This is the first of what will be a regular section of the blog where I describe a problem scenario that a hotel is faced with and how the problem is successfully solved. I will be speaking from real scenarios that I’ve experienced, hypothetical scenarios and answering readers who have sent me a problem scenario that they would like an answer to. For this post I will be writing about a time when a group showed up and their reservation was not in our property management system (PMS). Because there’s plenty of advice on the internet for guests when faced with a lost reservation but not so for hotels.
It’s a Monday afternoon around 12:00pm and I’m in my office when the front desk agent comes to me and says a group has arrived but she can’t find them in our system. Perhaps it’s a lost reservation by the PMS. The group claims to have 11 guest rooms booked for tonight and a conference room for the whole day. They understand that check-in is not until 4:00pm but the lady they booked with over the phone said they could access the conference room at any time.
How Did the Lost Reservation Happen?
Immediately I realized how this mix up had occurred,
I’m the sales manager so every group reservation is my responsibility.
The group leader says they made their reservation by calling the hotel and speaking to a lady.
Whoever they spoke to checked the availability in the PMS, told them that we had rooms but forgot to forward the guests information to me.
From that initial phone call the group leader got the impression that their reservation was confirmed.
Not quite. Luckily for us it was a Monday and I knew that we had enough rooms available. As the sales manager I also knew off the top of my head that all of our conference rooms were available.
Don’t Let the Guest Know There’s a Problem
This is the key when faced with any problem in a hotel. Where possible do not let the guest know that there’s a problem. Even if you have to lie. Imagine how this group would react if a manager told them we have a lost reservation and they’re not in our system even after the front desk agent has asked for my assistance. Not good. When faced with any problem in a hotel all staff should try to remain calm, especially hotel management.
Assure the guest that everything is fine.
Fix the problem.
How Was the Lost Reservation Fixed?
The first thing I did was after gathering all of the information from the front desk agent was walk out to the lobby and introduce myself to the group leader with a smile then went behind the front desk to look at our PMS system.
I double checked that their reservation was indeed lost just in case the front desk agent had made a mistake.
Checked for 11 available rooms.
I told the group leader that yes; we did have their reservation in the system. A LIE!
But then I said, “We have them all under your groups name but we actually need the name of each individual in our system. Could you write down the names of each guest? Thanks”.
I handed over a pen and paper and told the guest that I was just going to run to the conference room and check that everything is set up for them. I asked how they wanted the tables and chairs and he said 2 round tables should be fine.
I went to the conference room while he wrote down all of the names. Once in the conference room I opened the adjacent storage room and pulled out 2 round tables and 11 chairs. Setting them up took me less than a minute. PHEW!
I returned to the front desk and assured the group leader that the conference room was ready but as check-in isn’t until 4:00pm I’ll make sure housekeeping prioritize their rooms to have them ready as soon as possible. The group was delighted!
While they all headed to the conference room I created a group reservation for 11 guest rooms and had the front desk agent enter the names of each individual from the group leader’s list.
Being a Monday we were lucky to have 11 clean guest rooms ready for check-in so we assigned them to our group, made up some keys and I brought them to the conference room for the guests.
As you can see the group got into their rooms without ever knowing that we had a problem with their lost reservation. In this case, I recognized that it was okay to lie because I knew for sure that I could successfully resolve the situation. I also minimized the wait time by going to and setting up the conference room while the group leader wrote down the names. And even though I knew that we probably had 11 clean rooms available I still told the group leader that check-in wasn’t until 4:00pm. This not only gave us enough time if the rooms were not available but more importantly, it made the hotel look fantastic when I handed the group their room keys before 4:00pm. Just look at how we turned this lost reservation into so many customer service positives for the hotel!
Thanks for reading
- Have you ever had a lost reservation and how did you handle it?
- What else could I have done in this scenario?