7 Ridiculous Customer Complaints (And 4 Tips on How to Handle Them)

What do you do if the cause of a customer complaint is something you have no control over?

When you work in the customer experience industry you've undoubtedly heard, and possibly claimed on many occasions yourself, that the Customer is King.

But sometimes, a complaint is so out there that it can be very difficult to keep a straight face and ensure you help the customer rather than pointing out the absurdness of the comment.

However, no matter how ridiculous the complaint, you don't want them to take to the Internet to exclaim their dissatisfaction with your company, instead you're aiming to make the customer feel like their issue has been resolved satisfactory - so that they continue to stay loyal.

As the holiday season is upon us, it's the perfect time to reiterate research from Thomas Cook and ABTA from a few years ago, which highlights some of the astonishing complaints travellers have made to their tour operators:

1. "It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel."

2. "No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled."

3. "We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as yellow but it was white."

4. "We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our swimming costumes and towels."

5. "On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food at all."

6. "We bought 'Ray-Ban' sunglasses for five Euros from a street trader, only to find out they were fake."

7. A woman threatened to call police after claiming that she'd been locked in by staff. When in fact, she had mistaken the "do not disturb" sign on the back of the door as a warning to remain in the room.

It almost seems impossible to help the above customers satisfactory, but there are important steps you can take to do just that.

1. First of all, for things outside of your control such as in points 1 and 2, always make sure you put a clear disclaimer on all the paperwork. Customers might not read it before departure though so it's also worth noting this when you speak to them. And if the customer expresses unhappiness, do your very best to help. For instance, in the case of the unruly guests, you can ensure that the dissatisfied customer gets a different room (or location on the bus, if this is the case) to make them as content as possible - within your capabilities.

2. Ensure that you clearly state that visuals are not always a genuine representation of what the customer will be receiving. This is the same for holiday destinations as it is for a any products you may offer, if the image can vary from the actual item. While you can't paint an entire beach a different shade to satisfy a customer, you can apologise if they're unhappy and offer a gesture of goodwill. Just a small token of appreciation can instantly turn a negative experience into a positive one.

3. The complaints in points 5 and 6 seemed to have been made after the customers came back from holiday, and so there is little you can do to change the memories they have. You can still offer a gesture of goodwill, but the key here is that their dissatisfaction should have been picked upon before they returned home - so a difference could be made there and then. Always make sure you follow up with customers after they've made a purchase. In the case of the Indian food, the tour operator could've searched for Western restaurants nearby or given advice on what items on the menu are not spicy. Similarly if you provide a product or other service, if you don't ask customers whether they're happy and then resolve any issues that may arise, you risk them complaining publicly online and offline, which is never good advertisement for your company.

4. As the final point illustrates, the customer may not always be right, but that doesn't mean you can't make them feel like they're king by providing a "royal" customer experience. The woman in the anecdote was obviously startled, so a reassuring customer service representative who will go out of his or her way to calm her down and make her feel welcome, will go much further than the perhaps more obvious reaction of ridicule.

Have you had unexpected customer complaints that weren't necessarily related to the products or services you offer? How did you resolve the issue to ensure it didn't escalate into negative publicity for the company? We'd love to hear your anecdotes, please email Zarina.deRuiter@iqpc.com.