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Getting on the Front Foot with Grievances

Ben Byth
Getting On The Front Foot With Grievances

It is surprising that I am still amazed when a client's problem almost precisely matches one of our cases. I say surprising because they virtually always do… after 40 years in the trade you get rather good at writing cases to elicit everyday commercial conflicts and nearly always a client issue very neatly resembles one of only a handful of cases from the library. 


The last surprise was our own! We were booked into a hotel in Perth for 2 consecutive weeks using conferencing rooms, catering, and tutor accommodation… when unexpectedly we get an email from the venue just weeks before the program was due to commence, announcing that they will no longer hold our booking. The hotel had found a better offer! Instead of conferencing for 12 people and accommodation for 2, they had secured an AFL team. Hard to compete with that larger and longer-term booking! Unfortunately for us though, this meant we were out on the street with limited time to find an alternative and nobody on the ground to inspect venue suitability.  


Instead of moaning at the customer about how disappointed we were that they did not even have the decency to call… we got on the front foot and made a proposal. 


“Wow, that sounds like a fantastic opportunity, and we don’t resent you for wanting to take it. If you could find us equivalent accommodation and pay any difference in fee, we would happily move.” 


The issue with moaning is that not only would it not advance my agenda, but it would also probably only serve to harden the hotel management against me. The poor conferencing manager was embarrassed enough after having only recently fought hard to win our business. Nobody likes a difficult customer, and it would be very convenient for management to be able to label me as difficult and subsequently dispensable. Instead, by being gracious and proposing a reasonable remedy I know have a chance of getting it. Furthermore, because I have been easy to deal with, most likely I will also find a complimentary bottle of bubbles on my pillow next visit! 


Our advice is simple for when you have been aggrieved - don’t just complain, propose a remedy. Resist the urge to ask them how they will make it right (they will likely disappoint you with their response!) 


In fact, if the hotel handles this well and manages to meet my request, the high likelihood is that now our relationship is even better than it was before. Trust has been built and I am likely to be rusted on.


Happy negotiating! 

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