It’s a scene you’re familiar with. A guest visits, has an issue during their visit, and they complain. When listening to or reading their feedback, you find holes in their story suggesting that either the guest may have been confused, misinformed, and perhaps unaware... or even worse, fishing for something free.
If you’re right, then you will feel proud that you stopped a possible scammer and a liar, and you protect the assets of your business. But if you’re wrong and the guest had a genuine concern, you’ll exacerbate the issue and the guest will be even more frustrated. This error can quickly lead your guest to become an adversary, losing all possibility for repeat visitation and giving them ammo to damage your reputation through social media and negative word of mouth.
So, what do you do?
You can spend all day going back and forth on whether the guest is right or wrong, or if they deserve to have their issue fixed or not, and wonder if your assistance will make them feel like they’ve “won.” Or on the flip side, you can just fix their problem. You can err on the side of the business, or you can err on the side of the guest.
When you err on the side of the guest, you demonstrate your commitment to guest satisfaction and the importance that their experience has to the success of your business. Erring on the side of the business may protect the cash in the register in the short term, but the long term damages can have a greater negative impact.
If you design your guest experience well, you allow yourself to err on the side of the guest without hurting your business. This can be done if the following elements are in place:
- The guest can validate their concern, or at a minimum provide proof of their visit
- Your internal process requires all guest feedback to be documented, along with actions taken, and the employee(s) involved in the process
- Your employees are empowered to resolve concerns without needing management to intervene
- The specific tools that your employees are empowered to use have high value to your guest, but minimal or low cost to the business
When you meet these four points, you can focus on serving guests to the highest degree, and do so more efficiently too. Instead of seeking a manager’s approval, employees should be able to resolve the concern without having to investigate the validity of it.
This is just as effective for guests who truly are trying to cheat the system. For instance, I once received a phone call from a guest who said that they visited the week prior and had to leave the park early due to a medical emergency. The guest said that they weren’t asking for a refund, but for tickets to return. By focusing on these four elements, my actions looked like the following:
- I asked them what day they visited, and if they spoke with someone before leaving the park
When they said no…
- I asked if they still had their tickets, the receipt, or any proof or purchase that they visited
When they still said no…
- I asked about the details of the emergency, where exactly on property they were when it happened and the details surrounding the incident
When they couldn’t recall any details….
- I told them that I would be happy to replace their day provided the details of the incident could be confirmed and that we could verify that they were in the park on the day they said they were
When they told me that none of the details could be verified…
- I extended a 10% discount on admission if they were to return by the end of the week
This offer was perfectly reasonable, as it still guaranteed 90% of the full ticket revenue if they decided to visit (they could probably find even cheaper tickets online), but never suggested that they were getting anything for free. It also allowed me to close out the conversation and ensure that an offer was in place, in case the guest were to ever challenge the level of assistance offered. Had I said no without an offer, the guest would have continued to press, attempt to escalate the situation, and we would have gone around in circles. There was no indication that the guest was telling the truth in this instance, but by erring on the side of the guest I was able to complete my assistance with this guest and move on to the next, who may have had a more pressing issue.
Don’t waste time debating if the guest is deserving of compensation or not. Rather, set yourself up to err on the side of the guest and recover from even the fishiest of complaints.