How to deal with blacklisted hotel guests

Dealing with blacklisted guests

“The guest is always right” - a piece of advice which usually stands up, that is until one particular guest takes it upon themselves to detach the 60” LCD TV from the wall of your premium suite and throw it into the car park fifteen feet below the balcony.

That isn’t right, is it?

Not every guest is perfect. Some are downright rude while others resort to criminal damage or - admittedly on rarer occasions - physical violence.

As a result, hotels have long adopted the blacklisting strategy where naughty guests are prevented from ever booking again by having their card marked within the hotel booking system’s customer database.

In this post, we’re going to look at how to define a guest as deserving of an entry in the blacklist and consider the ways in which front desk staff can be empowered to deal with such people should they decide to try and reserve another room in the future.

Under which circumstances should you blacklist a guest?

The answer to this is largely subjective and down to just how much you’re willing to tolerate as a hotelier, but we’ve picked out a few scenarios where the ultimate hospitality red card may need to be shown:

  • The guest leaves without paying. Clearly, a phone call is required to ensure there wasn’t a legitimate reason for their sudden disappearance (if there was, payment can kindly be requested and should normally follow), but if Mr Smith bolts without paying and can no longer be contacted, he’s not to be trusted. Hoteliers have little time to chase room debts - there’s plenty more guests in the sea, so to speak.
  • The guest causes significant damage to your property. As that expensive TV smashes into the hotel owner’s Bentley and shatters into a thousand sharp shards of glass that will inevitably injure an innocent passer-by, one thing should be on your mind: “this guest must never stay in our hotel, ever again”.
  • The guest verbally or physically abuses a member of staff. If the assault is physical, clearly, you’ll need to call the police, but it goes without saying that such a guest must never darken your door again.
  • The guest has endless, lofty requests you simply can’t fulfil. As counterintuitive as it may sound, this guest may not be the guest for you. Clearly, you’re not up to scratch in their book, and if they’re taking up oodles of your staff’s time in dealing with requests for gold toothbrushes and endless bowls of Skittles with all the purple ones removed, you’re much better off without them.

Have we missed any obvious bad guest behaviour that warrants blacklist inclusion? Let us know in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

How reception staff should deal with blacklisted guests

One thing you can’t do as a hotelier is prevent blacklisted guests from contacting the hotel again in the future. They may do this via phone, email or - at worst - place an online booking, but providing you have the right hotel booking system in place, staff should be quickly aware of their presence on a blacklist*.

When such instances occur, your staff need to feel equipped, empowered and ready to deal with them. Understandably, they may be a little nervous about doing so.

To help settle those nerves, here’s a step-by-step process for dealing with blacklisted guests if you’re a member of the front desk team. We’ll assume they decided to call, in this instance:

  1. Listen to their request as you would do any other guest - don’t interject with the bad news immediately or resort to name calling.
  2. Politely explain that you are unable to accept a reservation from them due to a previous incident at the hotel.
  3. They’ll probably ask which incident you’re referring to. Explain that you simply can’t go into detail, and that the decision has been made by the hotel management.
  4. If they continue to push for a reservation, calmly reiterate that you simply don’t have the ability to do so.
  5. Suggest they seek alternative accommodation (avoid referencing the competition - that’s a bit of a cheap shot and won’t win you any friends).
  6. If they simply won’t give in, tell them you’ll pass their contact details onto the hotel manager.
  7. If they become abusive, say “I’m sorry, I cannot continue this conversation if you’re going to be verbally abusive.” Unless the placate, simply hang up (you’re absolutely entitled to).

Every hotel has to deal with a blacklisted guest at some stage. It’s a nasty business, but can be made all the more simple and less damaging if you follow the rules and guidelines above.

The good news? Few blacklisted guests will try to re-book more than once!
*Some hotel booking systems will have specific blacklist functionality, while others will enable you to create one by using custom fields. Both options work well.

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