It’s sad to say that you don’t often find a company that knows exactly how to handle customer complaints with great success.
My blog earlier this week re the shambolic Women Ahead Awards process is a shining example of how NOT to deal with a complaint. Unfortunately, in the days post the blog being published, this hasn’t improved with no recognition of any problem or change in approach.
But it’s not just network organisations and large corporates that handle complaints badly. Nor are they only ones to receive them.
We are all human and in the same week that I provided my own views on how another organisation behaved, I also made a mistake in my own business.
Whilst I’d blocked out this weekend for a bridal photo shoot at the huts, for some reason, our online system had allowed another booking to be made.
I was mortified and this is the first time that it has happened with the system.
But with the Women Ahead Awards experience firmly at the front of my thoughts this week, I’ve spent some time reflecting over how well I have personally handled any complaints and feedback from our past two years. And whether my response in this situation lived up to the response that I’d personally wish to receive as a paying customer.
Prevention Rather Than Cure
Of course, its would much less painful to reduce your customer complaints rather than just get better at dealing them. Prevention really is better than cure.
But how can you help prevent beach hut hire complaints before they happen?
#1 Be clear who your ideal customer is.
If you are a Cath Kidston addict, then it’s highly unlikely that you’d be happy showing up to a beach hut that is kitted out like a dungeon.
While photos, descriptions and clear branding can all aid with attracting the right customer, you also need to be clear about who that is.
There is lots of great guidance out there re how to identify your ideal customer and if you’re just setting out on your beach hut hire journey, then I’d encourage you to do some work on this up front.
Appealing to a niche rather than trying to get one size to fit all can have huge benefits. Rather than following others who already hire, work out who your customer is and style around that. You’ll wow them more than trying to appeal to the masses.
While I can vouch that this has worked for me, as competition increases knowing your ideal customer will be key to retaining guests as well as ensuring you satisfy their expectations.
Karen Reyburn runs a digital marketing agency for accountants and has recently published a guest blog which clearly articulates the benefit of this approach on a larger scale. A fab read!
#2 Share as much information as possible up front.
Imagine a family showing up to your beach hut and they’ve decided to bring some wine or tinned food with them. But what if your hut doesn’t have a corkscrew or tin opener?
That small missing item could have a large impact on their experience that day, and likely to be the one thing that niggles throughout.
It doesn’t mean that you must jam pack your beach hut with absolutely every item you can think of. That is entirely your choice and the decision to do so will be based on your own budget, the price you are charging and as I said above, who your ideal client is.
But to avoid the situation even arising you could provide a full and detailed list of contents. Preferably pre someone booking.
I also frequently see owners provide lots of photographs of their beach huts inside but not of the surrounding area, particularly any steps. Be honest about your beach hut and the pros and cons of it’s location and style.
Don’t be tempted to fill up your bookings with people who may not 100% love your hut due to access or style. For example, you may benefit from that initial booking but the risk of damage longer term as they share their unhappiness with others.
#3 Plan for those Beach Hut Hire mishaps.
I’ve learnt a lot from the past two years.
I now know the items not to include in a beach hut, as they are more susceptible to regular breakage. Sorry deckchairs, I love you but well we had to replace bits of them too often!
You see, it’s not necessarily about the cost of replacing an item but sometimes how quickly you can replace, particularly if you have back to back bookings.
You don’t want any guest arriving with broken items from the day before while you find time to get down to the hut to replace.
It’s also why I have between two and three spare gas stoves in every beach hut and some other key items too.
I never need to worry about a guest now having a significant item stop working nor worry about having to get to the beach huts to replace urgently.
#4 Listen and react. Quickly.
I would encourage you to have beach hut hire terms and conditions that state a customer should contact you during the day if there are any concerns. But, I’d also suggest that you are clear re how you can be contacted by each guest during the days’ hire itself.
Sometimes you will be able to resolve over the phone or just point them to an item or explain how to switch that gas stove on ;0).
However, where it’s on the day or after, do take the time to listen. I know that your beach hut is your pride and joy and you may not like what you here but you are running a business where someone has paid for services within your control.
Even if you can’t respond fully there and then, return that phone call or return an email as soon as its received. Explain if you can’t answer straight away but most importantly acknowledge there has been a problem and that you do take these seriously.
#5 Make it easy to for people to send you feedback.
It’s generally assumed that us British don’t like to make formal complaints.
It’s something that worries me as a small business owner. I’d rather know about a complaint so that I can change or fix it. My worst nightmare would be for guest after guest after guest to have the same issue in a beach hut and never mention it.
With nearly 30% of my guests coming back in the same year, this could have a serious impact on my business and more importantly their own day of creating memories.
When something goes wrong, it really is better for me to hear about it. So, it’s even more important to me to ensure that it’s easy for guests to provide feedback and to make that pain free too.
