the comment box below!

Surprises are great – just not on the bill! (our mystery guest views)

The most amazing hotel, lodge, restaurant or spa experience can be ruined (beyond repair) by a nasty surprise on the bill (check) or account at check-out.

Those hidden costs

Guestwho, a mystery guest services company, has noticed a trend among hotels, lodges and spas to offer a great rate or special but then have a number of add-on costs.

There is no big issue with additional costs, but the problem comes when these are not clearly explained to the guest or patron and/or where the additional costs are not displayed prominently or at least in an accessible manner (such that a guest knows that if they want to make use of that service it will cost x amount of money).

In respect of services, amenities or facilities, the use of which would ordinarily be expected to be included in the fee, it is all the more important to ensure guests are aware that these carry an additional cost.

First and last impressions

It is said that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and while we at Guestwho firmly support this and the importance of making a great first impression, even if everything else at your hotel, lodge, restaurant or spa has been absolutely perfect and the guest has had the most amazing time, nothing can ruin that experience more than a nasty surprise on the bill for some cost that the guest had thought was included or a complimentary amenity.

The effect can be so damaging that even though the guest may not complain, their memory and recollection of their experience at your establishment will be forever tainted by the unwelcome expense, to such an extent that they may never return.

What is expected?

These are some items or services that guests would expect to be included in the room cost / treatment cost –

  • Hotels – use of hotel gym, swimming pool, tea & coffee service in room, hotel breakfast, in-room hotel amenities (toiletries), wifi;
  • Lodgesgame drives, non-alcoholic drinks, all meals (if your lodge advertises as “all inclusive”);
  • Spas – use of swimming pool, steam room, sauna, non-alcoholic drinks, light snacks and fruit.

We are not suggesting that you cannot charge for the use of these services or amenities, but rather that if you choose to charge for these, that you make this clear to your guests  – preferably on your website, as well as at the time the guest makes a reservation and again when they arrive at reception. Consider included a price list in guests’ rooms or readily available in the spa.

Mystery Guest Additional Expenses

Are there any other items that you (as a guest) would typically expect to be included?

Vegan, gluten free, banting – can your restaurant keep up?

With so many new diets and dietary restrictions these days, is it even possible for your restaurant to cater for them all and does it even matter?

Our mystery guests love being “difficult customers” and we’ve included some easy tips below for helping you to stay ahead of the diet trend.

Firstly, know thy diet (a rather rudimentary guide)

vegetarian – no meat, no fish but does eat eggs and dairy;

vegan – no animal products at all (no meat, no fish, no eggs, no dairy);

pescatarian – like a vegetarian but also eats fish;

ovo-vegetarian – like a vegan, but eats eggs;

lacto-vegetarian – like a vegan, but has dairy;

raw foodist – like a vegan, but food cannot be cooked above certain (very low) temperatures;

gluten free – as the name implies!

banting – low carb, high protein.

Secondly, examine your menu

You needn’t redo your entire menu, but catering for any of the above dietary restrictions can be really easy.  You don’t even need to have a specific menu option available, but could rather include a note that your restaurant is “[insert whichever applicable diet] friendly” and encourage guests to ask their waitron for more information.

Thirdly, make small changes

Most restaurants already cater for pescatarians, vegetarians (lacto- and ovo-vegetarians) and the banters, but there are some really easy ways to make guests with other dietary restrictions feel more welcome –

  • stock long-life soya/almond/rice milk for the vegans;
  • stock gluten-free breads / wraps;
  • have a gluten-free pasta option (if your restaurant serves pasta);
  • consider “build your own” salad, pizza or wrap options to enable customers to choose their own fillings/toppings;
  • many of your current menu options may already be catering for specific requirements, without you even realizing this.  Discuss menu items with your head chef and identify those that can be re-branded where appropriate.

Customers with special dietary requirements are more than happy to pay a little extra, so feel free to add an on small levy for the soya milk or gluten free wrap options – your restaurant patrons will gladly pay this.

If you are still feeling lost in a world of interesting diets, contact Guestwho and we will happily assist you in identifying where your restaurant can make simple changes with significant results for your special request guests.

A perfectly delicious vegan Philly steak

A perfectly delicious vegan Philly cheese steak

Free Wifi – a necessity?

Does your hotel / lodge / spa / restaurant offer free wifi?

If not, why not?

In this instant age, connectivity is of the utmost importance.  If you don’t have wifi available for your guests, this is something you should seriously consider.

Do you charge for the use of your wifi?

Guestwho has identified that certain well-established luxury hotel chains charge their guests a flat rate per day for access to the wifi network. Considering the price per person per night at these establishments, charging a hefty fee for wifi on top of this just seems rather “cheap”, for lack of a better description.

Do what you must to build the cost in elsewhere to recover your expense, but expecting a guest to pay an additional R150 (or more) per day for wifi does not sit well with most people.

Image Source :

Image Source :

How to stand out in the hospitality industry – tips from a mystery guest

It’s all about making a great first impression

Although your front of house, reception and concierge are all important in creating a good impression for your guests, the overall guest experience begins far earlier, at the booking stage.

Websites in the hospitality industry

These days, bookings are frequently done online. Have you test-run your establishment’s website and booking process? Consider the following –

  • is your website user-friendly?
  • is your website aesthetically pleasing?
  • does your website convey the atmosphere of your establishment?
  • is it easy to determine accommodation availability?
  • are your contact telephone numbers clearly displayed on your website?
  • do your booking forms work?
  • is the email address to which online queries are sent monitored regularly and are queries responded to quickly?

Telephone bookings

If a potential guest has picked up the phone to make an enquiry, you already have a captive audience for a sales pitch and half the hard work has been done already for you! Now it is just up to your switchboard operator and/or receptionist to finalise and secure the booking.   It’s almost too easy to make a good impression over the phone –

  • ensure the phone is answered promptly;
  • state the name of the hotel/restaurant/spa;
  • state your name;
  • be friendly, but professional;
  • upsell (eg suggest a room upgrade);
  • when making an hotel booking, suggest a booking at the hotel’s restaurant;
  • confirm the client’s personal details and contact details;
  • confirm the booking details;
  • send confirmatory emails / text messages.

These suggestions may seem very straightforward and obvious, but they are often neglected by hospitality industry staff.

Do you have any other easy tips for making a good first impression in the hospitality industry?

mystery guest service company