How to Respond to a Customer Service Complaint

| November 16, 2010 | 7 Comments

I have previously provided a sample hotel complaint letter to help travelers write a respectful complaint about underwhelming service. However, I received a few questions from those who may be on the receiving end of this communication. How do you “handle” a customer who thinks they have been mistreated by your company? If you are responsible for replying to a complaint letter or email, take some tips from the responses I received from Hilton after my complaint.

Acknowledge Receipt

After I submitted my complaint using the company’s online contact form, the following message arrived to indicate the company had successfully received my message.

Thank you for e-mailing Hilton Reservations and Customer Care.

We appreciate your e-mail and are dedicated to provide “Best in Class” service by responding to all queries as quickly as possible.  We are currently experiencing higher than usual volume due to recent changes in the HHonors program and apologize that we may not be able to answer your email within our typical 24 to 48 hours timeframe from receipt.   We appreciate your patience and assure you that we will respond to your inquiry just as quickly as possible.

Should you require immediate assistance with a reservation inquiry, please contact us at 1-800-774-1500 (Toll-Free) or TDDY/TTY 1-800-368-1133.  If outside the U.S., you may dial 00-1-800-774-1500 (your call will be charged at international direct dial rates).

  • New reservations: Please understand that rates and availability are time sensitive and we are unable to assist via e-mail.  Please contact us directly at the numbers provided above.
  • Existing reservations within 24 to 48 hours of arrival: Please contact us at the numbers provided above, or the hotel directly.
  • Cancellations (past the cancellation policy): Please contact the hotel directly.

Sincerely,

Hilton Internet Contact Team

*NOTE: THIS IS AN AUTO REPLY.  PLEASE DO NOT RESPOND TO THIS MESSAGE

Acknowledging receipt of the message is important because sometimes online forms don’t work and the customer could be left wondering if their message was submitted. Many customers would try submitting the same message over and over, causing more frustration for both parties.


Set Expectations

Seven days after receiving the auto-responder message above, I received the following message from a real-life human being.

Dear  [customer],

We have received your comments regarding our hotel in Guest Assistance.  Please allow us three business days to review and resolve this matter.  It is Hilton’s policy to give our hotels the opportunity to get involved to resolve pending issues.  We want you as our loyal guest and appreciate you bringing this to our attention.  Thank you for your patience.

Should you need further assistance, please contact Guest Assistance referencing file #XXXXXX

Notice the importance of acknowledging receipt; it is the first sentence in the email. There is no confusing the fact that they have received my complaint. The Guest Assistance Specialist who sent this email also provided an expectation for when the matter will be resolved. Although Hilton is a large, international company, this same process could be followed by a smaller company.

Respond Appropriately

Two(!) days after receiving the message shown above, I received the following email from the General Manager of the hotel which was the subject of my complaint.

Dear [customer]:

Please allow me this opportunity to apologize for the inconveniences you experienced during your stay. You willingness to share your thoughts is appreciated.
The [company] is committed to providing our guests with the highest quality services and facilities. We sincerely regret we fell short of our goal in this instance. Your comments are important to the success of our organization, as we rely on you, our guest, to tell us how we are doing and how we can better meet your needs.
I have refunded the entire amount of  your stay, and credited your credit card account, in the amount of $xxx.xx, as compensation for the disappointment you experienced. I trust the action taken on your behalf will bring a sense of resolution and satisfaction concerning this matter.
Your willingness to share your experience is genuinely appreciated. I hope you will allow us the opportunity to serve your future lodging needs, as we would like the opportunity to provide you the level of service you expect from [company].

Sincerely,

Notice the apology is in the very first sentence of the email. Next, the manager states the company’s commitment to quality service and shifts the focus back on me by highlighting the value I added by pointing out somewhere the company could improve. Another important technique is the usage of neutral language. Did I complain about how they “screwed up”? No, it was where they “fell short.”

Regarding the compensation, the manager plainly states the compensation amount and does not waste time on how the decision was reached. The compensation should be very simple and should require any elaborate calculations or subjective statements. The compensation should be stated plainly and with no room for misinterpretation. The manager concluded the message with an invitation to return to the company and experience the high quality service they aim to provide.

I hope this post has helped you figure out how to respond to your upset customers. Please provide any additional tips in the comment section below!

 

Please allow me this opportunity to apologize for the inconveniences you experienced during your stay. You willingness to share your thoughts is appreciated.

The Hilton Garden Inn - Hampton Coliseum Central is committed to providing our guests with the highest quality services and facilities. We sincerely regret we fell short of our goal in this instance. Your comments are important to the success of our organization, as we rely on you, our guest, to tell us how we are doing and how we can better meet your needs.

I have refunded the entire amount of  your stay, and credited your VISA account, in the amount of $361.60, as compensation for the disappointment you experienced. I trust the action taken on your behalf will bring a sense of resolution and satisfaction concerning this matter.

Your willingness to share your experience is genuinely appreciated. I hope you will allow us the opportunity to serve your future lodging needs, as we would like the opportunity to provide you the level of service you expect from Hilton Hotels.

Sincerely,

 

Related Posts:

Tags: apology, compensation, complaint letter, customer care, customer service, email

Category: Management

Comments (7)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. jercose says:

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  2. Lauren Ljungquist says:

    Lovely just what I was searching for.Thanks to the author for taking his time on this one.

  3. Katia Cantoran says:

    Enjoyed reading through this, very good stuff, regards.

  4. Hemaa says:

    amazing reply letter from the General Manager….I stun up with the response given by him… Its very useful….

  5. Karen says:

    Good response letter except that it missed two very important points – it failed to explain the cause of the problem, and what they are doing about it to fix it. Would you feel confidant that if you stayed their again the same thing wouldn’t happen????

  6. RAVI SANYAL says:

    THANKS
    IT REALLY HELPS

  7. jeffrey vogelsang says:

    in time magazine you have an ad with a black guy that looks about 40yr’s old with a white girl who look’s about 13teen.what are you promoting the hotel or pimping?

Leave a Reply