If you have ever confronted the unpleasant task of having to make a complaint to a tour operator, hotel or airline, you may know first hand just how difficult and seemingly impassable many of these organisations can be.
In the travel industry it is curious to note how many companies publicly claim to differentiate themselves with the highest levels of customer service. When push comes to shove and you are forced to make a complaint, you soon realise how duplicitous this claim suddenly can become.
In fact, you are very likely to find the whole process of complaining or making a claim to be exceptionally stressful. It does, more often than not, seem that all customer service agents in the travel industry are primarily guided to disprove your claims or at a minimum make the process of complaining extremely onerous. However, if you tend to be a little more tenacious, your persistence should pay dividends. However, also keep in mind the reason many companies have made the process seem difficult is that over the years there have been many fraudulent or malicious complaints and claims, weeding out much of these as quickly as possible is a primary objective.
Many companies will of course aim to only ever compensate at a bare minimum, even when a formal complaint is fully upheld. This should hardly be a surprise when all these companies are typically in business to make money.
So, what can you do to strengthen your position when making a claim or complaint? First and foremost, always do what you can to address the actual reason for a complaint as soon as possible. For example, if your complaint is against a hotel or airline, furnish your complaint to the relevant manager there and then, as soon as possible after an incident or scenario occurs. Never take the complaint back home without having brought it to the attention of an appropriate manager beforehand; thereby giving them the opportunity to rectify the problem immediately, on occasion it can be addressed quickly and to the satisfaction of all involved. Where possible have everything documented, even signed by a relevant manager. At a bare minimum speak with someone and note down the names of people you have spoken with, record dates and times - basically start to keep a record as soon as you can.
If you do have to make the complaint once you’ve returned home, you need to make sure you stick to the essential points of the complaint. Although very hard, try to prepare the complaint in such a way as though all your emotional attachment to the case has been eliminated. Travel companies really have heard it all before and just want you to get down to the nitty-gritty details of your complaint.
Be prepared for the long-game with your complaint. Most travel related companies are trained to delay you, make the process complicated or ‘stop dead’ your progress with their initial response. Unless you are satisfied with the first response you should refuse this and state that your complaint is more serious than the way in which it has been addressed in the first response. There may be several follow-on communications until you finally reach an offer that you feel adequately compensates you for your complaint.
8 Tips To Having Your Complaint Addressed
1. Speak Up Early
Speak to someone as early as possible after an incident or situation occurs, the longer you wait the less relevance it has.
2. Write Down Everything
Make notes of everything; time, date, names, locations etc, the more you note/write down the stronger your case will be.
3. Know What You Want
Be clear in your own mind on whether you are making constructive criticism (to ensure things improve) or you are seeking some compensation for a perceived loss.
4. Know The T&C's
Where terms & conditions exist, read them. Knowing these will help, even if your claim falls outside. Many customer service staff will quickly refer to obscure T&C’s and having at least a cursory understanding will again help your cause.
5. Tell Them What You Want
If you have a real reason for compensation, and you know what compensation would satisfy you make this clear from the beginning.
6. Don't Take No As An Answer
Unless you are happy with the first response (it does happen sometimes), never accept a deferring response. Ask for the name and contact details of the person to escalate your issue to if the person you are talking to cannot resolve it to your satisfaction.
7. Be Prepared To Execute
Where all else fails and you still believe you have a strong case you can calmly make clear that you will use social media and BBB to ensure your position has been aired and that others are made aware that things may not be as marketed. You may also suggest that you will refer the issue to legal counsel– however be cautious, what ever form of ‘threat’ you make at this point should be one that you are prepared to execute on.
8. Stay Calm, Be Patient, Don't Get Emotional
Above all - be patient, keep calm and avoid getting emotional. Your ability to get something resolved diminishes with every rant, rave and scream. Keeping calm and composed will strengthen your case - you will be seen as reasonable and considered. If things take too long ask for it to be escalated again, or ask for the contact details of the next highest person.
Why not tell us what has worked for you if and when you've had a complaint?
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