Making room for improvement

Sravanthi Challapalli | Updated on May 17, 2018 Published on May 17, 2018

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What do quality guarantees at hotels involve?


What’s your favourite hotel horror story? Mighty cockroaches and not-so-meek rodents zipping around the room, a disintegrating ceiling, noisy neighbours or a thief divesting you of your money and valuables? While this last may not be a common occurrence, the rest are. According to Expedia’s Flight and Hotel Etiquette Survey, the top complaints among Indians checking into hotels are bed bugs, cigarette smoke or other foul smells, hair in the bed and used condoms. What could make up for this? Would you be happy with the hotel management making amends or would you be happier with a refund?

Recently, hotel chain Treebo launched a campaign that promised guests their money back if their experience at the hotel wasn’t perfect. Perfect pay, or don’t stay, it said, reinforcing its “100 per cent quality guarantee”. This is not a new facility, says Treebo’s co-Founder Sidharth Gupta. The chain already had it, but is highlighting it now as people are not aware of it. If customer care cannot redress complaints, we refund the amount, whether the guest stays on or leaves, says Gupta.

As for the services covered under this facility, he mentions basic amenities including air-conditioning, TV, Wi-fi, branded toiletries, prompt and friendly service and hygiene. There is a cap of ₹1,200 on the amount that can be refunded. Room rates start at ₹999.



Pacifying matters

Quite a few hotel establishments across the world offer this guarantee. Radisson Blu is one of them. Paritosh Ladhani, Executive Director, Radisson Blu Agra, says there are very, very few instances when guests want their money back. “In 99.9 per cent of cases, we do service recovery. We make the guests understand it was out of the hotel’s control and make it up to them in various ways. If they are still hell-bent on getting their money, we honour our commitment,” says Ladhani, who describes the guarantee more as a promise than as something inscribed in stone. He recounts various complaints by guests and how they were addressed – when there was a power cut, the hotel organised movies and free beer in the banquet hall, when there was a wedding that kept other guests awake, the hotel refunded their money, a guest who complained was moved to the Presidential suite but refused to be satisfied … “There has to be a human element to this,” says Ladhani, saying that the standards, expectations, specifications and variables are too many to be confined to a written promise. They could range from the softness of the mattress to the temperature in the room to the taste of the food, requirements for which each guest would have their own preference.

Online travel agent (OTA) Make My Trip and its arm GoIbibo also offer 100 per cent satisfaction guarantees from the hotels featured on their site.


Breaking a mental block

Mohit Gupta, COO, MakeMyTrip, says this aims to remove the trust barrier. For new users online, the lack of human contact while paying for a room before actually seeing it can be a big disincentive. “We are also confident of putting our neck on the line that in case something goes wrong, they can connect on the special 24x7 hotline where their issues would get resolved within 60 minutes, failing which they would be offered a free stay/ room upgrade/ stay at a better or higher star category hotel at no extra cost,” says Gupta.

Treebo’s Sidharth Gupta says a lot of hotel businesses try to offer this but the benefit lies in how easy it is to implement. “An OTA is not direct, there’s too much back and forth,” he says.

Mohit Gupta says the maximum calls for redress they get are not complaints but queries or requests for action like cancellation. As for GoIbibo, which focuses on value-conscious travellers, the ‘money back’ guarantees for certified hotels is an important step in providing standardised solutions at scale, says Parikshit Choudhury, Senior Vice-President. The GoTime promise, which defines the period in which a customer’s service request is addressed. Such guarantees build credibility, he says.

Why is Treebo running the campaign now, when the guarantee is not new? “We’re fully ready to honour it,” says Gupta, adding that it puts the onus on the chain to give customers a good experience.

Such policies are important. They tell the hotel about service failures, and can fend off negative reviews or at least prevent their wide reach.

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Published on May 17, 2018
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