Monday 4 August 2014

This year's silly season story - hotel minimum charges

And bottled water on the 'Cigar Terrace' was going to be how much?

It was the Wellesley, but it could easily have been any one of London's hotels. The Times broke the earth-shattering news that a guest had been charged £75 for three bottles of water at the beginning of the week, and since then some other journalists have piled in with their own 'horror stories'.

This illustrates precisely why it is SO important to build review management into your overall everyday business plan - so you aren't blown away by flame trolling like this

So why are we blogging about it?

...because underlying this pretty thin story are some very common complaints that reoccur almost monotonously in reviews. Here we examine the '13' highlighted in this piggyback article in the Telegraph and suggest responses which will show you in the best possible light to future guests:

  1. Wi-fi: If we see another comparison with Starbucks! Honest answer: 'Either we charge for Wi-fi or we put all our rates up!' As a response to a review: 'We would love to give all our guests free wi-fi, but this would mean building the overall cost into our room charges. We have spoken to many of our guests about this and the majority are happy to have the lower room cost and to pay for wi-fi if they need it (many have alternative access to the internet on their mobile devices). We know it's not ideal, but it does enable us to provide very good value accommodation by comparison with nearby hotels."
  2. Mini-bar prices: Some groups are doing away with mini-bars altogether, simply because of the volume of negative reviews that focus on them. 'We find most of our guests understand that the minibar is an added service, on top of the hotel bar and restaurant and, of course, the many local bars. Our minibar prices are frequently checked against other local hotels to ensure they remain competitive.'
  3. Room service: 'Room service is an option that we know is appreciated by many guests; demand for room service often peaks during the later hours and we therefore have to maintain staff in the hotel to cater for that demand.'
  4. Tea and Coffee: In-room (not having): 'Extensive research with our guests has indicated a preference for room-service over in-room facilities.' Cost of formal afternoon: 'We find that many guests appreciate taking tea in the hotel, it is often mentioned as one of the highlights of their stay, and many non-residents come especially for it.'
  5. Breakfast: 'We pride ourselves on the quality of our breakfast, using only the very best ingredients, and many of our guests comment very favourably.'
  6. Spa treatments: 'All our spa staff our trained to the very highest standards and we find that demand for their services is very high and feedback from those who use the spa is universally positive.'
  7. Resort fees: 'You booked the wrong hotel.' No, seriously, some people don't read anything about the hotel before they book (often as not through an OTA, based on price alone). This complaint should be dealt with, along with many other price-related complaints, with a polite reference to 'our website' or 'the menu' or 'the notices prominently displayed'.
  8. Late check-out/early check-in: The bane of every hotelier: some people simply don't understand that the room wasn't purpose built for their stay, and their stay alone. 'I'm sorry we have to make a charge for [early/late] but our housekeeping staff have a very short space of time in which to thoroughly clean and prepare the room for you [and our next guests]. If, next time you stay, you would like to notify us of any special requirements in advance, we will do our very best to accommodate you.'
  9. Hidden VAT: 'All taxes are made clear on all our menus.'
  10. Charitable donations: We think the Telegraph are starting to scratch around here; it's always optional, no-one is forcing anyone to donate.
  11. On-demand films: You pay Sky, you pay the hotel, simples!
  12. Laundry fees: Whenever was laundry free?
  13. Towel deposit: 'We need to maintain a stock of towels sufficient for all of our guests, we introduced the deposit because we found that we were losing so many towels that the cost was beginning to impact on our room prices.'
The following (not included in the article because they are not cost-related) are some of the most frequent complaints we see coming through Dialogue:

  1. Room size: 'All room sizes are detailed on our website and we have various sizes to suit all our guests; please email me before your next stay with you requirements and I am sure we will be able to accommodate you.'
  2. Air-conditioning (too hot, too cold, lack of): 'Next time you stay please tell us immediately if your room is too [hot/cold] and we will address the issue immediately, whatever the time of day or night.'
  3. Street noise: 'Some of our guests prefer to have rooms on the street side of the hotel as they are unaffected by [London's] night-time sounds, equally we appreciate that some prefer our quieter rooms; please email us direct before your next stay and I am sure we will be able to accommodate you.'
We hope this helps; as all our clients know, we are always only a call away, so if you are having trouble responding to criticism in a review, just pick up the phone or email us and we'll make suggestions based on our moderators' extensive experience.

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