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Dealing with Unhappy Guests

By Janine Diana, EAA Lifetime 1082064, VP of People and Culture

May 2015 - Many of us have to deal with an angry or unhappy member, guest, volunteer, or co-worker and it is never easy.  But if we know what to say and, more importantly, how to say it, we may be able to save the situation.  In fact, we can even end up with a better relationship with our guest than we had before.

The following are some tips and techniques that you can use to smooth things over, so that you can leave the guest feeling satisfied.

Step One:  Adjust Your Mindset

Once you are aware that your guest is unhappy then your first priority is to put yourself into a customer service mindset.  This means, setting aside your personal feelings and help solve the problem.  Give your guest 100% of your focus.

Step Two:  Listen Actively

It is very important to actively listen to what the guest is saying ----he wants to be heard and to air his grievances.  Start the dialogue with a neutral statement, such as, “Let’s go over what happened,” or “Please tell me why you are upset.” 

Resist the temptation to try to solve the situation right away, or to jump to conclusions about what happened.  Instead, let the guest tell you his story.  Don’t interrupt and be sure to provide the guest all of your attention.

Step Three:  Repeat Their Concerns

Once the guest has had time to explain the situation, repeat his concerns so you are sure that you are addressing the right issue.  If you need to, ask questions for clarity.  Use calm and objective wording.  By repeating the problem it shows the guest that you were listening, which can help lower his anger and stress levels and helps you confirm your understanding.  Be sure you are focusing on the real issue.  Sometimes a situation can be a result of a different problem.

Step Four:  Be Empathic and Apologize

Once you are sure you understand your guest’s concerns, be empathetic.  Show him you understand why he is upset.  For example, you may state, “I understand why you are upset.  I’m very sorry to learn you had this experience.”  Be quick to apologize, even if you had nothing personally to do with the situation.

Step Five:  Present a Solution

If you feel you know what will make the guest happy, tell him how you can correct the situation.  If you are not sure you know what your guest wants from you, then give them the opportunity to resolve things by asking what you can do.

Step Six:  Take Action and Follow-up

Once you have agreed on a solution, you need to take action immediately.  Provide an overview of the steps you will take, provide contact information, if appropriate, so he can follow up with you if he needs to. 

Once the situation has been resolved, follow up with your guest over the next few days to make sure they are happy with the resolution.  Whenever you can, go above and beyond his expectations. 

Step Seven:  Use the Feedback

How can you ensure the situation can be avoided in the future?  Be sure to find the root of the problem and make sure it is fixed immediately.

Dealing with difficult guests can be challenging.  If you handle the situation well, you may even be able to leave a positive lasting impression.  If you ever need assistance in dealing with a specific situation, be sure to call EAA Staff for support and assistance.
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