Do you think operators really believe "complaints" are opportunities?
Or do they instinctively go defensive in the face of such feedback?
When was the last time you raised a problem and had it resolved with no hassle?
Operators may not believe it, but I do... I practically wrote a book about dealing with these situations (how to be a hotel receptionist, available on amazon kindle and in paperback from Lulu.com).
It is only natural for people to get defensive about something they are passionate about... The issue is people being defensive without actually accepting what you say. The complaint is an amazing opportunity... Believe it or not, I and many of my colleagues are able to turn most complaints around, and even often turn a bad situation with demands of refunds in to future lucrative business, without giving a refund or making unrealistic promises! We have even managed to win back key business and increase business through the way the issues were handled.
By handling the situation correctly, you can turn the situation around and actually counteract bits of the complaint you may not even have control over... Take for exams the guest who complains it took 20 minutes to check in after a nightmare journey due to heavy traffic... Now you can apologise and offer what you like, but you can really turn the situation around if you find out where the guest is going the following day and then checking for issues on their route, and having reception provide this information to them on departure... Voila, a complaint is resolved and the guest is left with a fantastic end to their stay. It is mostly important that you ensure the guest is wowed before they leave - do not re-raise the issues, but give them something relevant to their complaint, and personalised to them, before they leave.
Any complaint is an opportunity and you can even get sales leads etc from complaints; the complaint is also a key part of your business as without it, how would you know what you are doing wrong?
Being defensive may be an instinctive reaction but you nailed it - complaints they are a great opportunity and if everyone else fails to accept the opportunities such situations afford them you can differentiate yourself even more from the competition.
Empathy - really listening and then thinking through how you can help not only resolve the issue but to enhance the experience for them and your own reputation.
Its not rocket science and neither is the cost of a meal or round of drinks when compared to a repeat guest who brings friends and tells stories of how different and better you are.
Every complaint, no matter how big or small, presents the opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competitors by successful resolution.
Unfortunately it is so often the case that a policy or procedure prevents the employee from going the extra mile to offer something to 'wow' the Customer. A Company may have a limit on the level of compensation/recompense to offer disgruntled guests which, for what ever reason, may not resolve the Complaint successfully. How frustrating is this from a Customers point of view! The value of a 'Customer for life' can never be underestimated, in terms of financial value it is perhaps better to do/spend what ever necessary to retain the 'Customer for now' and to ensure they become 'A Customer for life.' Reputation is key! Also it is 5 times more expensive to capture a new customer than an existing one.
It is always really positive to listen and to follow-up complaints with your customers - Communicate with them in the future to tell them what you have changed/done differently since their bad experience. This is always positively received.
How often do we hear the term 'Its not rocket science' when speaking about offering great customer service. This actually sounds quite degrading. Now I find this interesting as Customer Service is often about personality, and I've never met a rocket science with much personality!
Complaints certainly are an opportunity
providing people know how to handle them, but as highlighted, if your team don’t
have the knowledge, skills, confidence and most importantly the authority to
deal with them effectively it can be a frustrating process for the member of
staff and the customer. Even more frustrating for the manager when the first
they know about the problem is reading a ranting review on TA or Google.
I think Matt has hit the nail on the head by highlighting
that dealt with effectively not only gives you valuable feedback and gives you
the opportunity to put things right and retain the customer, but also gives an
opportunity to learn what’s really important to that customer so you can give
them something specific that shows a truly personal touch and completely turn the
situation around, even if part of the complaint (such as traffic delays) are
totally out of your control. As you say, David, showing you are listening and
having empathy with the customer.
Guests that have their problem resolved not only forgive you but are more likely to visit in the future - and with more confidence. This confidence, that you deal with issues if and when they arise leads to heightened trust and a greater likelihood of recommendation. Resolving issues leads to more than just a retained guest it can actually grow your guest base.
What about "the cusotmer is always right" - is this always the case? How do you deal with it if it isn't?
"Is the Customer always right?" - that depends on who you speak to! Some examples of why the customer is NOT always right;
1. It makes employees unhappy (if their boss sides with the customer over them)
2. It gives abusive customers an unfair advantage (it means abusive customers get nicer treatment than nice customers)
3. Some customers are bad for business (it can be a matter of respect and dignity for employees leading to higher absence rates and ultimately recruitment costs)
4. It results in worse customer service - when the company and management consistently side with customers instead of with employees, it sends a clear message that:
5. Some customers are just plain wrong (The fact is that some customers are just plain wrong, that businesses are better off without them, and that managers siding with unreasonable customers over employees is a very bad idea, that results in worse customer service.)
Happy to provide more detail on request.
Management should always protect their teams! Service Profit Chain applies - that is Team first - a happy engaged and loyal team is the foundation for happy engaged loyal guests.
Management have to consider why guests have become abusive?
I agree with David McH and Ace_Chris.
I believe we should change this much vaunted idiom to "put your employees first and your customers second". Where an employee is put first by his employer, that employees customer service will almost unfailingly be exemplary.
The customer is not right in situations where a good employee is made unhappy. Do I want that customer back in my business?
The abrasive customer is not right where they are game playing to obtain an unfair advantage. Do I want that customer back in my business?
The customer is not right if they are bad for your business. Do I really want them back either?
Yes a lost customer costs the business in "life time opportunity"...but the cost of hiring and training a new employee is considerably more. My employees come first every time
Fallowfields Hotel and Restaurant, Oxfordshire