All companies and organisations receive complaints, whether you respond in the right or wrong way says a huge amount about your business and impacts your reputation significantly. This summer I had reason to complain to a holiday provider and want to share that experience and how they got it so wrong.
Three days before travelling we were informed that the accommodation we had booked over a year beforehand was no longer available. The holiday was a special family event with two families travelling to the same site to holiday together to celebrate a 70th Birthday. The provider offered us inferior alternative accommodation, a small refund for the difference in price and a small amount of compensation. Having so little time to find an alternative holiday for both families we accepted the offer but informed them that we did not consider the matter fully settled.
Having returned from holiday I took stock and felt it appropriate to raise a formal complaint about the accommodation received and the very late notification of the problem, trapping us in a position where we could only agree their proposed solution. Having extensive experience dealing with complaints I composed a measured and factual email to their customer service team clearly setting out the issues, evidenced with photographs and explaining how our holiday had been impacted. I also included a resolution I would accept giving them the opportunity to engage with me to find a suitable outcome. This is when they started to get it so wrong.
5 Days after complaint still no acknowledgement or response – feeling frustrated, unimportant to the provider
Sent chaser email – still no response two days later – frustrated, getting angry
Called Customer service team who acknowledged the receipt of the email and said it needed a manager to review. The manager wasn’t available to look at my complaint for a week. Not on holiday just not able to look at my complaint. – angry, unvalued
Finally received a call from a manager, who listened to my complaint but would not or could not provide information about when they became aware of the unavailability and maintained that by providing alternative accommodation, a refund, alternative accommodation and some compensation they had gone beyond their contractual requirement. Quoting their terms and conditions. They also stated they “were very busy” hence the delay in responding – Not listened to, any move to resolve being frustrated by blind adherence to a company policy. They are indifferent to the impact on me and my family
Time to escalate the complaint via social media, negative comments placed on providers facebook posts. Achieved an almost immediate response but after exchange of messages and further phone call the provider fell back on the same comment. At this point I asked for information about what happens next if I am still not happy, they didn’t have a clue. – The issue was now a matter of principle and I would stop at nothing to get what I felt was a satisfactory outcome.
Carried out some research online, found the MD of the holding company for the holiday provider, via Linked In found we had a contact in common and invited him to connect. Fortunately he did and I sent him a message explaining the situation.
Within 24 hours I had received a call from the UK Customer Service operations manager, had an apology and she listened intently to my complaint, agreed to look into it the matter and called me back the next day with a proposed resolution. – Exhausted, relieved that I was being listened to and finally a fair resolution was agreed. Still bitter that I had to fight so hard for an acknowledgement and resolution. I won’t forgive them or give them another chance in the future
So what could they have done differently?
- Contacted me proactively on return from holiday to see how the alternative accommodation had worked out
- Acknowledged the complaint quickly – no more than 24 hours
- Apologised – it would have cost them nothing
- Identified that my requested resolution was outside of their standard approach
- Empowered staff to operate outside of standard policy early in the process or escalate to a manager with appropriate authority on receipt of the complaint
- Called me
- If resolution could not be agreed there and then agree a timeframe for a review and formal response
- Had a clear route for unresolved complaints to be escalated to
Complaints are a fact of life and each one provides the opportunity to either enhance or damage your reputation with your customer or client. I will never book another holiday with this provider because of how they responded to the complaint. I understand that situations like mine do occur and would have forgiven them if they had dealt with my complaint in the right fashion. The Operations Manager did agree to review their complaint handling but who knows if they will make changes, I won’t give them the opportunity in the future to find out.