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Bring Down the Noise

Hoteliers have been grappling with this issue for ages. Here’s how some GMs handle this slippery issue.

Thursday, March 06, 2014
Harriet Edleson
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Noise is among the top two complaints at hotels though it’s not a topic general managers like to discuss.
Yet, those interviewed said the best strategy is prevention. When a noise complaint does arise, hotel staff from the front desk to security must be trained how to handle it.

“Everybody checks into a hotel expecting their stay is going to be perfect,” says Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power. Yet, noise is the second most reported problem, according to the 2013 J.D. Power North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Survey. One of five guests or 20 percent in the survey of 70,000 guests reported having some type of problem, says Garlick. Of those, 31 percent were internet problems and 16 percent were noise problems. That translates to 4.8 percent of guests reporting an internet problem and 3.2 percent reporting a noise problem, he says.

Only 43 percent of guests faced with a noise problem reported the problem. “You’ve got more people who are unhappy about noise than report it,” he said. Of those who do report a noise problem to the hotel, 29 percent said the problem was resolved, says Galick. The rest -- 71 percent -- weren’t.

Hotel guests can and do turn to social media to air their complaints. As the use of social media grows, complaints hit the internet. Hotel noise is the number one travel complaint cited in online guest reviews, according to an analysis by ReviewPro and reported by companies such as LogiSon Acoustic Network. The analysis included 2.5 million consumer reviews during the previous 12 months for 5,683 hotels.

Noise problems can be resolved in a variety of ways, but if and how a noise problem is addressed depends on the type of noise.

Hoteliers tend to have systems in place to resolve noise that is transient such as noise from renovation or from guests, whether it comes from the bar, the pool, or a nightclub on the property. Most hoteliers contacted declined to comment but those who did explained the procedures they have for dealing with noise and, in some cases, the staff training they use. “It’s a slippery conversation,” says Joel Neikirk, vice president of operations, Midamerica Hotels Corp., which owns and operates six hotels including one Holiday Inn, two Holiday Inn Express & Suites, one Hampton Inn, and two independent hotels. Telling guests they are making too much noise isn’t an easy task. “It’s all about educating – consumers and staff,” he says. Part of Midamerica Hotels’ strategy is to have a noise meter in their properties’ lobbies that lets guests know in advance the level of noise to expect on that particular day.

More generally, he says, “it depends on the type of clientele that you have.” For example, business travelers are likely to have an “expectation for quiet.”

In contrast, a leisure clientele might have different expectations, and be aware that groups of teen-agers, for example, might be staying at a hotel. Though a hotel may have a guideline for its staff that guests can be warned three times about noise before they’re asked to leave without a refund, Neikirk says different situations require flexibility. Sometimes, you can simply move guests, such as a family with a disabled family member who is unable to keep sound volume at a reasonable level, to another section of the hotel, he says.

Hoteliers tend to deal with noise of greater magnitude such as a highway traffic noise or neighborhood noise when they realize it’s affecting their business. Some hotels have resolved noise problems they determined were driving guests away, and costing them money. It could be traffic external to the hotel or room-to-room noise. Ambient sound level in a room can be so quiet – such as 30 decibels – that the external noise disturbs guests. Sounds from a refrigerator compressor cycling on and off, elevators, or air flow from air conditioners can become noise to a guest’s ears.

Indeed, the best way to deal with noise complaints is to prevent them. Companies such as LogiSon Acoustic Network specialize in creating solutions to dampen noise within the hotel and bring peace to guests.

“We try to prevent the complaints,” says Alex Attia, general manager of The Charles Hotel, Cambridge, Mass., a Preferred Hotel. If any general renovation is in progress, the hotel sends pre- and post-visit emails to guests to let them know. “We have signs (on the property) if we’re doing work,” he says. “With repeat customers, we look at the profile and try to make some accommodations for the person who wants to be away from the elevator or on a high floor.”

Hotel policies vary as to how to handle noise from a guest’s room that is disturbing other guests. Some give guests three warnings while others act more quickly.

“We’re very firm about that,” says Attia. “We give them one warning. The second warning we ask them to leave.” The damage to other guests is greater than the loss of one guest, he says. Security and a manager will go up to the room, and ask “nicely and gently,” says Attia. “We train the staff on that. It’s important that people come to our hotel and have quiet. We do not do anything that’s going to deprive them of that.”

Some guests won’t complain. “They may just log on to Trip Advisor because they feel angry because they weren’t warned about noise and feel compelled to tell others,” says Daniel Edward Craig, owner of Reknown, a Vancouver-based consulting company that specializes in online report management.
Harriet Edleson
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Harriet Edleson is author of The Little Black Book of Washington, DC: The Essential Guide to America's
Capital (Peter Pauper Press, 2007, 2010, 2012) and a contributor to the Itineraries section of The New York Times.
She was Washington Correspondent of Travel Agent magazine from 1993-1999, and creator of "Two Tickets to Paradise," a monthly travel segment on WMAL-Radio, the ABC affilate in Washington, DC. She now lives in Manhattan. Harriet333@aol.com
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RE: Bring Down the Noise article link
One source of noise you didn't mention that is my pet peeve is caused by housekeeping staff primarily in the corridors which is totally preventable. There has been many a hotel where I have run into this issue.
Posted by: Mr. Gary E Fletcher - MHS
Email: gef@dowfletcher.com

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