5 steps to handling customer complaints

The days of ignoring complaints are over. Social media sites such as Facebook and Tripadvisor has made companies accountable. The last thing a tour company needs is a bad review. It's not exactly the best thing for business.

Customer complaints are inevitable even if we try to give the best customer service possible. Certain factors are out of our control but customers know who took their credit card number and you're responsible for dealing with them. 

Here are 5 steps to handling customer complaints.

1- Put out the fire right away

The first step in making things right is to respond as quickly as possible to the complaint. Thank them for letting you know about what they are upset about and let them know that an inquiry has been opened to investigate the allegations. It is important to ask the customer to give the necessary time for the investigation and let them know when they should hear back from you.

2- Listen

Customer that take the time to complain often want nothing but someone to listen to them. They sometimes won't even ask for compensation but want to give you insight on how to make your service better. 

I remember I had over 20 buses leaving from the same place and customers complained that the departure was disorganized. They were right. We wrote to everyone to let them know that we listen to what they had to say and we have taken the necessary actions to organize our groups better during our customer onboarding. It made such a difference for our next departures. I can only thank the customers that complained to make our service better for future customers.

3- Have empathy

When listening or reading a customer complaint, it's important to make them feel like you are listening and conveying compassion for them. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand why they are upset. 

4- Keep customers informed and follow up

As you gain information, write to your customer to let them know the information you received. If you haven't received a response from your suppliers in a timely manner, let them know that you still haven't heard back and that you will follow up soon if you don't get an answer. You can even setup automatic emails to let customers know that you haven't forgotten about them.

Be proactive and follow up with everyone involved to get answers for your upset customer. I recommend that you set up reminders and tasks.

5- Offer a credit voucher on a future trip

Customer have the liberty to chose where they book their trips. If I feel like I lost the customer because of the situation, I always offer a credit voucher for a future trip. If the complaint involved many customers, I offered the credit voucher to everyone that was part of the trip. Not only to the ones that complained. For example, if I receive the same complaints from many people on the same tour, it's obvious that the problem affected even those that didn't complain. That's when I turn around and send an email to everyone in this group explain that we received complaints and that we're offering a credit voucher. I also pass on the settlement details I receive from my suppliers involved. Be transparent.

Having said that, I'm not saying to be a pushover and give just credit vouchers to anyone that complains for any reason. I have no problem letting complainers know that we are not offering compensation but we hope they will travel with us again. It all depends on the situation and it should be treated as case by case. 

I've personally had many customers that complained once and rebooked many times after because of the way I handled their dissatisfaction. Do you have any advice on how to handle complaints?