Complaints will go up this summer. Will you make things worse?

\"\"As some of you may know, a good portion of our client base are tourist attractions and at the time of writing, they have been shut for the best part of a year and many of their staff have been furloughed,

I’m thrilled that with the opening of the Road Map in England, it looks as though our tourist attraction clients will be open again soon and we will all be able to visit the amazing array of attractions that we have in the UK. I won’t lie that I’m also thrilled because it means that these clients are coming back to us to run customer service and engagement training for their un-furloughed and newly recruited teams.

However, in my conversations over the past few weeks it is clear that front of house teams are likely to be facing an increase of complaints. It’s not that we have come to expect a better service now than we did a year ago but …

Imagine the scenario … You have travelled on public transport for the first time in a year, you are in what feels like a crowd queuing to get in. The family behind you seem to think that social distancing doesn’t affect them and there are several people nearby who aren’t wearing masks. You haven’t been this close to this many people for a long time. It’s hot, you don’t know where you are going and there don’t seem to be any loos that you are allowed to use.

Now someone has cut in front of you in the queue and it looks as though the girl in uniform isn’t going to do anything about it. Can you imagine that you might get irritated … and if it wouldn’t annoy you … can you imagine it might make some people angry?

So, if you are reading this as a potential visitor please bear in mind that the staff you meet might be just as uncomfortable about the situation as you and they will be doing their best to make your day out the best they can. (And … if they aren’t welcoming or trying to make your day then let me know!)

If, however, you are reading this as a member of staff at an attraction (I know we have many who read our newsletters and blogs) then I hope the following is useful.

  • Remember to stand positively with open body language. Stand tall, look at your visitors and smile. You will have more authority in their eyes.
  • If someone approaches you, turn to look at them and stop what you are doing if you can. If you can’t then tell them why and direct them to someone who will be able to help.
  • Listen to what they have to say without interruption or taking it personally. Remember whatever has happened is probably the final straw for them and they are upset with the situation not necessarily you personally (even if it feels like that’s not the case). If they are shouting let them vent … it is a necessary part of the process as they can’t hear you until they feel they have been heard.
  • Try to see the situation from their point of view and feel free to apologise for how they are feeling. Saying “I’m sorry that’s happened to you” or “I’m sorry that you feel that way” is not accepting liability!
  • Only after you have listened to the problem properly and made sure you have understood it all can you try to solve the problem. Show them that you have been listening to what they have said by checking your understanding … use the words they use if you can. If I say I’m furious and you translate that into irritated I’m not going to think you heard me. They may mean the same thing to you but they don’t to me.
  • Don’t try to find a solution too quickly or you may make them angrier than they were originally, because they won’t feel listened to. And once they are happy with the solution … thank them for bringing it to your attention.

This strategy works whatever your role … you don’t have to be front of house in a tourist attraction. If someone complains to you, be they customer, visitor or client try to remember that they are doing you a favour by telling you how they feel.

Most people don’t bother … they just tell their friends and take their business elsewhere.

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