Go4word Event Management Cape Town: 10 Top Tips On How To Handle A Customer Complaint At Your Event

February 24, 2015

Our team at Go4word event management Cape Town is always trying to bring articles forward that will improve your customers experience. Being able to deal with with customer complaints effectively is an important skill that every successful business owner needs to master, particularly if the feedback comes in the middle of a live event. So how do you handle an event complaint situation? If you get it wrong you will probably lose a valued attendee forever. However if you get it right you could manage to turn a negative encounter into a positive one and earn a loyal fan.

Setting up an event takes a lot out of a person, and after months of hard work and trying to think of every possible eventuality it is heart-breaking if things don’t go exactly to plan. It seems even more distressing if you receive complaints – do they not realise how hard you worked to avoid anything like this happening?

On the other hand everything could be going great but an attendee may still voice a complaint if something isn’t to their exact liking and as we all know the customer is always supposed to be right.

Regardless of what lead up to the complaint, we have put this article together to help provide tips on how to deal with these situations when they occur and how you can turn a negative situation into a positive one?

Tip 1:

Think Positively

This sounds logical but if you are able to treat the complaint as a gift. What we mean by this is the event attendee has taken the time to bring something to your attention that impacted their experience, this is therefore an opportunity to try and rectify a situation that may actually be affecting other attendees of the event. This will give you the chance to fix the issue before these silent disgruntled attendees leave and start to spread the word about the issues with your event. Just because you never hear complaints, does not mean they are not present. The people who do not raise their voices are often the ones that can cause the most damage. So, having a attendee take the time to bring something to your attention is a good thing. In essence you have been given a valuable second chance to put this right.

Moreover if they didn’t bring this to your attention they could have just disappeared without saying a word, which would have left you no opportunity to put the situation right and probably having lost a customer forever, without ever being any the wiser about their dissatisfaction.

Tip 2:

Stop Everything

This tip is hard to put into practice, your event is in full swing and you have a million things on your mind. But the truth is this attendee has taken the time to bring a issue of complaint to your attention. You need to take a moment to focus and listen to them due to the fact that this might be a issue that is affecting other people and they simply do not have the energy or interest to let you know.

Try to ensure that all team members know how to handle complaints and that any junior team members know how important it is to pass it over to a Manager promptly and with care.

At a live event you do of course need to consider your location and potentially minimise the impact on the rest of the event and other attendees. If you can suggest a suitable and convenient location close by to discuss the scenario in private this may be a wise move.

Tip 3:


There are always two sides to a story, so make sure that you gather the full facts of the situation before jumping in. Give the attendee the opportunity to vent their anger and frustration as this may help to calm them to calm down, as well as filling in the gaps for you as to what has gone wrong and the crux of why the person in front of you is so upset. The information you gather here will help to ensure you can suggest the best possible solution and outcome.

Tip 4:

Keep Calm

This is your event and you have put a lot of time into planning it, therefore it is natural for you to feel defensive when listening to a complaint, particularly if their facts are wrong or unfounded, but try to remember this isn’t a personal attack on yourself and never argue back.

If tensions are high you are potentially not going to deal with the situation with a clear head so it may be best to suggest some time out for both parties to simmer down before reconvening? Or perhaps you need to escalate the situation to a colleague instead?

Tip 5:

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Most people prefer not to complain, you will get those people who really enjoy it but they are few and far between. If you look at the complaint as an alert to something that is affecting the attendees experience, you will then appreciate the heads up as it will allow you the opportunity to resolve it without any other attendees being affected.

Tip 6:

Ask Questions

On way to aggravate an already irritated attendee is to not give them your full and undivided attention. Make sure you ask questions to be sure that you understand the full facts of the situation and to get them to clarify anything that is unclear.

Tip 7:


One of the best tips we can give you is to make sure that you give the complainant a heartfelt apologies as this will go a long way to show that your firm is professional and sincere in striving to provide the best possible customer experience possible.

Even if the complaint is “petty” you will want to defuse the situation and an apologie can go a long way to helping smooth over any irritated customer.

Tip 8:

Don’t Pass Blame

The person complaining truly believes that you have done something wrong so resist the temptation to pass the blame. The person complaining doesn’t want to hear you passing the buck, they want to hear what you are going to do for them and it is unprofessional to accuse others. It is your event and therefore it is your full responsibility if some element has been unsatisfactory.

Tip 9:

Agree Next Steps

Hopefully after gathering all of the information you will have a few ideas for how you can put the situation right and you can now share these with the attendee to gauge their thoughts.

Sometimes it may be appropriate to ask the person directly how you can put the situation right for them; “What would be a fair solution?” “What course of action do you want to see?”

It is important that you jointly agree what is a fair and suitable next step to be taken.

Tip 10:

Resolve the Situation

Once a course of action is agreed make sure you move swiftly to put things into place. Ideally the person that has heard the complaint will personally take the necessary action and remain the main point of contact.

If for any reason the actions taken are not immediate and will take some time, ensure that you keep the unhappy attendee informed or the negative feelings could escalate again.

Let the person who voiced the complaint know what changes and measures have been put in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again and to show how seriously you took their concerns.

For some it may be enough to be heard and to receive an apology and assurances. Only you can judge the gravity of the situation though and whether compensation should be offered. For example should you offer them a free or discounted ticket for the next event to make up for this bad experience?

If you liked out tips on how to deal with a customer complaint at your event or would like to know more about how Go4word event management Cape Town could take all the stress and headaches out of setting up your future events. Please do not hesitate to contact one of our consultants today!