Clamping Down on Serial Complainers
Certain customers are complaining not to exercise consumer power but exploit it for their own gain, and exasperated companies are starting to clamp down.
Handling ComplaintsIn a competitive marketplace, successful companies must work hard to maintain a happy and loyal customer base. A crucial factor in this is how well they respond to complaints – after all, they say a well-handled complaint can turn a disgruntled customer into your most loyal. Such eagerness to please is good for consumer power but it’s also vulnerable to exploitation by customers who are not seeking a good service but rather 'something for nothing'.
There is a small minority of customers that are persistent complainers, but not because they have impossibly high standards; they complain with the sole aim of getting reductions, refunds and freebies. Justifications for complaint are not even necessary, because if they can't find one they can easily invent their own.
Serial ComplainersThe problem of the serial complainant is one that has grown in recent years, stimulated in part by the Internet. The flood of online articles, advice and support imploring customers to stand up for their consumer rights and not meekly accept sub-standard service is largely well-intentioned, but it can sometimes be interpreted to mean that if you make enough fuss about something then companies will invariably shower you with compensation. The customer is always right after all.
Serial complainers, that exploit consumer power for their own gain, may only represent a small percentage of the consumer population but their actions are causing companies to lose patience. Bogus complaints cost companies, bring bad publicity, and drain time, effort and good will that is better spent on customers with genuine grievances.
Dealing with the problem demands radical action. Serial complainers are impossible to deal with on their own terms; ignore a complaint and they will doggedly persist; deal with it courteously and they will be encouraged to try again another time.
Black List DatabaseHoliday giant TUI Travel – which looks after 89 brands including Thomson and First Choice, as well as 7 million British tourists - hit upon a solution to this catch-22 situation. It decided to add persistent complainers to its own black list of persistent complainers, which means they’re then barred from taking holidays or flights with any company that the international travel group own.
If a black listed customer then tries to book another trip they are then told the respective travel brand will be unable to meet their expectations, and TUI Travel are spared any more of their frivolous and dubious complaints.
Reasons for Complaint?The creation of the black list was prompted by incidents whereby customers had deliberately damaged something in their hotel rooms so that they could claim their accommodation wasn’t up to standard and seek compensation. Holidaymakers had been known to yank wires out of the walls to complain about hazardous wiring, or break electrical appliance to claim damages.
In such instances it can be hard for the travel company to prove the damage was caused by the customer deliberately. With a black list, the customer is branded with a reputation for suspicious complaints.
Other persistent complainers may not be as deceitful but will be relentless in their pursuit of something to complain about, however small. Certain customers have been known to deliberately book a new-build hotel because they know they will uncover some cause for complaint, whether due to natural ‘teething troubles’, or ongoing building development.
Dealing with Troublesome CustomersTUI Travel’s black list is far from a unique way of dealing with troublesome customers. There are now various websites that warn companies about blacklisted customers.
Targeted at the short-term accommodation industry, GuestsBehavingBadly.com shares information about bad guests, and Customers2Avoid.com is aimed at weeding out fraudulent customers.