Managing expectations and complaint recovery | Macro

Managing expectations and complaint recovery


By Debra Ward, Managing Director, Macro

Today I was lucky enough to have the time to go to the gym this morning.  My gym only opens at 06.30 and I am usually well into my morning commute by then.  I was really looking forward to it.

I got to the gym at 06.25 so that I could really get a good hour in.  I have been inspired by Nick Alford’s recent Channel swim so I have rekindled my passion for swimming (this was to be my third visit since before Christmas).

The doors open and I am greeted by a lovely receptionist bidding me good morning at a rather impressive reception desk.  Once through the barriers, I am confronted with a plethora of life-size banners enticing me into everything from the aromatherapy at the spa, to beginner Pilates, to summer camp for my kids.  Determined, I march on towards the changing room (with commitment and will I power past the barista and the fresh smell of coffee).

In the changing room I quickly change into my suit, get my hair up (no easy task at that hour), dawn my goggles and make a last minute check for towel and shower gear for after.  The whole time I am performing this ritual several things are happening.  Firstly I am willing myself on, staving off the thoughts of freshly brewed coffee.  Secondly, I am competing with myself, wondering if I can beat my last time for a kilometre swim.  Lastly, I am continuously reminding myself of how good I will feel after I get out of the water.

Determined I manage through a myriad of corridors and doors which eventually lead to the aqua spa - great more temptation (aqua jets, steam room, sauna…)! I plough through determined as ever to beat my last time only to be greeted by a barrier and sign informing me that the pool is closed until further notice!  Argh!

Upset, I decide not to make the whole thing a total loss and spend 10 minutes in the aqua-spa.  I shower change, bypass the coffee bar, because now I’ll be darned if I am giving them one red penny and head straight for the smiling receptionist.

“Good Morning”, I say in a sing-songy voice that alerts the listener that bad things are coming… “In the future it would be really great if you could inform guests that the pool is closed before they enter the secured area.  There appears to be any number of signs trying to sell something to me but not one informing me that the very reason I came is no longer a viable option.  It would have been particularly appreciated if I had received that information before I entered the locker room and before I spent five minutes changing into a swim suit and goggles that I apparently did not need.”

To her credit she first apologised and then said, “I didn’t even know it was closed.  As you can expect this did little to placate me and I said, “That only makes it worse.  I suggest you speak with your management and sort out your communication issues as well as the pool.”

…So here’s what I take from this morning’s life lesson.  Things are going to go wrong.   Quite simply that is life and the law of averages.  The question is, who are you in that situation?

Be upfront - I for one have always found that being the first to communicate the bad news to my boss, my client or my team member is infinitely better than them finding out by other means.  This means to tell people as soon as you possibly can.  Many have preferred to wait for all the facts but have invariably been beaten to the story.  Whilst misinformation can create a worse outcome, I believe that at least telling them where you in the situation and that you will come straight back to them with more information is available, is always appreciated.

Apologise – to this young lady’s credit she apologised right off the bat… though I did get the feeling that she did it often as it lacked sincerity.  Many say that apologising is admitting fault or guilt.  I say if we blew it then apologise sincerely.  If we have not made an error but the customer thinks we did you can apologise for the way they are feeling – I am sorry you feel that way, or I am sorry that you have that perception.  Because let’s be honest none of us want our customers, clients or colleagues to be upset by something they perceive to be our fault.  The other things to remember is that it costs nothing but pays huge dividends.

Follow up and prevention – Now there was really neat way that the receptionist could have recovered.  If she had followed it up.  Had she called me later in the day, apologised again for the inconvenience, offered me a free coffee or something and told me what steps she had put in place to prevent such a mishap from happening again she would have clinched me as a supporter… instead I am now writing a blog for my network about the poor / indifferent service I received.   

And that is how negative word of mouth advertising happens. 

We are all completely in control of the impact we make on our clients, colleagues and community even when you have no control over how the situation occurred... once again the call is yours.