Monthly Archives: March 2013

Damage Limitation

complaint handling

Even with the best will in the world sometimes there are things that go wrong; accidents happen, things get missed or events occur that are totally out of your control. So what can we be doing the lessen the impact on our customers’ experience and limit the potential damage to our reputation?

Prevention is better than cure

In a perfect world we’d prevent complaints happening. And certainly we can minimise the number of complaints by taking a few simple actions.

Firstly customers are far more understanding of the situation if they all kept informed or forewarned of any problems. For example, if you know that you’re likely to be busy at certain times of the day, make every effort to let your customers know this. If you let them know when the quieter times are, this not only helps them, it evens out the peaks and troughs for you too.

When you know something is unavailable; maybe something that is a popular feature or product that is not available for whatever reason, give people as much notice as possible either through your website, when booking if relevant, prior to travel or on arrival to minimise disappointment.

The key here is to offer choice and alternatives. This might be a great opportunity to introduce your customers to something they haven’t tried before, or something that could be classed as an ‘upgrade’ (at no additional cost to them, of course). This way they’re introduced to something new, which is good for you, and they get to experience something over and above what they were expecting, so enhances their value for money. A win-win.

Make use of waiting time

We’ve all experienced being put on hold and told how “your call is important to us”. Unfortunately it doesn’t make us feel any better! Queues and being kept waiting are never going to be popular with your customers. But do what you can to minimise the impact. For example if you know when your peak times are adjust your staffing accordingly (ensuring appropriate training is given to anyone who is redeployed to ‘help out’).

For example: hotel checkout at peak times in the morning; you may not have enough terminals to have more people actually doing the checkout, you can at least have people on hand to deal with any queries, printing out bills and so forth. If you have self-service areas, or payment machines, help speed up the process by helping customers; you can avoid the time it takes them to read instructions, which might reduce your transaction time by half, thus reducing queues.

Use customer waiting time as an opportunity to share information, which might speed things up later on. For example, if diners are waiting for a table, give them a menu beforehand so they can be choosing whilst queuing. If queuing to enter an attraction, have information available on the layout, so once inside your visitors have already planned their itinerary.

You can even use the time to entertain, so customers don’t feel put out at all. But, I’m not suggesting anything like the awful music we often get subjected to when we are put on hold, or worse still the sales pitch we get. No, I’m talking about genuine entertainment!

Make waiting time a pleasurable experience by offering your customers something to compensate for their wait. In a hotel or restaurant this might be afternoon tea or a free cocktail, at an attraction or venue this might be a free programme or guide as a thank you for waiting, in a florist or gift shop this might be free gift wrap. And if you’re now subconsciously thinking you couldn’t afford to do this every time someone has to wait; it’s time you reviewed your customer experience. Waiting should be the exception, not the norm. (And compare this investment to the cost of losing the customer altogether.)

And if people have been kept patiently waiting for even a few moments, at the very least acknowledge this and thank them for their patience.


When the chips are down

But of course you’re not always will be able to avoid all complaints. And on occasions we’ll get complaints about things which are totally out of our control anyway.

Most customers accept that things can go wrong from time to time. But only if they’re kept informed.

For example:

If something they’ve asked for is no longer available; will be it be available later or not at all. What’s the alternative? What can you offer that might be as good as or even better.

If there is a delay, does the customer wait, or do they do / have something that doesn’t involve waiting? Well, that might depend on just how long they have to wait. When we are put on hold if we’re told we are 2nd in the queue we are far more likely to hang on than if we’re told we are 10th. So let you customers know – is it expected to be a 2 minutes wait or half an hour? Being honest (and not making false promises and under estimating) allows to customer to make an informed decision.


Explanations not excuses

Being kept informed is not about making excuses!  It’s about keeping the customer informed of the situation and giving them options…

However there may be times when a little explanation helps diffuse the situation. If there’s been an accident, if it would be unsafe, if their preferred option is not up to standard and likely to disappoint. If it’s relevant to help them see why they’re not getting the experience they’d hoped tell them; if not, don’t! Customers really aren’t interested in your staff shortages or that your suppliers have let you down or that the ‘x’ machine is broken.


And despite our best efforts they’ll be times when all they are interested in is having their say and having someone listen to them, and an opportunity to let off steam.

Better they do that to us than on TripAdvisor!


