Turning Customer Complaints into positive experiences
Even the best run tourism businesses occasionally have to deal with customer complaints, it’s the nature of a service industry that no matter how hard you try you won’t be able to meet every customer’s expectations all of the time.
The mark of a truly professional team though is how they deal with these complaints or issues and most importantly how they turn these negative experiences into positive ones.
We all know that a disappointed customer will tell more people about their experience than someone who is satisfied.
We also know that through social media and review sites negative reviews about your business can stick with you for a very long time!
In one facility I recently managed we were still battling against negative reviews posted on Trip Advisor some 7-8 years previously!
Here I share with you some of my own personal thoughts on how to minimize the impact of negative experiences.
Don’t let the complaint out of the building
As soon as a customer leaves your building you’re chances of addressing their issues drop off a cliff. Put in place visible customer feedback mechanisms (customer feedback forms, customer feedback terminals, signage and reminders to encourage your customers to let you know about their experiences (good and bad) at all of your touch points. Encourage your staff to engage with customers, to look out for customers who may not be happy and to draw their attention to the feedback system.
Make sure a supervisor or manager is always on hand to respond promptly and with authority to resolve any issue that may arise.
Train, train and train again
Basic Customer service skills are simple and easy to learn. All staff should be given at the very least an introduction on good customer care. You will be amazed how many issues can be avoided or defused by simply dealing with the issue in person with a smile and sympathy. If your staff understand what a customer expects to receive before a transaction takes place there is a very good chance that the customer will go away happy and the staff member will enjoy the experience.
The power of active listening
Make sure your supervisors and managers at the very least are trained and practiced in the art of “active listening”. This sounds complicated but in fact is very simple. Listen to what the customer has to say calmly and quietly. Repeat back to them the issue they are complaining about to make sure they know you understand it properly and propose a solution which is appropriate to the issue.
Don’t take an issue personally, treat the customer with respect and compassion and empathise with their situation.
Empower your staff
In every organization I have managed I have ensured that each and every member of staff understands that they have the authority to resolve a customer’s issue. No matter what the complaint the staff member can use their own discretion to come up with a solution which satisfies the customer. They also know how to escalate the issues to someone with more responsibility if required. If the complaints can’t be resolved on the spot, then a senior manager must be contacted who will resolve it. Never pass a customer complaint from desk to desk. Resolve it quickly and decisively.
Go the extra mile
If the issue requires a refund them don’t simply refund to the same value. The impact of the issue is most likely that their day has been tainted which is precious to them. As a minimum I encourage staff to refund and replace. If this does not seem appropriate them be generous with your offer of compensation. Exceeding the customer’s expectations will never go un-noticed.
Know your rights
Regrettably not all customer complaints are honest and legitimate. Over time you will be able to spot the very few that are trying to take advantage of your organization and effectively “con” you out of goods or services. Stay up to date with consumer law and make sure you know your rights.
Monitor the complaints
It is vitally important as a Senior Leadership team that you monitor the number, nature and outcome of all customer complaints. Analyse trends and causes and take action to resolve the root causes as soon as they are identified. Don’t less issues fester within your organization as you will simply be storing up issues for the future. If issues are being caused by systems and procedures, change them! If your customers are being given false expectations from your marketing, alter the message! If a member of staff is failing to meet your standard retrain them or deal with the issue more directly.
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