Comment cards are dying. So are letters to the GM or corporate office. People don't have faith in that system anymore, mainly because they don't trust anything will happen...that no good will come of it. On-line is where it's at. Guests are turning to sites like Tripadvisor, VibeAgent, epinions, etc., to air their issues and concerns. It makes perfect sense...it's immediate and unfiltered (no interference from the hotel or restaurant). Tripadvisor allows hoteliers to post a public response to reviews. But, this can be very dangerous because there's a natural tendency to defend the actions and offer "reasons" for problems in order to control the damage. And, that's bad. A better strategy is to reach out to individuals personally, apologize and solve the problem. Hopefully, trust is regained and with any luck, the offended party becomes a loyal fan. They might even add a follow-up review describing your turnaround. If you're compelled to post a public reply, keep it focused on an apology, your appreciation for feedback and your efforts to reach the party personally. And, as I've mentioned before, add some links to these reviews on your website to demonstrate how important they are to you...both good and bad.
Another option is for the hotelier to create a separate conversation and invite these guests to join-in and offer their comments and perhaps even share in the corrective process. Vibeagent's Adam Healey discusses this very scenario in an exchange on Chris Clarke's Vacant Ready blog. Looks like VibeAgent is heading in the right direction by encouraging hoteliers to use this platform.