Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Steve Martin….
Travel is fraught with potential disaster. No matter how much you travel or how meticulously you plan, you’ll eventually have an issue that makes you unhappy, resentful and potentially very, very angry.
Many Europeans find complaining cringe-worthy and resort to moaning to friends, coworkers and countrymen about poor service or a bad experience. Americans, on the other hand, tend to expect/demand good customer service and treat customer complaints as an art form.
Should you complain?
Yes. Never feel uncomfortable about asking a business to provide a service for which you’ve paid. Your feedback also provides an opportunity for a business to improve their product or service for future customers. It’s a win-win. Feel better?
How do you complain effectively?
Step 1. Do your homework.
Make sure you research hotels, airlines and other components of your trip. It is your responsibility to choose a place that meets your travel needs, whether it’s free internet, that weird waffle machine at breakfast and/or stellar cell service. It isn’t right to rant about things a destination never promised to provide.
(note to self: Don’t complain about a $12.95 per night internet charge that was clearly listed on the hotel webpage. Someone didn’t read the fine print. Ahem)
Step 2. Be reasonable about your expectations.
If you booked a 1 star motel 2 miles from the water, don’t complain the about the long walk to the beach and/or the lack of amenities. Review sites are filled with legitimate stories of holiday misery and mayhem, but some complaints are just ridiculous. Some of my favorites…
“The beach was too sandy.”
“There are too many Spanish people. The receptionist speaks Spanish. The food is Spanish. Too many foreigners.”
and my all time favorite…
“My fiancé and I booked a twin-bedded room but we were placed in a double-bedded room. We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find myself pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked.”
Step 3. If you encounter an issue, politely make it known right away.
A business can’t solve a problem it doesn’t know about. Be specific about the issue and how you want the problem solved. If your room is dirty, ask for an immediate cleaning or room change. If the website stated the pool would be open 24/7 and it closed at 10, ask for a rate reduction. Make sure your request is proportional to the issue, ie…don’t ask for an upgrade to the Presidential Suite because there weren’t enough towels in your room or the parking lot was full. Don’t be that guy.
Step 4. Make sure the person you speak to is the person who can solve the problem.
Ask for a manager or senior person on duty if the desk staff is unable to help you (politely, of course).
Step 5. Be firm, be factual.
If the problem isn’t resolved adequately or in a reasonable amount of time, let management know you intend to pursue the issue. Begin to gather information supporting your claim (photographs, receipts).
Step 6. Escalate the issue.
Call, tweet and/or email customer service. I prefer the combo-pack approach to complaining, although I find calling to be the least efficient, most frustrating way of resolving an issue. Customer service reps aren’t usually authorized to do much beyond transferring you, but if you have the patience it’s a good place to start.
Twitter can be a valuable resource if you need help immediately. Make sure you craft your tweet carefully to get the best results…(The tweets are just examples)
Well-crafted emails with supporting documents (and photos) can yield powerful results. The gold standard is this email with photo from a disgruntled customer to Virgin Airlines’ Richard Branson…
Dear Mr Branson
REF: Mumbai to Heathrow 7th December 2008
I love the Virgin brand, I really do which is why I continue to use it despite a series of unfortunate incidents over the last few years. This latest incident takes the biscuit. Ironically, by the end of the flight I would have gladly paid over a thousand rupees for a single biscuit following the culinary journey of hell I was subjected to at the hands of your corporation.
Step 7. Write a review.
Be honest. If there was an issue, mention it. If the establishment resolved or attempted to resolve the issue, say so. If they ignored you or refused to acknowledge your complaint, document and complain away.
If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for the rest of us.
Do you have any tried and true strategies for dealing with travel complaints? I’d love to hear them…
Thanks for reading,
Megan/ A Passport Affair
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