How to make a professional travel Complaint

For the past 25 years I have been training people working for Companies in the Tourism Industry and Service Sector how to "Handle Complaints" professionally. Now it is high time I shared this knowledge directly with the consumer and proceed further to create a revolutionary code of conduct for "Making a Complaint", which is comprises to form the essence of this article.

First and foremost its important to recognise that for most instances for the Tourism Industry and Service Sector, when you reach the point of actually making a complaint you are only dealing with a front line representative of the Company. Subsequently you should not at any juncture become angry, hot headed, rude or nasty, as the person on the receiving end is merely a messenger. Moreover, the anger of losing your cool is an expression of helplessness or put simply loss of control, so it most likely will not support your claim. Moreover, you should communicate in a polite, open, assertive, direct and confident manner, which is the right mode to focus on solutions.
Quality Companies provide training on how to handle complaints, so its always useful to understand how this works. In fact you should respect this, as its the hallmark of a quality Company, which serves your interest. In essence all Companies train similar concepts, which boil down to certain stages of handling the complaint. Some are better than others, click How to handle a Complaint?
Assuming you have read and understood how a professional Company should handle your complaint, you are now ready to focus on your performance with a complaint strategy.
Before I explain this, I would like to stress that as a fellow traveller you have a responsibility to be sincere with your complaint, as I am not advocating trying to get something for nothing. This is a trend that has only served to make travel more costly and restrictive for everyone concerned. If an individual traveller takes advantage with a false complaint, insurance claim or steals something that he/she feels no-one will miss, then the rest of us (everyone else) ends up paying and ultimately the individual traveller will also. Conversely if a Company seeks to take unfair advantage we the travelling public must expose them, magnify the issue and take action with our choices by ignoring the Company. Perpetual Traveller in fact was created to generate awareness of such issues.

With that said, you are now ready to follow your own strategy of making a complaint. This is particularly useful when the Complaint Handler is not professionally handling the complaint. It also balances the control.

Decide to whom you are going to lodge your complaint to and then get their attention. As earlier indicated do not shout or make a scene. If you have a public debate you will put the complaint handler on the defensive and they will be less likely to give you personally any real concessions, because everyone else listening will want the same treatment.

Therefore, quietly approach your target person and ask to speak to them in confidence or alone and do it courteously.

Once you have gained the individual attention, you need to concisely describe the nature of your complaint. Do this in the following structured way...

Give the small details such as dates, your name, room/cabin/flight number, booking reference etc. You can even write these down or print them to save valuable conversational time.

Unprofessional and busy service operators can forget your details, so your problem will not get solved and you will have to make it all over again. When you spell out the details it eliminates this risk and you stay in the conscience of those that may be able to solve your problem.

Its always best to state the facts first in sequence of your story. At this stage do not get personal. In particular seek any facts that strongly support your complaint and demonstrate that you are right conclusively.

Once you have conveyed the facts, you need to transmit how your complaint, problem, situation or challenge makes you feel. Do not overdo it and be sincere.

Once you have completed points 1 & 2, it will help your case if you are able to concisely summarize all the key issues of the complete in short simple power messages.

To finish your initial speech, you need to close from a proactive perspective by stating what you expect the Complaint Handler to do or what outcome you would like to see. Be realistic and assertive when making your expectation clear. This stage helps the Complaint Handler understand and focus on what you actually want, which orientates the conversations. Sometimes this is an easy fix as much is assumed, often the worst.

When you the person making the complaint using the above process have finished, the person Handling your Complaint will have all the information needed to hand and will likely go straight to seeking a compromise or to solve your issue, as you have done all the work for them. This will be done with your expectations in mind too!

When you receive a proposal of what they intend to do, analyse it and if you are happy enough accept and move on. In the event you are not satisfied, then then make a counter proposal and refer back to the expectations you repeated earlier. At this time you may need to use the "Broken Record" technique by repeating your expectations in precisely the same way. Remember that all the time you are not satisfied keep repeating your expectation.

This stage is only relevant to complaints that were not solved in points 1 - 4. Some situations may hit the point whereby the person making the complaint is repeating the expectation (sometimes unrealistic if it gets this far) and the Complant Handler is repeating the same solution claiming this is the only avenue open. When this happens do not waste more time and ask to speak with the Manager. When you speak with the Manager repeat stages 1 - 4.

In the rare case whereby the Manager / Director or Chief cannot resolve your issue to your satisfaction, then ask to lodge an official complaint. Request a copy of any complaint form (often disguised as a customer service feedback form) that may be used. Then when you return home write to the Corporate Company (stages 1 - 4) and copy the complaint report.

Whether you succeed the solve the complaint or not make it your business to thank the person(s) that handled (or attempted to) your complaint for their time. At all times portray the persona that you are the ideal future customer, which will stimulate a better response in the majority of cases.

So there you go, now you are armed with knowledge that is rarely communicated in the public domain concerning how to make a complaint. In the capacity of Perpetual Traveller Editor I would love to hear your complaints and experiences as we need to collectively share information and expose Tourism related Companies that take advantage of Tourists and Travellers. I look forward to hearing from you.

Grant Holmes
Perpetual Traveller