Dealing with Difficult Customers

The business rational for providing service recovery is well-documented. But the reality is that responding appropriately to guest service problems while “under fire” can be difficult— even for seasoned customer service workers.

We need to support our frontline teams in dealing with difficult customers by giving them the tools they need to succeed.

That’s where things like the LAST model come in. You can teach this to your frontline team to guide them through interactions with difficult customers. LAST stands for:





Print and laminate, then cut out the little squares and place at your frontline work stations. (Download PDF)

I’ made little squares of the LAST Model you can download, print, cut out, and post at your frontline workstations (out of guest view!) They don’t have to stay there forever…just long enough so your team won’t forget how to drive the conversation with difficult guests. (Download PDF)

So how does the LAST model flow in practice? What happens at each step?

First, we LISTEN to our upset guests, letting them vent and complain. We clarify what they are saying. (“Let me be sure I understand what you’re telling me: you requested maintenance at 9p.m. last night. A few hours after our maintenance staff left, the toilet in your room started running again, which made it difficult for you to sleep.”) That leads into our…

APOLOGY. (“…Absolutely, I understand that wasn’t the way you wanted to start your vacation and I’m sorry you had to deal with that.”) A sincere apology can go a long way. Even in circumstances when we didn’t do anything wrong, you can still apologize because we did not live up to our guests expectations.

Next, we need to SOLVE this issue. If appropriate, we ask questions like “What can I do to resolve this for you?” When we ask this, we learn what our guests’ expectations are. With our toilet example, some guests will want a new room. Some will want maintenance to return and attempt to fix it again. Some will want their entire 10-night stay comped.

(Yes, upset customers ask for unreasonable things.  But often, these things do not seem as unreasonable to them as they are to us. Use their suggestions as a starting point. For example, “I’m sorry I can’t comp your 10-night stay because of the running toilet, but I can provide you with a refund for last night and upgrade you to a suite for the rest of your stay.” In any case, frontline staff should be trained to refrain from saying NO to guest requests right away. If the answer is NO, then it’s best that it come from a leader.)

Once we have solved the issue, we turn our attention to THANKING our guest for bringing the issue to our attention. We tell them that we’re glad they’re here and that we hope they’ll come back and see us again if we can help them with anything else. We often forget this THANKING step because we’re so glad to be done with them!

So there you go.


Listen. Apologize. Solve. Thank.

This entry was posted in Guest Experience, Leading and Managing, Service Excellence, Training and Development and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dealing with Difficult Customers

  1. Lenore Lopez Mulligan says:

    These are principles that Mr. Wayne Chandler spoke about: Listen, apologize, solve, and thank. This important to memorize to be a good leader and manager. Lenore Mulligna

  2. Lenore Lopez Mulligan says:

    This article was very insightful as to how to use the “Last” principles on dealing with an up set customer. !. Let the client vent 2.appologize with understanding their upset. 3. What can I do to resolve this. 4. Thank them for bringing it to our attention. Very goo. Lenore Mulligan

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