An angry client recently threatened me with a negative review on Trip Advisor, and a lot more too actually! At first I was afraid of the consequences with most things or situations in which fear raises its ugly head, most of the time it is actually all hot air.
Such fear can dissolve though when we have a little time to process, apply some wisdom and a bit of common sense.
I was initially worried that our upset, angry, vindictive man could be about to damage our reputation online and do harm to our fledgling businesses. I changed my thinking however as I thought things through and brought my many years of business experience, especially relating to the Internet and online marketing to bear on the potential “problem” that we had.
Here’s some advice for other tour operators facing bullies who threaten to destroy your online reputation (through Trip Advisor, LonelyPlanet, their personal blog, or any other means).
Just tell a bully to “bring it on!” but then help them to make very sure that they are ready to face the consequences of people finding out their own performance and character when you inevitably exercise your right-of-reply.
Then just sit back and wait for people to make a fool of themselves, for most bullies I know are basically pretty thick, proud and blind. Raw unprocessed anger does nasty things to most people, and things can get ugly when their brain switches off and their mouths respond to their emotions.
The bible of course exhorts us to avoid sinning in our anger. Anger is not the problem. We all get angry at times, but its what we DO in our anger that gets God’s attention!
My recent troublesome exchange involved a couple from a European country on their honeymoon that had booked a few days with our Village Stay programme.
They arrived in Samoa in the middle of the night and the wife was clearly totally exhausted. From the sounds of things her man had dragged her around a gazillion South Pacific islands and visited and seen most everything that he could possibly find in the 23 days between their wedding and their arrival in Samoa!
Whatever happened between them is none of my business, but the first morning instead of heading out to the first of his Village Stays he asked instead to be shown a few hotels and cancelled the Village Stay for the night. He later told me that his wife was feeling sickly and just wanted to sleep. Yup! I could sure understand that!
Push come to shove and after a few more cancellations waiting for his wife to recover (that means sleep!) they ended up doing a short tour of Savaii and then went back to the same Hotel before flying out of Samoa, probably for good I would think!
The trouble happened when he unilaterally decided what he wanted to pay for rather than what was agreed to. He didn’t like to be forced to pay his account. Too bad, I say! We were pretty gracious and helped him with a partial credit (even though our terms of trade state that we do not give refunds unless the cancellation is 7 days before from the booking).
Truth is that it was nothing to do with whether or not he had a contract or not. He just didn’t want to have to pay his bill!
The bible speaks about people like this . . .
It’s no good, it’s no good! says the buyer; then off he goes and boasts about his purchase.
I probably wasted too much time trying to be nice and talking reason to the guy, but it was his honeymoon and I felt sorry for him after having spent so much time preparing for his major event only to have problems after three weeks of go-go-go.
It is clear from his last email after I thanked him for his business and wished him the best for the future that he will try to cause havoc for us online. Listen to these gentle words of kindness:
I have written a my embassy with all details, and we will write the first minister of Samoa and others asociation for all people know that type of person is Dennis and SWAP Foundation. … You only stolen my money but you lost a lot of more… YOUR REPUTATION in samoa, in minister, in other samoan asotiation, in internet and in the next travellers of tripadvisor, lonelyplanet and more.
I know you are happ now. I will be happy in a few time tell all the trust.
Upon first reading it all, I saw red and was pretty indignant. Then I moved into panic mode – “Oh no! This is all we need.” I thought.
Then when I came to a better balance of reality, it all became clear. Just like I had experienced in person, this was clearly not a rational man. He was out to be as vindictive as he could and to make us pay for our “crimes” for ripping him off!
All I needed to do was to respond to any negative TripAdvisor or blogging activity professionally and accurately and this would show the world what he was all about!
He threatened to tell his countries Embassy lots of bad things about me. Great. Go for it, sir! Just make sure that all the facts are in the complaint letter and that it is a well balanced and reasoned document because my lawyer (who by the way is your countries representative in Samoa) is sure to have a good laugh if it gets this far especially if he bothers to read the SWAP report on this upset crazy dude!
His Embassy is very unlikely to make any big scene about an angry traveller who cancels a booking and complains about having to pay something he doesn’t want to, citing that he “didn’t sign anything so there is no booking – it is only a quotation!”
Oh, spare me days! I’d be so embarrassed that I’d probably want to hush it all up as quickly as I could so that I didn’t make my country look like it was full of idiots!
He said that the First Minister will hear about it. Good. Tuila’epa is the SWAP Foundation’s Patron. Samoans are masters in telling one-sided stories, and Tui at the top of the pile is highly skilled at divining truth in conflict situations. He rarely acts without knowing the full story and quite frankly he’s too busy a man running the country to handle complaint letters from travelers with a gripe. My guess though is that he’ll either file it in File 13, or pass it on to his staff to deal with. It usually takes about a year to get anything done in Samoa, maybe more. Hmmm. I’m no longer that worried!
But now after that big long gripe, to the biggie – fear of a negative TripAdvisor (or similar) comment.
I’ve always been taught and have taught others that an upset customer placated can be a real asset to your business. If you are reasonable and they are not however, they will always get found out, especially online where data can be stored forever. People are not stupid and when they can see that you care really about your clients, did your best and have dealt reasonably with someone who wasn’t reasonable in return, it can often work in your favour.
So, Mr Upset-Customer-Being-Unreasonable, bring it on!
I have refrained from mentioning either this chappie’s name or country so as to avoid unnecessary embarrassment to this gentleman and his country-folk, but if necessary, I am more than happy to name names and to publish the SWAP report in full detailing all the events and our analysis of it all.
My fear has now disappeared, just like a balloon does when a simple little pin pricks it, or when the darkness does when the light is turned on.
Time for a big long peaceful sleep, methinks!