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

10 Nov Dealing with complaints: The Professional Complainer

In my last post of the series, I introduced you to a fairly business-damaging complainer – the Silent Complainer.  This time, I want to talk about a complainer who (for all appearances) can make your life very difficult (but can also be easier to deal with!).

Professional complainers are people who are good at complaining and are in fact ‘old hands’ at doing so – they are the person who researches their complaint before actually complaining. They may have accumulated evidence such as photos, eye-witness reports or recordings of conversations.  They are the person who leave you no ‘wriggle room’ in their complaint; every aspect of the complaint, events surrounding it and events since, are meticulously analysed and constructed so as to leave little to no room for doubt that only their version of events and their opinions are the correct ones.

In some cases, Professional Complainers can in fact make quite a good living from complaining; receiving compensatory goods, services and a variety of other things, all because of the way they structured their complaint and argued their case.

There are two things you need to be aware of before we go any further:

  1. What appears to be a professional complainer, could indeed not be a professional complainer at all as they could be just very adept at complaining – a Professional complainer will never use emotion or emotive reasoning to argue a case!
  2. Professional complainers do not always know what they are talking about.

A Professional Complainer can in fact be broken down in to two different types of people; those who know what they are talking about, and those who don’t!  I can probably count on one hand how many times I have dealt with a true professional complainer – the person who is fully aware of legislation, consumer rights and even company procedures so as to leave you in no doubt of where they stand and where you stand.  Conversely, the amount of times I have dealt with the Amateur-Professional Complainer could leave me counting for hours!

The Amateur-Professional complainer is someone who throws around fancy terminology and legislation in their complaints without actually knowing what the true definition, context and impact of the legislation they are quoting actually is.  Usually this type of complainer is someone who likes to make themselves appear more intelligent and ‘world-wise’ than they actually are – they are the type of person who always has to be better than others, even if they are blatantly wrong!  One such example is the guest who books the wrong date and then 3 days later claims they have the legal right to change their booking to another date without paying the higher rate (because of course we knew they wanted Saturday night when the booked for Wednesday night!)!  Amateur-Professional Complainers are the unfortunate by-product of consumer action groups, and are the embodiment of the old phrase ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’.  These people should be dealt with in the same way as a True-Professional Complainer.

The True-Professional Complainer is a person who knows, understands and uses legislation and knowledge to it’s best effect.  For example – the guest who uses health and safety legislation to demonstrate the danger of exposed electrical wiring and frayed carpets in their bedroom, then uses further legislation to demonstrate that the unsafe environment left them at risk and they should receive a refund as the room was not fit for purpose with such a risk present.  This would be very difficult to deny if the correct legislative quotes were given.

The main way to tell the difference between a True-Professional and Amateur-Professional complainer is the tone of the complaint – a True-Professional deals mainly in facts, figures and real events – an Amateur-Professional complainer is someone who deals in emotional blackmail, getting angry and throwing in quotes of legislation and consumer rights simply to make them sound knowledgable.  Believe me when I say that you are guaranteed to deal with a few of these people in your life!

It is usually a bit of a relief to deal with a Professional Complainer as, unlike many other complainer types, they will actually let you know their core reason for complaining and what they expect as a resolution.  They give you a full breakdown of events, from start to finish; nothing is omitted or left to chance and each complaint is backed by evidence, rather than being simply an emotive outburst with lots of irrelevant detail thrown in for impact.  I am a True-Professional complainer (most of the time) and will take time to do my research before complaining.

Responding to and dealing with a Professional Complainer is straightforward – your response must give as much detail as their complaint; every issue raised must be fully acknowledged, responded to, and all the action taken as a result must be fully explained.  Compensation should usually be offered – whether this be a refund, free stay or other offer; the general rule here is that you should make an offer that is in line with what they originally paid – so someone complaining about 1 night of a three night stay should be offered compensation equivalent to 1 night of their stay (at minimum).  This is not about giving the guest what they want, but is about being able to justify your compensation offer is in line with their complaint.

Professional Complainers should not be dealt with using standard methods – they cannot be given excuses or have their complaints ‘glossed over’ – they must be kept involved in proceedings and kept up-to-date. They are the guest you should value above all other types of complainer as they will pick your offering apart and will detail everything that is wrong.  They provide some of the best feedback, and some of the most detailed, but can also be some of the most damaging to your brand if you do not deal with them properly!

Professional Complainers are not as scary as you may think, stick to the facts, admit where you were wrong and make any compensation in line with their issues.

So are you a Professional Complainer?  Have you dealt with Professional Complainers?

Next in the series I will talk about:

  • Social Complainers – the world is their audience and they are the performer!
  • Aggressive Complainers – when negotiation doesn’t work, screaming and shouting usually does!
  • Empathetic Complainers – everything is understandable and forgivable, they appreciate how hard you work!
  • Assertive Complainers – they will have what they want, and you cannot say otherwise… or can you?!
  • Compensatory Complainers – everything is perfect as long as they get a refund!
Matt Shiells-Jones
matt@chocolatepillow.com

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



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