Understanding Service Recovery and Its Impact On Guest Experience

Hospitality businesses are built on providing the highest standards of service to guests. The hotel technology experience can make things easier, but it is the duty of every single hotel staff member to ensure that there is a seamless continuity of service standards through the guest journey. 

What is Service Recovery?

In the event of service failure, the actions taken by the hotel to rectify this failure are called service recovery. Service failure is a normal occurrence in business, it can occur due to several factors like unavailability of service at promised times or poor staff execution. Whatever the cause, service failure give rise to negative feelings and triggers dissatisfaction in guest experiences.       

Service recovery is designed to identify customers who have experienced terrible service failures and then resolve the issues to stimulate customer retention. The service recovery process to enhance the guest experience in hospitality must be systematic and strategic. It is not something that should be put down on paper just for the sake of having it, the organization’s culture & staff must accept the value of every guest. 

The Service Recovery Process

Depending on the hotel technology experience in modern hotels, the service recovery process can vary significantly. This process basically defines the value of customers to a hospitality business. 

A great example from recent memory is the Starwood Hotels case that came in the spotlight in 2018. Starwood Hotels (now part of the Marriott Group) fell victim to one of the biggest data hacks in hospitality starting in 2014. The weakness was discovered in 2018 with close to 400 million guest records already compromised.    

Since Marriott had already acquired Starwood Hotels, the breach spread to the data servers of twelve other subsidiaries owned by the group. Upon identifying the hack Marriott set up a dedicated website, a customer services hotline, issued apologies emails, and contacted US law enforcement to mitigate the situation. 

Although Marriott Group did what was right, it was too late a response for something as severe as a data breach. The Marriott group is now undergoing a multi-million dollar lawsuit surpassing $120 million. 

Building a service recovery process requires addressing all service delivery areas of a hotel. There are five essential steps to ensure that all service failures are addressed and resolved before the issue escalates into a complaint:

Anticipating Guest Demands

The process begins with anticipating the demands of guests and what they expect from the customer journey. If hoteliers can successfully identify guest needs at every step of the customer journey, it becomes easier to create a clear roadmap of what to do in case of a service failure. 

Acknowledge Guests Feelings

Service recovery should immediately go into motion once a failure is discovered. Hotel staff & executives should acknowledge the issue and offer comfort to alleviate guest’s dissatisfaction. When going through a service recovery process remember that arguing or explaining the company’s position is “irrelevant”.  

Accept the responsibility and act on resolving the service failure, to deliver better service than it would have been the first time. 

Apologize and Accept Responsibility

Apologizing is the first step to arriving at a positive resolution for guest grievances at hotels. Both professionals and academics agree that a simple apology can turn negative situations, into positive opportunities. Taking responsibility and apologizing for a service failure doesn’t make you look guilty, it will not enforce a lawsuit if you rectify the situation immediately. 

Consider a guest who was unable to use Netflix in their room because of degraded internet speed. For hotels that market their brand for hotel technology experience, this is a terrible flaw in the customer journey. Hotel technology providers usually offer 24/7/365 assistance for guests to quickly resolve issues with the internet, a common practice by most hotels. 

Suggest Alternatives 

A great way to give the guest control of their hotel experience is by offering them alternatives for a service failure. Suggest alternatives that are available immediately to give guests instant control over their experience. 

Consider the example of a guest who arrives at the hotel after a 6-hour journey and checks-in through a faulty automated concierge. The tired guest will be terribly annoyed, but the staff can instantly take control and offer them manual check-in on the highest priority as an alternative.   

Rewarding the Guest 

Offering compensation or rewards to delight the guest is one of the most common practices in hospitality. While many hotels get it wrong even with well-defined service recovery processes, it is the best way to ensure a favorable result. 

In most cases, an apology and a follow up from the hotel management is ideal to diffuse a service failure. Offering guests gift baskets, free amenities, and discounts are just a few service recovery rewards that hotels use.   

Service Recovery & Hotel Technology Providers 

When it comes to technology and service recovery, consultants for hotels recommend planning for the worst. Service recovery as I mentioned above is a strategic policy decision. It requires identifying areas of service, failure probability, the ideal response times, and resolution procedures. 

Today, most hotels carry a mix of technologies for guests including POS machines, HD TVs, high-speed internet, voice assistant, tablets, mobile apps, etc. Even a single malfunctioning tech at a hotel can be damaging for the entire guest technology experience. 

Hotel technology providers who have previously worked with branded franchises, usually have contingency plans ready to address service recovery scenarios. POS connection errors, internet downtimes, server crashes, malfunctioning PCs, viruses & cyber threats, etc. are all part of technology integrations at hotels.  

Technology consultants & partners for hotels generally offer ‘technology management policy’ advice to hotel owners when installations are being conducted. This also includes educating & training staff to be more confident when delivering service through these technologies. This training is essential and assures that the most crucial factor of service failure, human error, is actively addressed. 

In addition, a great hotel technology provider will always keep hardware & software compliance in check too. They will ensure the monitoring of hotel technology over its life span, and also deliver timely upgrade reports to hotel owners before renovations are due.    


Service recovery is an essential element of hospitality, and hotel owners should proactively plan for it. Technology service failures are usually critical in nature and must be addressed by experts diligently. A strategic and well-defined service recovery process is the defining aspect of any hotel that highly values its guests. 

I hope you enjoyed our brief discussion on service recovery in the hospitality industry. Remember to share this article with other hoteliers and visit us again for more interesting reads.