From follow-up emails encouraging feedback to signposting guests to your Facebook page reviews and even enabling reviews on your website. There are ways to take the pain out of raising complaints.
You can go that one step further and share any issues being raised and what you’ve changed because of that feedback. This helps show your guests that if they were to raise an issue, it will be valued and acted upon to improve the experience for all your guests.
The key to all the above is communication, communication, communication. The more transparent you are and the more you share, the less likely it is that any guest will arrive at your beach hut with expectations that you won’t be able to meet.
But what if it’s too late. What if following a beach hut hire, you have received a complaint from a customer.
How do you handle it?
How to Handle Customer Complaints
While I’ve had less than a handful of complaints, you should ensure that you are comfortable with all aspects of managing a beach hut hire before you start taking bookings.
But the first thing I want to say is don’t panic. I’m afraid that no matter how much preventative measures you’ve put in place, it may happen!
With a few simple tips, you’ll find a way to resolve and hopefully end up with a satisfied customer:
#1 Acknowledge and respond quickly.
It’s obvious but it doesn’t always happen.
So, if you haven’t received the complaint in person or answered that initial call it’s so so important that you let a guest know that you’ve received their email or even call them back to acknowledge a call. Don’t worry about not having all the answers, just make sure they know that you have acknowledged that something has happened and that you are considering it.
Even with that initial response, the speed of response is key. I know that this can be hard as many beach hut hire owners do this in addition to working full-time and have other commitments but I promise that if you do so, then your guest will feel valued even if things have gone wrong.
At this stage, please make sure you acknowledge how your guest feels at this stage. Think about the words you are using as I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that “I’m sorry you feel that way” is just a tad sarcastic.
#2 Listen. Even if you disagree.
I know your beach hut is your pride and joy and I know that you may not be able to understand why someone may not have felt the same. They may not think your seating area is big enough, the decking may not have the right view or the right shade.
That’s the thing with beach huts. We all have our own preferences re the row position, where on the beach and even the style of contents. Guests will also use your beach hut for different purposes too.
Don’t argue, don’t defend and listen.
Listen, listen, listen. And when you’ve stopped listening, ask a question and listen more.
Not only will it help your guest feel valued and perhaps take the immediate anger out of any complaint but it will also help you reflect on what actions you wish to take. Whether that be improving your beach hut based on the feedback, offering refunds (partial or full) or finding some other way to way compensate.
We’ll talk about compensation a little more below
#3 Take responsibility.
When you’ve listened and asked questions and listened again. Make sure you take personal responsibility.
So, what if a supplier has let you down and that’s why you now have a complaint. Do you think the guest cares? No.
No matter how much you want to explain how you did everything to avoid this happening or why it’s someone else’s fault, please don’t.
If you have ever raised a complaint yourself, you know that you just want the one person to take responsibility for the pain or inconvenience it has caused. They also want the person they are talking to take responsibility for fixing it in some way and not pass it off to someone else.
Do make sure any calls or emails that you are personally taking responsibility to avoid any doubt.
I’d love to be able to give you that one magic response that you should take for every complaint. But unfortunately, that isn’t the case and will be dependent on each set of individual circumstances.
Your response may range from merely taking on board a suggestion to a full on public apology with an offer of compensation if something has gone terribly wrong.
Here are a few ways in which you offer some form of compensation where appropriate:
- Partial or full refund on the beach hut hire day
- Discount on a future booking
- A personal response or gift. This could perhaps be a handwritten note with a small gift as a gesture of goodwill
- A combination of all the above
There really is no one size fits all but do remember that even if you feel no compensation should be offered, going that little bit further could turn a complaint into a future guest.
You may even find that the guest becomes a raving fan due to how you’ve taken the time to react and handle their complaint.
Handing a customer complaint when you are hiring out your beach hut, can be time-consuming. But if not approached with care and thought, it could impact all current and future customers.
While prevention is better than cure, some simple techniques and making the customer feel valued during any complaint will repay you time and time again.
They say it costs at least five times as much to gain a new customer than keeping an existing one. While that may be true, I prefer to focus on the fact that I think that everyone deserves respect, dignity and value for money on a day they may have been looking forward to for months.
If they have been brave enough to pick up the phone or fire off an email, the least we can do as beach hut owners is to act upon it.
Who knows, our business may be even better for it in the long run.
- Beach Hut Hire: How Much Can I Earn Hiring Out My Beach Hut?
- Considering Hiring Out Your Beach Hut? The Pros and Cons of Hiring Out Your Beach Hut
- My 10 top tips for Beach Hut Purchase to Hiring out Success
Do you find your time consumed with admin around your beach hut hire? Do you find the pressure of always being at the end of the phone for guests and bookings too much? We have recently launched our beach hut hire management services which you can find HERE and have 6 beach huts already signed up. Do be quick as we’re limiting our numbers to 10 this year to ensure we give each beach hut all the attention it deserves!
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