Tough love for tough clientsAugust 19th, 2013 . by John Frenaye
How do you handle the impossible to please client? I am not talking about the difficult client—we all have them and can work our way through the hand holding and consoling and explaining. I am talking about the client that has a very minor problem, and uses it to leverage everything else into a major problem?
Tough Love Part 1
Several years ago, I was escorting one of our Harry Potter themed trips in the UK. We had 12 families who were having the times of their lives, and one that was not. By the third day of a 12-day trip, the weather was too chilly. The hike was too steep. The food tasted funny. The bed was not comfortable. The road was riddled with potholes. The list went on and on. And to make matters worse, she made it a point to let everyone know how displeased she was with the trip. I pride myself on transparency. My prices include taxes, fees, and any other upfront and known costs. Any additional expenses and expectations for the trip are clearly discussed and presented. There was very little I could do about any of her issues and she was dragging the group down to the point where others were complaining. So we voted her off the trip!
In what was one of the most awkward conversations I have ever had, I explained that it appeared there was nothing that was going to make this trip right for her and her son. I explained that I couldn’t control the weather, the bumpiness of the roads and the manner in which the Brits prepare their food. I handed her two tickets back to the US along with a refund for the trip. I could accept one unhappy client—I was unwilling to accept 13.
Tough Love Part 2
Last week, I had another group in Jamaica. I was not escorting this trip, but received a call on the first night from a client claiming she got the wrong room. By the time we got down to it, it was the correct room; but her bedding request (2 doubles) was not fulfilled—she was aware it was a request. I called the sold-out resort to see if there was a different room available or possibly an upgrade. No such luck for a few days. It was explained to the client that requests are never guaranteed and in a sold out situation, there was nothing to be done. They did agree to mover her to an oceanfront room in in two days, but that was not enough. She wanted free Wi-Fi (don’t get me started on why they charge for it in the first place), a $250 resort credit and 10% off her bill. When I explained that her requests were unreasonable her response was, “fine, I will just voice my displeasure on many websites.”
I made a last-ditch “tough love” pitch to her. I explained that she had the room she paid for. She received free Wi-Fi. She was receiving an upgrade. But that she would not be receiving a resort credit or a partial refund on the trip. I apologized for not being able to accommodate her request, but that if she continued with the unreasonable requests, I would be suggesting to the resort that there was nothing that was going to make the situation better in the client’s eyes, and to forego any type of accommodation. Tough love. But she backed down, took the Wi-Fi and an upgraded room for the 2nd half of her trip.
Thankfully, these clients are few and far between, but boy, when they strike, they can wreak havoc on a trip. Not only do you run the risk of making everyone else’s experience less-than-perfect, but you also run the risk of having others jump on the bandwagon if you cave into their demands. Does anyone have a sure-fire way to handle these unreasonable clients?