This is a word you should never have to say, and yet it is one that can have a very powerful effect when used correctly.
For most well-run properties, mistakes are a rarity. While this doesn’t preclude them from happening entirely (we are human after all and errors are bound to crop up during transition periods or staff turnover), apologising is not something we do only when we are at fault.
This comes down to a debate between logic and emotions. When a guest comes to you with a grievance or compliant, they are probably not in a purely rational state of mind. Regardless of whether it was an actual error on our part or if the guests have overlooked something, we say that we’re sorry in order to show humility and to empathise with their plight.
A good mantra to adhere to in this regard is: “The customer may not always be right, but the customer is always king.”
Rather than shifting the blame or attempting to logically show how the hotel is absolved of culpability, just say the ‘S’ word then work with the guest to resolve the issue. I’ve witnessed this firsthand and heard stories of it countless times where the hotel staffer reacts defensively to a guest’s criticism, and it never ends well. Even though it’s commendable for a team member to stand up and protect the integrity of your property, I can’t think of one instance where this tactic has won over a guest. In an emotionally charged debate, logical reasoning never wins.
Instead of exacerbating an issue, a quick and sincere ‘sorry’ is the path of least resistance. Only once you have demonstrated that you care can you politely insinuate that maybe, perhaps or possibly the hotel isn’t at fault…or at least not completely so.
Moreover, this simple phrasing harks back to what it means to be a hospitality professional and dedicated to service. That word ‘service’ implies that you are willing and able to serve or oftentimes act subserviently to achieve a given result. Guests may not be expecting you to be at their beck and call for everything, but they will certainly appreciate that you care or are at least attempting to understand.
Sometimes the true nature of service means going beyond the mere tasks you perform and into the manner with which you perform them. Deploying the magic ‘S’ word in the right place will help guests see that you performing those tasks with only their best interests at heart.