What happens if you check into a hotel or into your cruise cabin and things just aren't right? Maybe you paid for an oceanview room and got a parking lot view, or maybe your toilet is overflowing and the smell is making you sick. These things happen -to everyone- and how these issues are resolved is often in your hands.
It is true that many customer service issues seem to get short shrift these days. Hotel and cruise line staffing is down, which means that fewer people are handling more problems. Some personnel just don't realize the importance of good customer care; training in this area is lacking for new employees, and more seasoned employees are tired and overworked. At the same time, while the hotels and cruise lines are cutting staff, they are also trying to increase their customer base, which can only happen with excellent consumer relations. So remember: The hotel or cruise line wants to keep you happy, there is a resolution, and it will take patience and understanding on your part as well as on the part of the business.
Rule One: Keep calm. After traveling long distances, dragging luggage through security, through airports, out to the curb for shuttles and taxis, after waiting for boarding or for your room to be made up, there is nothing more frustrating than being unable to relax because something is wrong with your room. I know that I have nearly cried, and have wanted to throw something or to yell at someone, but try to be calm. Assess the situation unemotionally and prepare to request assistance.
Rule Two: Be Specific. At the same time that you are telling the front desk or purser's desk about the problem, be prepared to present a solution. Don't just say "I don't like my room." Tell them why you don't like it, or tell them what's wrong with it and suggest ways in which the situation can be remedied.
Rule Three: Accept responsibility if the mistake is yours and be prepared to pay an upgrade fee if required. If your travel agent told you that your room was an oceanview but your document clearly says "standard" or "run of house," the hotel or resort is not obligated to move you to another room for free. You can deal with your travel agent later (or be angry at yourself for not paying attention,) but don't ruin your vacation over it. I was once checked into a room in a New Orleans hotel that had no windows. I didn't think such a room type existed, and I was horrified. No way could I be enclosed in a brick room with no view to the outside. The front desk pointed out that I had booked an "interior" room, and I pointed out that since there was a courtyard I assumed that's what the room type meant. They admitted that I wasn't the first person to have made that assumption and after a few minutes of discussion and a small upgrade fee, I was moved to a nice, large room with a view of the lovely courtyard.
Rule Four: Go up the chain of command. Start with the front desk if you're in a hotel, or your room steward or the purser's desk if you are on a ship. (Remember that boarding days are hectic for the crew and you might need more patience than you think you have.) The point here is that you don't need to start calling the big guns unless your problem isn't resolved by the people who are supposed to take care of it. Get the name of the person you are speaking to so you will have a specific person to whom to refer if the problem persists. If the front desk or purser's office don't help you in a reasonable period of time, call again, and if they seem busy or preoccupied or unwilling to assist, ask for the phone number to the specific department that will be able to resolve your issue.
Rule Five: If you haven't managed to find a solution to your problem in what would be a reasonable period of time, move up the hierarchy in your hotel or ship. This usually means contacting the Guest Relations Manager on a cruise or the Front Desk Manager in a hotel. If that doesn't work, the next step would be the Hotel Manager on a ship and the General Manager in a hotel. Again, remember to be polite and reasonable at all times, and continue to get names.
There are occasions in which there is just simply no way to resolve your complaint: The hotel is full, for example, and that oceanview room isn't available. It happens. In that case, try to find a reasonable way in which the hotel can compensate you --perhaps a meal in one of the hotel restaurants, or a bottle of wine delivered to your room. Don't demand nor expect a complimentary stay. You won't get it, and you'll end up looking ridiculous. You want to present yourself as composed and reasonable at all times.
Hotels and cruise ships are giant, intricate operations in which things often go wrong. That should not surprise anyone. A true measure of commitment to customer service is how a problem is resolved, and it is almost always resolved to the reasonable customer's satisfaction.
Rule Six: Write a letter. After you get home, sit down and write a letter to the corporation involved. And this means both positive and negative letters. If your problem was resolved to your satisfaction, make sure to write a letter thanking and acknowledging the person or people who helped you. If it wasn't, write a concise letter outlining the problem, what you did to try to resolve it, the names of the people with whom you spoke, and the end result of the situation. It does take time to write these letters, but they are important. Many people will sit down to write one that's a complaint, but the one that's an acknowlegement of excellent service is just as important, if not more so.
Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, it is simply not worth ruining your trip by being upset or angry. And remember too that you are dealing with people; the more reasonable and polite you are, the more likely they will be to assist you. It's just human nature.