So in summary to make the best of a bad situation and minimise the negative emotions and potential back flak from customers

  • Let customers know at the earliest opportunity when there may be a problem that might impact them, so they can make a decision on whether to wait or risk it, or whether to change or cancel their choice.
  • Let them know when what you’ve promised can’t be delivered so they can plan accordingly
  • Offer an alternative or give the customer a number of options
  • Offer something by way of a reasonable compensation to show you appreciate their patience or inconvenience
  • And most of all, admit to any mistakes on your part. Don’t be too proud to apologise.


Your customers will appreciate your honesty and this all helps to keep the trust and relationship sweet, so your customers remain loyal.

Begin with the end in mind

If you’re familiar with Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” you’ll know that the second habit is “begin with the end in mind”.7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Whenever I’m talking to businesses about the customer experience I find this is the best place to start. I like them to imagine either the conversation customers will be having in the car on their way home, or what they’d like their customers to feel, say, or do as a result of their visit or experience with you.

So, for example, if your venue is primarily for leisure you might want your customers to feel relaxed, energised, or calm.

If it’s all about adventure you might want them to be feeling exhilarated, ready for anything, or on a high (and the kids to feel exhausted and sleep all the way home).

If your customers come to you to be pampered and spoilt you may want them to leave feeling a million dollars, feeling special, or confident.

You might not want them to be saying something on the lines of “Wasn’t that fantastic/great value/fun/”, or “We must tell John and Sarah about this place”, or “We’ll definitely go back there again next year”.

What you want them to do might be to pick up the phone and book to come again and this time stay for longer or bring the whole family next time; you might want them to pass on your details to their friends and colleagues, telling them what a great time they had; or you might want them to be posting a rave review on TripAdvisor (or of course all three!).

So how does this help you?

Once you know what you want the end result to be it’s considerably easier to plan the experience you deliver for your customers – all working towards that end goal.

You can create the activities, experiences and emotions that prompt them to feel, talk and act in this way.

And once you’ve determined what it is you want your customers to be feeling, saying and doing as a result of their stay with/ visit to you, share this with your team.  Once they understand this they’ll not only all be working towards the same goal, they’ll start to come up with their own ideas and spot opportunities tom to help leave your customers feeling, saying and doing all the things you’d love them to.

Join me on my free online training on 6 Simple Ways to Engage with your Customers to Generate More Sales and More Repeat Business at No Additional Cost next Monday (25th March).

Even if you can’t make the session live, register anyway and I’ll make sure you get a recording.

Simply click on the link below to register

Going mobile

Does your Business need a Mobile Website or a Mobile App?

It’s only been since Christmas, when Santa bought me a posh new iPad that I’ve started to appreciate the importance of going mobile.

But mobile is no longer new or the exception; it’s fast becoming the norm. And considering so many of our customers are on the move when they are either searching or booking for recreational activities it makes sense to understand what they can do for you.

So I asked my colleague Bulent Osman, Managing Director at The App Garden Ltd if he’d share his thoughts and recommendations on apps and why they are relevant for today’s hospitality, leisure or tourism businesses.

So today’s post is courtesy of Bulent…..


“As most businesses consider how best to take advantage of the mobile revolution, the first question to answer is: do you need a mobile app or mobile website?

Having a ‘responsive’ mobile website (‘responsive’ meaning fully optimised for different mobile screen sizes) allows anyone who finds your business on a mobile device, to navigate and read your website effectively. We’ve all been frustrated with our smartphones when we have to zoom in, move left and right, up and down, just to read text or click a link. With over 67% of the UK’s population now preferring to use smartphones to browse the Internet, businesses cannot ignore the need to have their websites optimised for mobile. Not having a ‘responsive’ website will mean you will probably lose out on business.

Mobile apps open up a world of new services and communication opportunities with your customer. You can do one-touch calling, GPS directions to your location, send push notifications to provide offers, send event reminders or invite customers to join your mailing list. Having your own beautifully designed, functionally rich mobile app could provide access to live reservations systems, loyalty schemes and to making sales via mobile commerce. Mobile apps are designed to deepen customer loyalty, increase revenue and improve brand image.

So, the answer to this question should now be apparent, you need both! The challenge is to find a provider that can build you both within a reasonable budget, short timescales and a positive attitude to building a long-term partnership.

Having answered this question, the next question is how quickly can you ‘go mobile’? You need to move quickly to take advantage of the global mobile revolution before your competitors do!”

For advice on how to ‘Go Mobile’, contact Bulent Osman, Managing Director of The App Garden on 0203 418 0291 or email