Companies receive complaints. Whatever the industry. It is how the company deals with the complaints that makes a huge difference to wider brand perceptions. A quick search on social media will demonstrate how many complaints brands receive – and that is just through one contact point.

Getting your complaints procedure right can make all the difference to your customers as one well-known hotel brand discovered.

Best Western GB is a collection of 276 independently owned and operated hotels. When members sign up and pass our strict quality assurance test, we provide them with sales, revenue and marketing services.

But we do not own the hotels so cannot dictate policy or enforce actions.

As a result whenever a letter of complaint was sent to our head office in York we would have to direct the person back to the individual hotel.

When Richard Lewis, CEO, joined Best Western in 2011 he was passionate in the belief that guests deserve the best, and so First Contact Resolution was born.

The highly personalised, highly empowered and uniquely incentivised team of five was set up in April 2013 to directly answer and deal with any complaints regarding a Best Western hotel.

They answer Tweets, letters, emails and Facebook messages and have the power to resolve complaints on the spot without referring to senior managers or back to the individual properties.

As a team we take pride in our personal approach. We know it matters to our customers.

Templates or scripted responses are a definite no-no. First contact resolution (FCR) is really about reducing the customer effort and finding fast, simple solutions relevant to our customers’ needs at the time.

This particular team knows that they will be receiving calls from guests who want to bring something to our attention or have a specific issue with a certain property and so are trained to provide the best experience and show we really value them.

In the last year the FCR has dealt with 69% of the total number of complaints to Best Western, with hotels contacted directly for the remaining 31%. And out of the 3,112 cases the FCR handled, 42% were resolved with a heartfelt “I’m sorry”.

Only 1% of people who contacted the FCR wanted monetary compensation.

We want the best experience for our customers as we really value them and our research is showing this makes them feel better and happier, which is what we’re all about.

We were conscious there is a tendency to assume that people who complain want money when actually, we can quite confidently say that the majority of people who take the time to complain to us, want to let us know so we can improve our guests’ stay in our properties.

In many cases, small things such as a bottle of wine, a gift card for a meal in a Best Western property or points on our reward scheme (should the guest already be a member) addressed the issue, and the guest put the phone down knowing that as a brand, we’d listened, we cared, we’d addressed their concerns and therefore they felt satisfied.

FCR is really about reducing the customer effort and finding fast, simple solutions relevant to our customers’ needs at the time.

All of the team in the wider contact centre takes pride in the personal approach to all the calls we receive – whether it’s someone looking for a weekend break or someone looking to book their wedding venue – every call is important. We know it matters to our customers.

By empowering a small team – we’ve actually made a huge different to our guests and research shows that guests are much happier with the FCR team in place.

Gail Heafield HeadshotGail Heafield, Best Western Hotels, GB

A Head of Contact Centre with 17 years’ experience within the ‘contact centre’ industry. Heading up the in-bound Contact Centre operation for Best Western Hotels in Great Britain, handling over half a million calls per year and generating in excess of £19 million pounds worth of business for our 276 member hotels.

Gail leads an ‘award winning’ customer service team of 60+ agents covering various product areas of Best Western. Gail has a true passion when it comes to customer experience, and is committed to the delivery of seamless Customer Service and effective Email and Live Chat communication for the Best Western Brand. In 2012, Gail and the team achieved ‘best newcomer for emails’ as well as ‘Best in Travel’ and successfully achieved 2nd place for email service and 11th place for calls, as a first year entrant in the Top 50 Companies for Customer Service.

This year, after entering the Top 50 again, Best Western Hotels achieved not only ‘Best in Travel’ again but they successfully reached the number spot for Email service, they also achieved 2nd best overall for customer service.

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