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!

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?

Rude Receptionists – the importance of the front of house

Website and telephone bookings aside, the front of house / reception is the ultimate first impression-making opportunity for your hotel, lodge or spa, and yet this is an area where our mystery guests often identify significant issues.

Rude receptionists

You would be forgiven for thinking someone enters the hospitality industry because they enjoy being hospitable. At Guestwho, we have been amazed at just how rude and unwelcoming some receptionists can be – and at the most luxurious of hotels and estates! A disinterested, unfriendly and unhelpful receptionist can set the tone for the guest’s entire visit and really impact on that guest’s perception of your establishment, with the result that when they are again looking for an hotel, lodge or spa in that area, your business may very well not be their first choice.

Guest experience audit

Conducting your own hotel audit / customer experience audit can be tricky because everyone is nicer when the boss is around (hence the growth in mystery guest services) but we’ve included a mini-checklist below for what is expected of a great front of house –

  • all persons in front of house should be friendly, polite, well-trained and well-mannered;
  • they should be dressed immaculately and be wearing name badges;
  • receptionists should welcome guests, introduce themselves and address the guest appropriately;
  • when checking a guest into a room, receptionists should offer to make a reservation for the guest at the hotel’s restaurant (a great little up-sell!);
  • staff should assist with any luggage;
  • arrange that guests are escorted to their rooms, and shown the hotel’s features en route;
  • similarly, at spas, a brief spa tour should allow patrons to be introduced to the spa’s facilities before they are escorted to the change rooms.

Our mystery guest suggestions

Some additional ideas to ensure your guests feel incredibly welcome at your luxurious establishment –

  • offer guests a welcome drink on arrival (it needn’t be French champagne, some chilled water with mint or cucumber is inexpensive but a great gesture);
  • provide complimentary bite-sized snacks, fruit and nuts  in the reception area / lounge;
  • ask guests checking-in whether they are visiting for business or pleasure
    • business, ask if they need a meeting room made available to them (assuming you have such facilities), if they need conference call dial-ins set-up for them and if they will be entertaining business guests and would like some restaurant suggestions (and then make any reservations for them);
    • pleasure, suggest some local tourist attractions, offer maps of the area and suggest some local tours (if they are interested, make the reservation /s on their behalf).

Hotel Reception Front of House Mystery Guest


Does your spa have a relaxing theme?

One of our favourite things to do as mystery guests is to visit and review spas.

On a recent assignment at a spa in Sandton, Guestwho was once again reminded of the importance of choosing a theme and ensuring that the theme induces relaxation.


Mystery guest spa review

Calming colours

Blues and greens are considered to have a more calming effect than bright red, orange and black. Of course there is always an opportunity to incorporate bolder colours in your spa colour scheme and many spas have achieved this with ease (or at least what appears to be ease), but the more traditional cooler colours are always a safer bet.

Consistent theme

An island theme does not work well with a vintage theme, similarly an African theme does not work well with minimalism.  Whatever your theme is, ensure it is consistent throughout.  Any disruption of the theme can have a significant influence on the overall impression created by your spa and the ultimate client experience.  Pick one theme and stick with it!

Soft music

So much of what Guestwho includes in our reviews and write-ups seems ridiculously obvious, but it is often in the easy-to-fix areas where spas lose points.  Soft background music is an absolute must for any spa – and not just in your lounge and reception area, but also in the individual treatment rooms. Music can really set the tone for a treatment and encourage relaxation.


Soft, gentle lighting is another spa essential – preferably adjustable.  Again, this is an area where spa’s can greatly increase the ambience created.  Candles work exceptionally well at mood creation and can double as room fragrance.

Temperature control

Guestwho has also experienced the effects of centrally-controlled aircon.  Although, more cost effective, no-one enjoys a massage if they are freezing and similarly, you would not want to be sitting in a sauna whilst having your nails done.  Where possible, air-conditioning should be capable of adjustment within each treatment room, failing which small heaters and fans should be available in each room.  Electric blankets can only go so far.

Do you have any other tips or suggestions for improving the ambience of a spa?

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