Updated June 2022 – Feedback and online reviews offer a vast amount of potential for businesses looking to expand their online presence and reach new customers. However, positive reviews aren’t the only form of feedback that exists. While truly unhappy customers are generally a rarity, they do crop up from time to time in the industry. And, when they do, it’s always a good idea to be ready to handle arising complaints with an agreed-upon approach that all staff follows. Due to the varying types of criticisms that can be directed toward a company, it can be difficult to create a one-size-fits-all policy that neatly details how to handle customer complaints that will come through your door.

So how do you manage customer complaints in a manner that will not only quickly resolve the issue but actively improve your business?

You can’t just sweep complaints under the carpet and pretend they don’t exist. But luckily, negative reviews aren’t inherently harmful to a business. In fact, with a good complaint handling policy, tour operators can turn that negative feedback into a positive experience.

But knowing how to respond to customer complaints effectively isn’t as complicated as you may first think. Here are seven steps you can take when dealing with complaints management in tour guiding.

1. Set a complaints handling policy

How to deal with customer complaints

A complaints handling process is a necessary part of guaranteeing that everyone in your business is aware of the position you will adopt when dealing with complaints. Without a clear complaint handling policy, staff will be unsure of the preferred method of resolution if a conflict arises. Different responses to complaints will cause confusion amongst customers and can generate unprofitable or tedious expectations regarding your business’s operations.

Before you start writing your complaints handling policy, you must first consider the legal trading obligations that apply to you. For example in Australia, there is Australian consumer law, which provides businesses and customers with certain rights that cannot be revoked. Most countries will have similar regulations or dedicated bodies that oversee private businesses to ensure compliance with the law. 

When writing your policy, make sure that it is compatible with the relevant regulations. Then, dedicate a section of your policy to clearly explaining:

  • How you plan to respond to complaints quickly and fairly
  • The procedure for filing a complaint
  • What you will do to resolve the complaint

By the end of it, readers should feel that they clearly understand your complaint management policy. They should also feel like your ears are open to customer feedback. You are willing to take it as constructive criticism, and not an attack.

2. Respond quickly to complaints

Nothing aggravates an unhappy customer more than slow responses. It’s important to respond to complaints as quickly as possible to resolve lingering issues and demonstrate solid customer service practices.

While you don’t have to drop everything to immediately respond to general feedback, exasperated complaints should be prioritized. It can be a good idea to separate ‘urgent’ complaints from other pieces of feedback and mark them as a high priority. That way your team can focus their attention on these comparatively more pressing concerns without being distracted by other tasks.

Guaranteeing a quick response to customer complaints can be tricky if you don’t have the proper systems in place. Do your staff have the authority to organize a solution even if you’re not there? You don’t want your customer to be waiting for you to get back from another tour until their complaint is resolved. Confirm that your staff knows how to respond to customer complaints in the manner outlined by your business’s policy.

3. Be patient, empathetic, and fair with customers

Although the customer in question may be fired up and difficult to deal with, it’s imperative that you and your staff keep stay calm when deciding how to deal with customer complaints.

Thank the customer for raising the complaint. Tell them you appreciate it (and apologize if necessary) and be patient, empathetic, and fair in your response. A lot of the time when customers complain, their primary goal is to feel ‘heard’ and have their concerns validated. Show them that you understand where they’re coming from – even if you don’t.

How to respond to customer complaints

While it’s a wise business decision to get customers to leave reviews, negative and/ or critical reviews may pop up from time to time. But remember: a negative review isn’t the end of the world. If anything, it provides an opportunity for you to illustrate your ability to handle these situations calmly.

So how do you manage customer complaints in the form of online reviews? Firstly, you should always be aware of the fact that the majority of people reading your response won’t be the person you are addressing. Potential customers don’t want to see a business acting overly defensive or aggressive online. Be courteous and polite in your public response, even when faced with rude or untrue reviews.

4. Research the customer’s situation

Don’t jump to conclusions or get defensive in your response. When determining how to handle customer complaints, focus on finding a suitable solution that will make everyone happy.

Even with a thorough complaints policy, it can be difficult to foresee every kind of potential complaint and preemptively come up with solutions. Often, you will have to deal with each complaint on a case-by-case basis.

Don’t start resolving complaints without fully understanding the context. Research the situation and check records or talk to other staff. Understand not only where your customer is coming from, but what they are wishing to resolve or receive by escalating their complaints to management. Is the customer’s expectation realistic? Can you find a compromise?

To help clarify where your customer is coming from, consider utilizing hospitality reporting and analytics tools. Reporting tools can help you identify common issues amongst customers and preemptively manage potential areas of concern before complaints arise. A key aspect of knowing how to respond to customer complaints is being proactive in identifying and solving problems within your business.

5. Involve customers in the solution

Your customer doesn’t want to be left in the dark, only to receive an email two weeks later with a vague apology and a gift voucher code.

Tell the customer how you will handle the complaint and what they can expect to happen. By providing them with timeframes on your complaint management process, customers can better appreciate that you are dedicated to finding them a solution. This can help alleviate any irritation that they may be experiencing and limit the risk of ongoing conflict.

6. Keep customers updated

Keep your customers updated on progress. Reassure them that you haven’t forgotten about them and that the matter is still in the process of being resolved. If you have any updates on the status of your complaint review, be sure to reach out to the customer either via phone or email to ensure they are kept informed of each stage. Ideally, this will lessen the likelihood of your customers feeling as if they have to chase you up. 

How do you manage customer complaints

7. Touch base with the customer afterward

Once the issue has been resolved, you should end by reaching out to the customer and asking them to confirm that they are satisfied with the end result. Touching base with the customer after a short period of time can help to improve their overall perception of your business. By keeping in contact with the customer, you are demonstrating that you took their criticism seriously and are committed to improving your service in line with their feedback.

Satisfied customers are a great asset to your business and can help grow public awareness of your brand. An automated communications software helps you to stay in touch with your customers and maintain a positive relationship with them, even after they finish their tour or activity.


New: Customer satisfaction and customer expectations are strongly interlinked, so your customers’ experience with your tour or activity business begins at the moment of booking. By equipping your business with an advanced online booking system such as Rezdy, you’ll smoothen your booking processes – allowing your customers to place bookings easily.

Learn how a real-time scheduling software can improve your customer satisfaction rates by streamlining your internal booking processes. Find out how Rezdy can help your business along every step of the customer journey by starting your FREE 21-day trial or get a free demo today.

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