Well my break was wonderful, relaxing, sunny, warm – all one could expect from a holiday. What I didn’t expect was a myriad of bad experiences – not created by bad service, bad food, low value for money or anything like that – but created by rather vocal complaining customers, which I managed to encounter at every turn. From a marketing perspective, the customer’s complaint is something businesses need to pay very close attention to. But lets look at the impact of vocally dissatisfied customers from a
different perspective…

I have worked in hospitality before, therefore I always find myself listening closely to the whispers of customers at tables around me when out to dinner at a restaurant – so and so hasn’t got their entree yet, so and so’s steak is under cooked etc. etc. I can’t help myself. Nothing perturbs me more, however, than customers who think the entire restaurant needs to hear about their bad experience. If a customer creates a song and dance about a bad experience – for the remaining customers this dominates the dinner conversation for the rest of the night, puts all the staff on edge, and just generally makes everyone feel uncomfortable and unpleasant. You find yourself focused on someone else’s bad experience, and forget to have a good time yourself. This happened several times while away, and it’s fair to say it really put a dampner on the entire experience.

To give you another example, I went on a whale watching tour on my trip, and unfortunately we had a pretty grumpy tour guide and there were no whales around on that particular day. Sure we were dissappointed, but happy to forget and get on with more positive things. The other tour attendees certainly weren’t, and spent the entire trip home discussing how bad it all was, writing down phone numbers of who to call and complain to, swearing they’d never return etc. etc. Listening to their very vocal complaints was embarrassing and uncomfortable, making me feel just plain awful for the rest of the day.

Please – if you are unhappy or dissappointed with a purchase/experience, please think of others and the good time they were having/wanting to have when making that complaint. Keep it private, civilised and dignified – you will get much further this way too.

From the business perspective, do everything you can in your power to ask vocal complainers to step into an office or outside to vent their issues. Ensure your staff are well prepared to pick up on body language that suggests dissatisfaction, and train them to deal with vocal customers in a cool, calm and collected manner – even simulate such an experience to see how they react. Keep your complaints policy very visible and available to all that may request it – give them every opportunity to go away and compose a letter or email, or make a phonecall, that is not fueled by emotion. More often than not the way you or your staff handle themselves in such a situation is more powerful than the vocal customer themself.