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Excuse me, could you, um, could you... never mind

December 20, 2015

Do you ever give feedback in a restaurant or hotel?  I guess my question actually is, do you ever give negative feedback?


I grew up listening to my Dad sending meals back in restaurants and moving hotel rooms when they didn’t pass the ultimate ‘Paul Capell’ test.  I therefore have seen first hand that if you give your feedback at the right time about your experience, it can generally be fixed easily and quickly.  I have become my Dad and don’t hold back on giving, what I hope is, constructive feedback when I feel that it is needed. 


I consider myself a polite person and I was brought up to say please and thank you.  I’m also a believer in treat others how you want to be treated yourself.  So I am always very conscious about providing feedback in a nice and helpful way rather than an angry, ranting kind of way.  I’ve seen those people in airports, turning a beetroot colour, looking like they are going to explode, beetroot isn’t my colour. 


My top tips on giving constructive, negative feedback:


Put the other person in your shoes

Be empathetic, would you feel comfortable being given this feedback in this environment?  Is it more appropriate to talk at the side of the room, consider if that is the right person to speak to - can they actually do anything with your feedback or help you resolve your problem?


Don’t shout

If you’re giving negative feedback, don’t ever raise your voice.  It won’t help strengthen your point, all that will happen is that you will get more worked up and the other person is going to sense they are dealing with someone who is beginning to sound deranged and just in it for a fight. 


The only way it is going to help speed up your conversation is the other person wanting to quieten you down in front of other guests.  But if you’re being calm and collected you are more likely to get a better outcome as there will be a greater level of respect.  Would you wanted to be shouted at?  I’m guessing no but maybe that’s just me! 


Don’t exaggerate

Your opinion will be less respected if people can automatically see that you are blowing something out of proportion or giving inaccurate feedback.  If you mean it’s the best or the worst, then say it but don’t lie. 


Be conscious of cultures and languages

Whilst in India, what I have realised is that culturally, negative feedback is not well accepted.  It is ignored and brushed over.  I don’t see this as arrogance, I am sure if you find the correct person to speak to, the information will be seen as more constructive however when speaking to door staff or waiters, it is information that they do not feel equipped to deal with and so simply smile and say thank you.  They see feedback as a reflection of their ability to do their job (regardless of if it is or not) so they aren’t likely to seek out a more senior person for you to speak to as it may connect them to the issue. 


Be constructive

Sounds obvious but so often it is over-looked.  From working in a marketing agency for many years, I was always taught that if there was ever a problem, always go to your manager or client with the solution, not just the problem.  How could the service have been better?  For example, we recently went to a restaurant on the top of a very large hill, in a fort, in India.  When we were asked for them to call us a taxi, we were told to walk to the bottom of the hill to hail one.  After politely suggesting that we knew the number they could call, we just didn’t speak the language, eventually someone made a call and arranged a taxi for us.  A constructive piece of feedback was to keep the taxi number near the phone so if in future, other guests may need a taxi, they would know who to call.  Had we just stomped off and given them a bad review, future guests would experience the same issue.   


Know what you’re trying to achieve

This is the big one that people regularly forget.  What is the point in telling someone about your issue?  Is it something that could be fixed then and there?  Are you trying to get money off a service or product?  Are you telling them simply to get it off your chest?  I always like to think that the root cause for me giving constructive feedback is so that others don't experience what I have had to.  Decide on why you’re providing feed back will help influence the how, where and who you give feedback to. 


Most restaurants and hotels etc will be well versed in what they are allowed to offer in similar situations so initially let them take the lead, let them offer rather than demand. 


If you’re looking for a discount, be realistic.  Be fair.  If you’ve had a tasty meal, you’re just unhappy that it took a long time to arrive, it wouldn’t be fair that you ask for your meal to be free.  Potentially politely suggest that they provide you a free drink for the time that you were waiting. 


And remember, sometimes shit just happens

Sometimes it is nobodies fault, some things just happen and you have to just deal with it, accept it, and move on. 


It’s not all about negative feedback though, when was the last time you gave positive feedback to a hotel or restaurant?  Not just saying a curt thank you as you check out but taking those extra 20 seconds to explain what it is you particularly enjoyed and appreciated?     


70% of customers are likely to complain but only 30% of us give positive feedback according to Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos, a senior lecturer in consumer behaviour at London Metropolitan University.  So if we say anything at all, it’s more likely to be negative - that’s a sad state of affairs.  So if you can’t be bothered to do it for the greater good, do it to make yourself feel better as it’s been proven by Tsivrikos that we feel more positive when we give positive feedback.  So if you don’t do it for the restaurant or the other potential customers, do it for yourself.    


But remember, treat others how you want to be treated yourself.


Give it a go.


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