It’s going to happen eventually, no matter how hard you try; something is going to happen and somebody is going to get upset and complain. Maybe there was a problem with a reservation, or somebody’s food came out cold. Whatever it is, it may be up to you to resolve the problem. This is your quick guide to dealing with complaints.

It is VERY important to resolve guest complaints. Only 4% of dissatisfied guests will voice a complaint. If a guest’s complaint is not resolved, they will tell far more people about their experience than if their complaint was resolved. many customers whose complaints aren’t resolved will never come back to do business with you. With odds like those, you can see why it’s so important that complaints get resolved!

Statistically, very few customers will voice their complaints to someone who can help, but will them to anyone else that will listen which can create problems for business.

The method we use to resolve complaints is the LEAF method. LEAF stands for Listen, Empathize, Action and Follow up.


Remembering the LEAF method is the key to resolving guest complaints

Listening to customer’s complaints is your opportunity to show them that you care. How do we do this? You guessed it, active listening. Focus on what they’re saying, use small verbal cues to reinforce that you’re hearing them, and mirror their body language and facial expressions. Be careful not to interrupt! interrupting the speaker is only going to make them more upset than they already are. let them finish what they’re saying.


Empathy means that not only do you understand somebody else’s emotions, but you FEEL them as well. You’ve shown them that you understand, now tell them. This your turn to speak, acknowledge how the guest is feeling and apologize. Apologizing does not mean that you take the blame for the complaint (this could become a liability issue), it means that you apologize for the inconvenience or for their disappointment.


Ask the guest about a solution that would make them happy and resolve the issue. You can also offer a few alternative solutions and allow the guest to decide. There are three basic outcomes that are possible with guest complaint: Win/Win, Win/Lose and Lose/Lose. The ideal outcome is Win/Win, which means that everyone walks away feeling that the solution to the problem was fair for everybody.

Follow Up

Following up means to check in with the guest to make sure that they’re satisfied with the solution to the problem. This is your opportunity to take customer service to the next level because it reinforces that you really care about their experience. Remember, the guest’s experience is the one that matters. Take any feedback they have and try to learn from it, not feel attacked. Every situation is an opportunity to learn.

Check out the 3A English textbook to learn more about guest complaints and resolution

And that’s your quick guide to complaint resolution. Complaints really are an unfortunate and unpleasant part of the business, but they’re part of it nonetheless. Keep a cool head and remember the LEAF method when it happens. If you take it in stride and don’t let it ruin your day, you’ll be OK!

By James

I'm the creator of the 3A Hospitality English Program and Co-Founder of I lived and taught in China for a few years and am currently back in BC, Canada. Thanks for joining us here, I hope we can learn some cool new things together!