The Parish House Inn

103 South Huron Street, Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197


June 19, 2017

Customer Service; creating raving fans

Posted by: Martha Cleary

Customer Service; creating raving fans


 Creating Raving Fans for your Business

When a guest is unhappy would you rather they suffer in silence or tell you about it? It's human nature to want to defend our business when a guest complains. But is that the correct approach?

Many years ago I was at a Professional Association of Innkeepers B&B conference in San Francisco. One of the sessions was called “A Complaint is a Gift”, by Janelle Barlow ,based on her newly published book.

Really? I was curious and found a seat in the front row so I wouldn't miss a word.

The speaker, Janelle Barlow, was just getting started with her career. Her presentation was so memorable that I have used this approach ever since.

Let's think about her premise that a complaint is a gift. How can that be?

What makes someone want to complain in the first place? Very simple: their expectations are not being met

  1. The room was not clean, hot, too small, not what I expected
  2. Bathroom didn't have soap, enough towels, water not hot
  3. It was noisy in the house, I heard street traffic, sirens
  4. WIFI or password didn't work, no cell phone reception
  5. Breakfast time wasn't good, I have food allergies (didn't tell you),
  6. You name it........

Sound familiar? Our first reaction often is to defend ourselves. After all we have worked really hard to make it all perfect. How dare they complain!

But think about it. This can be an opportunity for you to not only fix the problem but create a raving fan who will tell everybody how fantastic you are. On the other hand, if you didn't know about their problem, they might write a less than favorable review, tell their friends and will not return. Repeat business is so important for everyone.

What's the answer?

Make sure guests know you welcome their feedback. Let them know that you want to know if there are any problems or concerns while they are there. "Please let me know if you need anything".

When  a guest complains, I follow Janelle Barlow's "Golden Rules for Handling Complaints" which are:

  1. Say “thank you”.
  2. Explain why you appreciate the complaint.
  3. Apologize for the mistake/problem.
  4. Promise to do something about it immediately.
  5. Ask for necessary information.
  6. Correct the mistake – promptly.
  7. Check customer satisfaction.
  8. Prevent future mistakes.

 Here's a script that I use:

“Thank you for letting me know. I depend on my guests to let me know about problems. I am so sorry you had a problem with this. I will take care of it right now. Can you give me the details? “

I check back with the guest before they leave to thank them again for letting me know. If it is really a serious problem that you have no control over (power out) you may have to offer some compensation. I have logo mugs that work as a token of appreciation.

Finally: take the last point seriously.

Here's a check list if you keep hearing the same thing again and again.

  1. Review you systems and procedures.
  2. Look at your website for photo's and information that might be misleading to a potential guest.
  3. If you have staff, you make sure to check their work. (I have learned this the hard way).
  4. I have a detailed welcome letter in each guest room. I pick up that letter and go over it point by point with the guests so I don't forget anything and they can refer to it.
  5. Take care of yourself!

Try this approach the next time you have a complaint and you'll create a “Raving Fan” who willingly post a 5 star review.


By Chris Mason

Chef/innkeeper at the Parish House inn bed and breakfast for 24 years and author of her cook book

Chris Mason

"7 Recipes to get You Out of bed For Breakfast Every Morning"

Contact information:
telephone: 734-480-4800

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