Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Author:  Doug McCann
Forthcoming Book:  "So You're A Nice Guy and Want To Be In Business"

Doug McCann - Blog - January 9, 2018Policies In Action

(Photo Credit: Parry Sound KOA; left to right, Devon, Tristan, Michelle & Don Berry)

As a business owner/operator, you most likely often consider yourself to be a front line worker.  You are indeed, face-to-face with the public - the consumer.  You can be first in line as the recipient of praise, but considering tendencies of human nature, complaints are more likely what you'll hear.  If a complaint is legitimate you would no doubt want to right any wrong.  Misunderstandings and misguided expectations can best be avoided by ensuring everything is in writing.

There are situations in which a customer or client may present some exaggerated or unreasonable expectations.  They may present an inflated sense of entitlement or simply just don't like the terms of sale.  What to do when such an individual becomes argumentative or downright hostile?  In my conversations with operators who have been in their business for at least 20 years, each has offered suggestions which include, remaining calm, letting the upset customer or client have his or her say, avoiding words or actions that would put the adversary on the defense and practicing diplomacy at its best.  Yes, in many cases this is much easier said than done, but if you are successful at keeping your cool, you will also have kept control of the situation.

There is something else on which you can generally rely - polices!  When asked how a belligerent customer complaining of rates, or perhaps perceived limitations of personal conduct and behaviour, Don and Michelle Berry, owners and operators of Parry Sound KOA in Ontario, replied, "Policies, and sticking to them!".  In their case, established policies set the rates and maximum number of people per site, identify campground regulations and ordinances, camper etiquette and so on ensuring every camper is treated fairly and is assured a peaceful and enjoyable camping experience.

At the end of the day, the operators will benefit from the majority of visitors delighted with their stay.  Breaking policies is sure to create a kind of havoc and calamity among most of the guests in the campground while an ornery customer is not likely to ever be pleased.

If during an unpleasant encounter with someone, making a suggestion that your business strictly adheres to its policies should provide a means of neutralizing the 'battlefield'!  It implies to the unhappy customer or client that this is not something personal.  It is not 'you against them', and it certainly grants you and your staff an opportunity to take that proverbial step back from which the customer sees you as on the offensive.  You may even get to impress upon this customer that he or she gets to enjoy all the establishment has to offer and to a degree that is no less and no more than everyone else staying in the campground.

The Berry's strongly recommend, that policies and terms of sale and such be listed.  Your own company's web site is a great place to start, especially if customers are making on line purchases.  Brochures and pamphlets provided at sign-in or registration or with other sales of products, services or memberships should include everything with which the customer or client is expected to oblige.  If possible, signage containing the most important policies should be placed in a prominent location to be easily noticed and read.

In conclusion there are some great means of practicing diplomacy and maintaining control of an unpleasant encounter with a customer.  Preparedness is also a great means for mitigating or completely avoiding such situations!

As always, I welcome your feedback!  Thank you for taking the time to read this post!