Insights on Travel from Costa Rica Expeditions’ Founder Michael Kaye and his Expert Friends.

Responding to complaints, The British perspective.

Obviously there is a good deal of interest in this topic.  I am going to wait to comment until I have posted one more actual complaint this Tuesday. On July 20 I’ll share who we handled this complaint.

In the meantime I am posting Chris Parrot’s comment because it gives a typically well thought out perspective on handling complaints in general. Chris is a founding partner and director of Journey Latin America, http://www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk/ the UK’s top tour operator for Latin America.

If the Brits played soccer as well as well as Chris writes and thinks he would have been glued to the telly and not had time to write the comment.

By way of disclosure, Chris is good friend and client—in that order.

Here’ Chris:

Since we’re in the same business, we too occasionally get complaints. Some of them are for things which, though not the clients’ fault, are certainly beyond anyone’s control. But things went wrong, and someone should pay. Icelandic ash generated a good number of this category of complaint, and European airlines and tour operators are still feeling the fallout.

Some complaints we get are the result of failures of our suppliers (airlines, hotels, providers of local services and excursions). But since we are the tour organizer (legally) we end up having to handle these.

Some of the coq-ups (as we say in Britain, although not spelled that way), regrettably, are our own.

And once in a blue moon, we get a professional complainer. Nothing went wrong, but he wants money back. We’ve had about 3 of these in 30 years’ trading. Generally, we take the view that almost no-one complains unless he has a valid reason.

My view is that your dissatisfied client sounds reasonable, although nothing he says provides any evidence of his original premise: that those who simply buy accommodation are treated worse than those who buy “packages”.

Assuming that all the facts are correct, the client should have been offered, on the spot, a full refund for the “lost” night. Later, as soon as Michael became aware of the problem, a personal letter of apology would have certainly have made these clients feel special again.

The fact that the clients declined (a less emotive word than refused) the offer of a meal (they already had plans), and paid without comment when they left (probably embarrassed) should not in this case detract from the seriousness of the complaint.

If we had received this complaint (after the client returned home)we’d have probably had to offer more refund (“gesture of goodwill”) and would certainly have sought assurances from the provider that all faults had been rectified. If the provider was new to us, we’d have “stopped sale” immediately.

But, and here’s the good bit, we almost never receive complaints about Costa Rica Expeditions’ getting it wrong on the ground – CRE are exceptionally good at putting things right as soon as they go wrong. I wish I could say that with honesty about all our other Latin America suppliers

Chris Parrott, Journey Latin America, London

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2 Comments and 0 Replies

  • Responding to complaints, The British perspective.

    • At July 08, 2010
      3:31:44 pm
      Jennifer Fletcher said:

      I think this just about sums it all up for me.
      I love the spelling of “coq-up”.Both my husband & I were born in the UK & had a good laugh at this!