Chocolate Pillow | Dealing with complaints: The Compensatory Complainer
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Dealing with complaints: The Compensatory Complainer

06 Feb Dealing with complaints: The Compensatory Complainer

It’s been a while since I last posted, but here is the final post in my series on complainer types: The Compensatory Complainer.

It is all too common to find certain complainers who immediately demand a refund, compensation or discounts; this is a compensatory complainer and they can be pretty much anyone that complains!  A compensatory complainer is simply a consumer who has been conditioned over time to believe that every ‘wrongdoing’ can be compensated in a monetary way – they are not a rare breed and in my experience are actually growing in number quite considerably.

A compensatory complainer is not a ‘bad person’; in fact they are probably the easiest type of complainer to deal with by simply giving them what they want!  But this is not conducive and actually only serves to reinforce that they can get free things by simply complaining (whether or not their complaints are unjustified).  One other indicator you are dealing with a compensatory complainer is when you are confronted with a list of complaints that simply keeps growing and growing; every time you counteract one complaint, another rises in it’s place!

Compensatory come in two forms – the round-the-houses and the straightforward!  A round-the-houses compensatory complainer is the person who will list issue after issue, never actually saying what they want out of complaining; when asked what they want to resolve the issue, they will usually respond with an ‘I don’t know’ response, but will still persist on complaining.  A key indicator of them wanting compensation is continual references to lack of value for money or similar.  A straight-forward compensatory complainer will simply tell you what they want and their reasons why.

This does not mean you have to just give them what they are asking for!  Usually a compensatory complainer is happy to accept a return stay or just a discount, but this depends on their complaints and prior experiences of complaining.  A compensatory complainer has usually had multiple experiences of ‘getting their own way’ with complaints and some even essentially make a living out of – I have heard of people who book flights or hotels on very popular nights in the hope of being out booked; they then demand monetary compensation on top of free travel or stays when they have their booking cancelled!

Compensatory complainers are generally the type of people who will push complaints further than most – letters to head offices, company directors and similar tactics are common.

When dealing with a compensatory complainer, you should treat it (strangely) as a negotiation – they want something, you want to give nothing, so you need to meet in the middle!  Negotiating is not as hard as you would think – they say they want a full refund, you offer 50% (as after all you still have a business cost etc); negotiate from there!

Remember that actually giving in to compensatory complainers and giving them what they want, only reinforces that they can get something from complaining hard enough – you actually potentially create a nightmare guest who stays with you all the time, but always complains and gets a refund – they are not genuine guests, instead they are people who simply play the game to get free holidays or similar!

Whilst you should never always give in totally, recognise that sometimes you should provide what they want in the interests of business!  Making this decision is no easy thing and there is no magic formula – only you can decide when it is worthwhile giving them what they want.  As a recent example, I dealt with a guest who complained their room was cold – they told reception and within 5 minutes had an additional heater in the room; they said this turned off (safety cut-off of the heat) so an alternate heater was provided.  They complained they had a terrible stay and requested a full refund; this was declined – everything else with their stay was perfect and no complaint was registered on departure.  Similarly, the fact remains that all other services were provided and we did all we could to make them comfortable; they did not tell us they felt cold all night otherwise we have sorted something out (even if it meant turning the heating up along their corridor) – the request for a refund was declined and an alternate offered of a return stay.

Remember that when compensating people, a refund is an immediate loss of revenue – a free return stay is a chance to showcase your hotel once more and to also get some additional incremental revenue (guests with no accommodation bill are less likely to avoid spending money in your bar/restaurant).

And here ends the final post of the series – have you ever dealt with compensatory complainers?  Perhaps you have some tips on dealing with certain types of complainers?  Have a look through my other posts for more tips!


Matt Shiells-Jones

Husband, Author, Hotel Manager and ambitious 'old cat lady'

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