Best Practices in Dealing with Guest Complaints
Even at the best-run amusement parks and attractions, guests will have complaints. These can be about a ride that has broken down, food that wasn’t prepared as the guest wished, hotel rooms that didn’t meet guest expectations, or weather delays that kept a park shut down for most of the guest’s visit.
For operators, the real challenge lies in resolving complaints in ways that will enhance the guest experience.
Train Staff to Deal with Complaints Professionally
Guests tend to complain to whichever front-line staff member happens to be on hand at the time. Therefore, all staff members need to be properly trained to deal with guests’ complaints professionally and politely.
“We teach our team members to be proactive with a guest complaint and handle it if they can,” says Brian Williams, CEO of The Funplex amusement parks, which has three U.S. locations and won the 2011 IAAPA Top Family Entertainment Center (FEC) of the World Brass Ring Award. “Front-line team members can handle the most minor form of complaints, such as being told a bathroom is dirty and then getting maintenance to clean it up. If it is a complaint that requires a manager or supervisor, the front-line team member’s main priority is to gather information about the complaint by listening and focusing on the guest. They can then relay this information to the manager when they arrive.”
Bryan Maxwell, general manager of the Jake’s Unlimited FEC in Mesa, Arizona, and the 2018 IAAPA Top FEC of the World Brass Ring Award winner, adds to this by reflecting on his own team members’ conduct.
“Our staff understands that the guest initially came in to have an amazing experience, and something has happened—real or perceived—that has fallen short of their expectations,” Maxwell says. “If there is a remedy readily available, our team is empowered on every level to make necessary and quick decisions.”
Listen to What the Guest Has to Say
When people who make a complaint feel that they are genuinely being listened to, it often dispels their hostility, transforming the “me vs. them” aspect of the complaint into a “me and them” situation, wherein the park is on their side. This is why Jake’s Unlimited and The Funplex teach their staff to listen closely and carefully to guest complaints in a positive and supportive manner.
“Listening is the foundation of our guest relations process,” Maxwell says. “Every guest is entitled to have their complaint heard, taken seriously, and given the proper acknowledgement. Active listening is key to not only uncovering the root issue, but also gaining valuable insight to possible unknown issues in the facility.”
Williams agrees with this sentiment.
“Listening is one of a team member’s most important duties when handling a guest complaint,” he says. “After all, a guest with a complaint just wants to be heard.”
Find Out What the Guest Really Wants
Really listening to what a person is upset about is the first step to successfully resolving guest complaints. The second step is finding out what they want as restitution.
“Each guest has a different idea of what would resolve the situation,” Maxwell notes. “Some guests simply want to have their complaints heard and acknowledged. Others may want an apology and a refund, while some may want categorical changes within the facility.”
In some cases, it may not be possible to give the guests what they want, but offering them a range of restitution options may still save the day.
For instance, The Funplex has a “No Refunds” policy, yet the venue’s staff have many alternative options for satisfying guests. This is because The Funplex’s main priority is to ensure that all guests leave its facility happy and wanting to return.
“We have multiple ways to accomplish this,” Williams says. “We can give passes to come back on another day, give credits to a guest to use on our rides or arcades, and even give tickets to our redemption prize station. We want our resolutions to be the same from every manager and supervisor because it shows no favoritism or weaknesses among the team.”
View Complaint Management as a Marketing Tool
When guests believe their complaint has been heard and fairly dealt with, they end up feeling quite positively about the venue.
“It shows the guest that our company really cares about every single person that walks through our doors,” Williams says.
This is why effective complaint management can be a constructive marketing tool.
“Guests who feel as though you have listened to them with purpose, genuinely had concern for their complaints, and went out of your way to resolve them will come back,” Maxwell explains. “Also, guests that feel that they won a ‘victory’ are likely to tell their story to others and paint you in a good light.”