With the hotel industry looking for more control over online reviews, our hotel management columnist looks at the wider issue of complaint management. Conor Kenny from Conor Kenny and Associates asks if effective complaint management can create positive, loyal customers.
How should hoteliers handle complaints? Well, in today’s turbulent world, the way you handle complaints will ultimately define you.
In fact, it has little to do with “how you handle complaints”; in the online world you are more likely to be defined by “everything you say in response to a complaint”.
These are potentially hazardous waters. Be careful or you might just sink before you get a chance to swim.
What Is A Complaint?
It’s a simple question, but let me give you my definition: “A complaint is when a customer gives you a second chance.”
Think about it. We have all experienced a dreadful hotel, service or overall experience. Complaining is sounding off – but if it was that bad, you simply wouldn’t bother.
So, what is worse than a complaint? Simply, no complaints. If you have no complaints, something is very, very wrong.
Memory Making Complaint Management
It is rare that we remember or even worry about the incident that leads us to complain. However, it is common that we remember how we were treated once the complaint was launched.
A good friend recently had a dreadful dining experience in a hot spot for tourists in the south of Ireland. This patient, mild mannered man is slow to complain, but the details that made him complain would have Saints curling their toes.
The irate and aggressive owner came to the table. Chest puffed out, arms on hips and his booming voice uttered the following immortal words, “the customer is always right, always right, always right. Now leave my restaurant and forget the bill!”
They did so, alongside two other humiliated couples. More importantly, the remaining 20 or so witnessed the public execution of this mild mannered man.
In contrast, I once stopped off at a roadside Tavern. The atmosphere was cozy, the service pleasant and my steak was cold. I was about to gently raise a little complaint, but the owner appeared before I could get off the blocks.
“Forgive me sir, I think your steak looks a little cold. My fault entirely.”
I was impressed. It was no big deal – but his response was!. As I went to pay the bill he simply said, “No bill, our fault. Please accept our apologies.” 20 years later, we are on first name terms.
Well, lots actually. Your business is under scrutiny like never before. The dreams of our forefathers and free speech have never meant so much. You are under a microscope; in a goldfish bowl and the world is watching.
Social media is the new marching mass demonstration. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Bebo and on it goes. Generation Y communicates through the web – and they can crusade there too!
If you don’t understand social media, you need to. If you don’t understand its power and influence, you need to. If you think it’s just a fad, you need to think again. It’s here and it’s here to stay – and its monitoring you and reporting on you right now.
Hotel-industry.co.uk reported on the growing surge of angry hoteliers preparing their attack on TripAdvisor. Is that really a good idea? Where will it end? What does it highlight? Is it good Public Relations? Will it look like everyone is wrong except the hotel? Will it encourage guests? I suspect it will do more harm than good. It will highlight hotels that receive complaints and it will highlight how angry they are.
Any strategy that seeks a rebellion must factor in 3 things
- The potential to fail and lose
- The impact on their image, brand and reputation
- People often talk the battle talk, but disappear when writs start flying
In some ways, it is a feeble attempt to gag the masses and I wonder how many of the aggrieved rebels are top class operators in their location?
A complaint allows a response – and your response will determine the outcome. You choose, not me, not TripAdvisor but the customer.
Today the online world saves everything we write. We leave footprints and footprints leave memories.
Years ago I saw a cheesy little calendar but it supplied me with a piece of precious wisdom which I have never forgotten. It might help you too:
“There are many things I have regretted saying but I have never regretted saying nothing.”
I’m not suggesting “say nothing”. I am simply suggesting that what you do say will define you.