Being a Travel Agent is getting harder & harder, sometimes it’s nice to know what others are doing to get ahead. That’s where Brisbane-based consultant, Mel Bobbermien steps in.

In the travel game, Agents are constantly battling the line between information overload online & consumers only being told half the story.

It’s always tricky to come in halfway & make sure you have pre-empted every question as well ticked all their question boxes. So, what can you do to make sure Debra doesn’t slam you on a Facebook post or tell her friends never to book with you again.

The trick is a few simple steps on what can turn a fiery complaint into a customer for life!


Step 1 – Empathy (DO)


Listen, listen, listen. Take off your travel agent shoes, pop on your customer shoes & remind yourself people could have sold body parts to pay for their travel plans. It’s easy to laugh at the fact that Debra’s camera was stolen by a crab in a cab on the west coast of Fiji… but Debra could be terrified of crabs and had some amazing filtered selfies on that camera. Poor Debra. But seriously, this is probably the easiest part of customer complaints – just empathise, recognise & take a deep breathe.


Step 2 – Be Defensive (DON’T)


It’s easy to already know the situation and want to jump in with your own reasoning & explanations but sometimes, people just want to be heard. You know when you signed up to that free month of Netflix & then forgot you would get charged for it, so 12 months later you realise you’ve been charged over $120 and you are MAD? Then, you remember all those good times that Netflix gave you, so you let it go and on your relationship goes… Travel is almost exactly the same. Nobody books a holiday just to complain, so put on those listening ears, sit back and relax. You’ve got this. If they didn’t think you were an awesome agent – they wouldn’t bother coming back!


Step 3 – Find a mutual resolution (DO)

Most customers want a pretty reasonable outcome, whether it’s at a cost to your business is up to you. Would you rather lose $50 in commission to cover the transfer that never arrived (because you forgot to book it & over-transferred) OR lose $1000’s more in business from that customer, their friends & family, never coming back? Sometimes, a little coffee or a toastie from Gloria Jeans will do the trick too. Choices…


Step 4 – Use your inside voice (DO)

This one is self-explanatory but man, Australians get LOUD when they have a point to prove. The best thing you can do is keep it down, keep it calm and keep it solutions-focused. As soon as you raise your voice a tiny bit, customers will sense aggression and well… no-one wants a battle of ‘The Voice’ in their shopping centre at 9.30am on a Tuesday.


Step 5 – Quit your job (DON’T)


Please, dear god, do not quit. It’s a bad day, not a bad job. If you really did make a mistake & you feel horrible about it, chat to your Manager & vent it out. Even better, go rescue 10 puppies from the RSPCA and drown your sorrows away in puppy cuddles (100% effective).


Step 6 – Blacklist them for life (DON’T)


The worst thing you can do is write that customer off after they’ve made a complaint. What is this, you may ask? This is when the customer comes back and you hesitate to reply/call them back. Most agents do because it’s way too intimidating to book another trip for the customer & be faced with the possibility of another complaint. If they come back, it means you #nailedit in resolving their grievances. You need a hi-5 and another shot at a great customer experience. Go get ‘em, tiger!


Step 7 – Have a glass of wine & move on (DO)


The most important end to any customer complaint. I always recommend having a glass of red to start/finish the day (this is almost NEVER recommended by your Manager).


READ: A Foolproof guide to getting a Facebook shout-out from your customers

READ: How to overcome every objection & get that booking

READ: 11 photos that capture what it’s actually like to be a Travel Agent

What are your tips for handling complaints?