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Handling Complaints

A typical business hears from only 4% of its dissatisfied customers; the other 96% just go quietly away and 91% of them will never go back. A typical dissatisfied customer tells more than eight people about his or her problem. Seven out of ten complaining customers will do business with you again if you resolve the complaint in their favour and, if it is resolved on the spot, 95% will do business with you again. – Consumer and Business Services (SA)


The steps are:

  • Identify yourself by name, listen carefully to what is being said. Record details and determine what the complainant wants.
  • Empathise with the complainant. Be courteous.
  • Explain the courses of action available.
  • Don’t attempt to lay blame.
  • Don’t be defensive.
  • If possible resolve the complaint immediately irrespective of who will ultimately handle the complaint.
  • Ensure that the consumer knows what’s happening without creating false expectations.
  • Check with the consumer that the proposed action will satisfy their concern. If not, advise alternative courses of action.
  • Acknowledge the discussion; e.g. a thankyou letter, a telephone call.
  • Follow up and monitor to ensure the consumer remains satisfied as well as receives feedback.

1. Essentially

You want to turn a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied customer; speed and good processes are necessary.

2. Commitment

There needs to be a commitment by all staff to effectively resolve complaints. This approach is important for customer satisfaction and also for the continual improvement of the campsite. The complaints policy needs to be in writing and you may need to obtain training for yourself and staff.

3. Fairness

A good complaints handling process needs to be fair. This means

  • acknowledging the person’s right to be heard
  • know if your procedures have been followed
  • have access to all relevant material
  • be informed of the processes
  • hear the response of the person who is the subject of the complaint
  • hear the decision and the reasons for that decision
  • have confidentiality if requested.

As the body that is the subject of the complaint, you have the right to collect sufficient detail about the complaint to investigate it adequately.

4. Resources

The procedure will stand or fall on the staff who should be appropriate for the task, trained and supported so that complaints are dealt with adequately. Resources would include written procedures, easy phone access and quiet surrounds (not in the corner of the noisy kitchen)

5. Visible and accessible

Your willingness to hear feedback, including complaints should be clear and obvious. Seek comment in printed material (handbooks, postcamp questionnaires, satisfaction surveys, etc.). Make sure staff know that feedback is actively sought.

6. Responsiveness

Set time limits for your action and keep people informed if it looks like dragging on.

7. Remedies

Your process should be able to respond with what is fair and reasonable, in line with legal obligations and good industry practice. It could include refunds, replacement, substitutes, information, referral, compensation, apology and a goodwill gift or token. Be sure to address all aspects of the complaint and follow up where appropriate.

8. Data Collection

Systematically record complaints under headings such as date, nature of complaint, practices or procedures that caused problems, response time, nature of group. What is this telling you about your site? Equipment, printed material, instructions, procedures, signage, staff training may need to be re-examined and altered.

9. Accountability and reviews

There can be no doubt that responsibility lodges with management. Review your complaints procedure annually or after a complaint has been received.