“I want my money back!” Four Foolproof Ways to Handle Unhappy Guests

In General by Kat RembackiLeave a Comment

Even the best events can sometimes end up with an unhappy guest or two. Maybe it was something you couldn’t control, like the weather or broken sound equipment. Maybe the program didn’t meet their expectations. Maybe they’re just having a bad day. 

Whatever the reason, it’s an opportunity to transform an unhappy patron into a return customer. Here’s what to do when a guest comes to you and asks for a refund.

1. Listen

Sometimes, guests just want to be heard. They had a bad experience and they want to feel validated. Instead of immediately shutting down their complaint, give them space to voice their opinion. It doesn’t matter if they’re right or wrong, just listen.

I’ve seen scathingly unhappy guests get downright cheerful when a great manager knew how to listen and de-escalate the situation. 

This doesn’t mean you have to accept abusive language or continue talking with someone who is getting physically aggressive. If you’re concerned a guest might get physical, have someone from security on standby. 

How to execute this step successfully:

  1. Give them your undivided attention. Free yourself from distractions before talking with the guest. 
  2. Acknowledge the problem. Validate their feelings, even if you disagree with any of the facts. 
  3. Even if a guest is being unreasonable, just apologize. Keep it professional.

2. Empower your front-line staff

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re screaming into the void with no one to hear your complaint. Except maybe being the person on the other end, wanting to help but feeling like both hands are tied behind your back. It’s frustrating for both the guest and the team members. 

Giving your team members authority to make guests happy will not only result in happier guests, it will free up your time by eliminating the need to call you every time a guest complains. 

If a guest is asking for something that a team member cannot provide, make sure they know how to escalate the request to someone who can make that decision. Equally important: make sure the team is trained on what they CAN offer. Maybe they don’t have the clearance to give guests a full refund. But could they say, “I’m so sorry you had a bad time, I’d like you to have a free popcorn and soda from the concession stand on me.”? I can’t tell you how many frowns I have seen turned into smiles just by the offer of free bottled water.

How to execute this step successfully:

  1. Focus on what you CAN do.
  2. Concentrate on fixing the problem, not placing blame.
  3. Train staff so they can take charge of guest recovery.

3. Get away from the noise

It’s not always possible to talk with guests in private, but whenever possible try to have the conversation away from crowds. This not only prevents other guests from hearing the complaint, but it gives the complainer a quieter environment. If they don’t have to yell over the sound of other event-goers, they may be less likely to raise their voice at all. You can then talk through a solution privately. 

The same rule applies if the complaint comes after your event on social media. Instead of hashing things out in the comments, apologize to your guest and offer to talk with them offline (via phone or direct message). Then you can work out a solution without the entire Internet getting involved. 

How to execute this step successfully:

  1. Move the conversation to the nearest quiet(est) space available. 
  2. Work with the guest one-on-one. 

4. Know when a refund is appropriate

At Passage, we strongly suggest you stick with the default “All Sales Final; No Refunds or Returns” policy, though you’re welcome to edit that policy as you like in your venue settings. With that said, we realize that sometimes extenuating circumstances come up and you’ll need to give a refund or two. This depends on your individual business and the nature of the situation. 

For example, you might decide to issue a refund for a guest who attended a concert and couldn’t hear the music because of a broken amp in their seating section. But don’t be afraid to stand by your “no refunds” policy when it makes sense. You don’t have to refund a ticket to your wine tasting event just because a guest says they didn’t like the wine. 

If you do need to issue a refund on your Passage account, here’s how to do it

How to execute this step successfully:

  1. Establish a refund policy and make it very clear to your guests up front. 
  2. Look for non-refund remedies first. 
  3. Bend the rules as needed, on a case by case basis.
  4. If you do decide to issue a refund, communicate with the customer how long the refund will take. 

We hope you found this useful! We’d love to hear your tips and strategies for managing customer complaints or refunds. How do you handle them?