Ed: April/May 2013

New Zealanders, on the whole, complain … but to the wrong people!

There’s not much point in complaining to your spouse or a good friend, apart from perhaps feeling a little light relief after venting your spleen. If we want things like customer service to improve, we need to learn the art of complaining properly.

If you ran a business and your staff or products weren’t quite up to scratch, wouldn’t you want to know about the issues so that you could address them? I know I do!

While a rant at a waitress might make you feel a little better, it really only results in her blushing furiously and dreading coming back to your table all night. It’s not going to ensure that your steak is cooked any better next time you visit, or that you’ll be served any faster.

Why not take a different tack – tactfully ask to speak to the manager or owner, and courteously point out your dissatisfaction. You may find yourself rewarded with a discount for your troubles and, if the manager or owner is worth their salt, the meal or service will definitely have improved by your next visit.

The same rule applies to accommodation providers, sales staff, tour operators and just about any other business involved in tourism. Savvy managers and owners know their business is only as good as their reputation and that repeat business and word of mouth are keys to success. Before you head off to bad-mouth them to all and sundry, I’m sure they’d love the opportunity to address your concerns head on.

Which leads me to websites like Trip Advisor. They’re a fabulous tool when used correctly, but they have potential to be abused … and there are known cases of such abuse. Before frantically thumping away at your keyboard as you angrily type a bad review, give the owner/operator a chance to remedy things. Sure, if you hit your head against a brick wall and things don’t improve, go right ahead and warn others of the situation. But please give that owner/operator the opportunity to improve things first.

How much more satisfied will you feel if you find they actually listen and that you’ve made a real difference? Personally, I’d be in my element to know that my next visit will be different, and that I’ve enhanced the experience for future customers, guests or visitors!

I truly believe that you and I can make small, yet very significant, changes to the way we’re treated, improving the level of service and standard of product we receive … but only if we learn to complain in the right tone of voice and to the right person.

Think about it next time you’ve waited too long in a queue, your coffee was served cold or your hotel room wasn’t quite up to scratch.

Travel safe.

“Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business” – Zig Ziglar

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