Profaizer: How to Deal With Disgruntled Guests
Linda Profaizer, a Colorado resident and immediate past-president of ARVC, provided the following column for the August issue of Woodall's Campground Management. She can be contacted at email@example.com. Having stepped away from her association duties at the end of 2010, she welcomes input on topics of importance to campground owners for upcoming columns.
It was a busy Friday evening when the guest approached the front desk with a very red face and angry eyes. It didn’t take a genius to know that he was not a “happy camper.” He pounded on the desk and immediately asked to see the manager. He said he and his family had traveled 200 miles after a long day at work – he was very unhappy with his site; it didn’t face the lake and was far from the restrooms and they had ordered dinner delivered to their site when they checked in and it had yet to be delivered. What was going to be done about it?
The front desk associate said she would try to get the manager to come up to the registration area, but explained that he was literally knee-deep trying to fix a water leak.
As the manager, what would you do?
1) Say you’d be happy to talk to the guest as soon as the leak is fixed.
2) Drop fixing the leak immediately and go the registration area.
3) Ask the unhappy guest to come down to the leak site.
4) Tell the front desk associate to handle the matter.
5) Hand in your resignation – oh wait, you own the park!
Sadly, we all have to deal with disgruntled guests at some point and it usually seems to happen at the busiest times. Now that you are more than halfway through your summer season, you have already dealt with a number of guest concerns and it doesn’t get any easier as the season extends, so it may be time to reaffirm some tips for handling difficult guests. Customer service experts all say to view each customer interaction as an opportunity to reinforce your customer service excellence instead of as a problem. Hopefully the guest above will deal with the front desk associate (you have empowered them to make logical decisions on the spot so they should have already tried to engage the guest and resolve the issue), but if the guest is still not satisfied, then you would speak to him at his site when you have fixed the water leak. The food is a relatively easy issue to handle, but unhappiness with the site assigned may be a big issue on a busy weekend. Here are a few of the techniques to use to make a “happy” or at least “happier” guest.
First you should show the person respect, even though they may not have shown that to you. Remember you are respecting the person, not the behavior.
The guest may call you names or say unpleasant things about you and your park, but avoid letting he/she push your buttons in this way because when you are upset, you’ve lost objectivity and you need to be in control if you’re going to find a solution to the situation.
Be empathetic and put yourself in their shoes. Don’t cut the person off in mid-sentence or urge them to calm down. You do have to listen and listen carefully. Let them vent to show you care and understand. Let them get their whole story out before speaking. Then, paraphrase what you understand that they said. Use the 3Fs: Feel, Felt and Found Out. This technique acknowledges the customer’s feelings and offers an explanation in a way she/he can listen to: “I understand how you could feel that way. Others have felt that way, too. And then they found out . . .”
Remember your parents saying to you when you were a kid: “Look at me when I’m talking to you.” People see you are listening when you are looking at them so always make eye contact.
The guest wants immediate action. He/she wants you to do something now. So no matter how tired you are, resolve the issue quickly.
If you can’t resolve the issue immediately, leave an angry guest with the understanding that your goal is to resolve the problem. If you have to get back to them, set a deadline and meet it even if you need more time to fully resolve the issue. Keep the guest informed about your progress.
The way you choose to deal with a situation will have a huge effect on its outcome. Here’s a guideline summary:
• Show respect. Let the guest know that you can understand why he/she would be upset. Use words such as: “I can appreciate what you’re saying.” “I can understand how you’d feel that way.”
• Use the 3 Fs.
• Apologize for the situation.
• State that you want to help.
• Get all the information. Try not to be judgmental.
• Restate their concern to make sure you understand. (Note: There will be guests that you can’t handle – maybe they just can’t relate to you or don’t like the color of your hair or the clothes you are wearing. Know when to involve others and request assistance.)
• Ask the guest what they would like to have happen.
• Agree on a solution and repeat any resulting actions.
• Thank them for their business and smile!
And don’t forget to:
• Look the customer in the eye.
• Avoid a condescending or impatient tone.
• Don’t fight back.
• Don’t accept personal attacks.
• Eliminate distractions like other people’s conversations, other issues you are dealing with or focusing on how the guest is saying things rather than what they are saying.
• Be patient.
When this guest is gone, you want to look back on the way you acted and say with pride, that you acted professionally and constructively and hopefully have another repeat customer.