Posted by

Barry Siskind

UFI’s Community Manager

We all try to avoid them yet in spite of all efforts exhibitor and visitor complaints are part of our business. The professionalism of management is most evident in how these complaints, real or frivolous, are handled. When your staff does it right they have the power to turn a complaint into an opportunity.

A recent post in the Event Manager blog addresses the basic steps to handling a face to face complaint. While these steps are certainly basic they are important enough to be repeated.

1.  Think positively. This means when one of your staff is faced with a complaint and is properly prepared; they can turn that complaint into an opportunity.

2. Stop everything. This is a tough one. When your staff is running around juggling a dozen time sensitive tasks, the last thing they have is time for is one more complaint. But if they can stop and focus on the person speaking to them that bit of attention can often diffuse a little problem before it becomes a big one.

3. Listen. A natural tendency is to answer a question before all the facts are known. Listening to get all the facts is a crucial part of the process.

4. Keep calm. Another tendency is for your staff to feel defensive. They mistakenly think the complaint is directed at them when in most cases it is not.

5. Apologize. When the complaint is justified a sincere apology goes a long way.

6. Emphasize. When the complaint is not justified, a bit of empathy in the form of words such as, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” is helpful.

7. Don’t shift the blame. Whether true or not, blaming the venue, contractors, other staff or even your boss does no good. Each person that meets with exhibitors and staff needs to accept responsibility and learn how to resolve problems.

8. Agree to the next steps. Don’t simply say, “I’ll look into it.” Outline the steps you plan to take and how these steps will be reported back to the complainer.

As I mentioned earlier, none of these steps are new and revolutionary, but your staff is under a lot of pressure, particularly during set up and tear down. Share this post with them as a reminder that the way they handle complaints needs to be done with a great deal of care.