A couple of interesting posts (one about dealing with angry customers, and one about personal interation with them) from Mr. Godin which relate directly to our business. Neither is rocket science. But, I think we (hotel people) sometimes make it more complicated than it needs to be.
In the case of angry guests, we often try so hard to solve the problem, we forget to make the guest feel better...which is not always the same thing. Empathy, compassion and understanding are what matter...not, so much the 25% discount. Your job in this situation is to be genuine and regain the guest's trust. Because, in the end, that's what matters. That's going to make the difference between someone who tells their friends how lousy you are to how well you recover...or maybe they'll just be silent (better than angry). The giving away part just brings immediacy to your actions and accelerates the healing process for some. And, as Seth points out, don't expect to win everyone back...it's not going to happen.
With regard to personal interaction...I agree, there is no more effective substitute for a handshake or a personal thank you. And, he's right, the bigger we get, the more we lose the art of personally serving our guests...before, during and after the visit. Would you rather stand in line at the front desk to check-in and out? Or, would you rather receive a personal welcome at the front door and a hand shake (better yet, a hug) when you leave?