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

20 Nov Dealing with complaints: The Social Complainer

Previously I have talked about the Silent and Professional complainers – now I move on to a growing complainer type, one that is becoming more and more ‘powerful’ against businesses – the Social Complainer.

A Social Complainer is pretty much what it says on the tin – they complain to anyone and everyone that will listen; the complaint is not kept just to the hotel staff or friends and family, but is spread using any means necessary.  These are the types of people who will use Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor and other third party review sites (even your own direct bookings site’s reviews section), to their own advantage in order to express their dis-satisfaction.  These break down in to three types of people:

  • The person who uses this as a threat only – they use it to get more out of you or to get a more panicked reaction
  • The person who uses this as a last resort – they feel all other avenues are exhausted and use this as a final ‘power play’ to be heard
  • The person who would use social media anyway to report their experience – they will write a review regardless of experience.

Social Complainers are usually fairly easy to identify and are rarely just Social Complainers as they often intertwine with other complainer types; typically they will present alongside Professional, Silent or Compensatory Complainers.

These complainers are pretty tricky to deal with as they can cause a lot of damage to your reputation with just a few key strokes, particularly if they have a grudge to bear!  Whilst we in the industry know that complaints can often be inflated by guests when putting them online, you absolutely must never forget that everyone is entitled to hold (and express) an opinion on any given subject!

The main indicator that you are dealing with a Social Complainer, is when the guest states ‘I am going to put this on TripAdvisor/Facebook/Laterooms/[insert name of any site…]’.  Social Complainers are rarely shy about telling you they have a problem, but you must ensure that you work as quickly as possible to retain the complaint in-house.  Take an example I have dealt with:

[box] A guest complained on checkout that they believed their room had bed-bugs. Nothing had been reported until checkout, so we were in a limited position to rectify. They mentioned that they had never seen anything like this reported about us on TripAdvisor, but they wanted us to know they thought they had bed-bugs in the room as they ‘saw something on the bed’. Immediately I asked reception (with the guest beside me) to place the room out of order for the next 2 days, contacted housekeeping via radio to meet me at the room and then went to the room with the guest and asked them to advise me where they saw the bugs. Nothing was touched until the housekeeper arrived wearing gloves and protective clothing and began stripping the bed – a ‘DO NOT DISTURB sign was placed on the outer door handle and the housekeeper also alerted all other staff not to enter the room until inspected (to avoid transportation of any bugs to other areas). The guest saw all of this was being done – this was VERY IMPORTANT as it is proof of action. On return to reception, I refunded the nights stay as a goodwill gesture and offered complimentary upgrade on a future stay. The guest departed happy. My handling did not end there. I contacted pest control to come and inspect the room and emailed the guest to advise them that an inspection was scheduled for the following day, thanked them for advising us, and again apologised for their discomfort. The full inspection was carried out the following day and then I sent a copy of the ‘All Clear’ report and the pro-active pest control treatment report, along with a further apology by post. The result – an excellent review on TripAdvisor that did not mention anything about bugs at all![/box]

The main thing with any Social Complainer is to ensure that you handle the situation appropriately.  Do not over-compensate the guest based on the threat of a bad review, and do not take it to heart if they still post a bad review.  The above process is the standard procedure for the hotel for any typical complaint of bed bugs etc, however the follow-up wasn’t.  That was my decision and provided closure to the guest on the complaint – now they know we are all clear and the scenario was handled so efficiently, guess what?  They are returning to us several times over the course of the year for their business stays.

Social Complainers will complain online if not handled correctly, and even if they do not complain to the hotel at all whilst they are there.  Here are some handy tips to dal with them:

  • Do not take it to heart.  Yes they may have exaggerated or over-analysed a situation, but that is their right to do so.
  • Use the response facility that most sites have.  I have lost count of the amount of hotels that never provide a management response to reviews and most review sites have this facility.  Facebook also has the ability to delete inappropriate posts (which should only be done if someone is abusive).  This must be done professionally – remember that your comments will be seen as representative of the hotel – telling a guest they are wrong, is actually telling al potential guests reading this reviews that they too will be wrong in any complaint they make.
  • Use private messaging functions to communicate with guests – professionally!  Most sites allow you to privately message a user (i.e. TripAdvisor, Facebook etc), or ben with a bit of research you can locate which guest left the comments and complaint and contact them.
  • Make an effort.  If the guest complained, then make an effort to contact them and resolve the situation – yes this may not be posted on al the sites in the same way as a complaint, but the fact you made such an effort can prompt many people to remove, edit or even re-post their comments.
  • Make it personal… Not in a bad way!  Make the complaint handling personal to that guest (I am not talking about being defensive and insulting).
  • If after dealing with the complaint, the guest still writes a bad review, you still have an unresolved complaint.  Re-visit the guest and do not be afraid to mention that you spotted their review and just wanted to make sure everything was resolved to their satisfaction.

People will lie in reviews, but this is uncommon.  I have written other posts on dealing with bad reviews so will not go in to this, but a Social Complainer should be well nurtured as dealing with them correctly can turn a bad situation in to and excellent one – proving your staff can handle the complaint efficiently, effectively and that you can ensure it is followed through correctly can turn a Social Complainer in to a Brand Ambassador – they are (uniquely) the only type of complainer that can be converted from Brand Hater to Brand Lover through correct communication and correct handling.

So love your Social Complainers – treat them well and you will often get the same in return!

Next in the series I will talk about:

  • 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

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

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