Customer Complaints: Gather All Evidence Before Filing Charges by Paul Beardmore

September 26, 2006 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

Gather all the evidence before deciding who committed the “crime.”The typical multi-system manager’s Monday morning begins with a cup of joe to get the day going, and a review of the coming weekend’s events. You’ve made it through a hectic weekend of events, and the cycle that just ended is about to begin anew. As you review your schedule of client meetings, employee training sessions and the rest of your “to do” list, your phone rings at 9:02 in the morning. It’s an upset customer who is calling to complain about the DJ who did their wedding reception the previous Saturday. The disgruntled customer says the DJ didn’t play their requests, and the music was horrible!

Welcome to the world of multi-system management! Sometimes, you have to take the bad with the good. Dealing with customer complaints is one of the tasks we would rather not have to handle, however, it is something that goes with the territory of operating a business involving employees who provide a service. On one hand, your ability to properly handle a complaint can make the difference as to whether the upset customer spreads negative information about your company, or recommends you to their friends. On the other hand, the interpersonal skills you utilize to investigate the complaint with your staff can make or break whether your company grows from the experience in a positive way, or suffers morale problems with DJs who are disgruntled.

On the Case
When customers complain, they complain for a variety of reasons, and their motives aren’t always pure. Often times a customer complains because of a perceived problem; sometimes that perception is wrong. The degree of validity of the complaint can range from zero to one hundred percent. Your job is to become a detective, sorting through the information to determine if there is any validity to their complaint, and then to take corrective action.

Explain to the customer that you would like to get more information about their observations and concerns, and that you take these matters seriously. You should NOT make statements that suggest that you are siding with the customer. Yet, neither should you try to argue with or dispute what the customer is telling you. You need to carefully LISTEN to what he or she is saying. Make sure you write down any details that the customer provides, and ask for clarification or elaboration on anything that may help you determine the validity of the complaint. Once the customer has outlined the complaint, take the time to summarize the complaint, so that you are certain you have taken down all of the information in accurately. Let the client know that you will be speaking with the DJ about the complaint, and that you will make a follow-up call once you have done so.

Behind the Music
The manner in which you handle customer complaints should be discussed with your staff during their training, PRIOR to any complaints ever being made by a customer. You need to explain to them the process that you will use in handling the complaint, and reassure them that you understand that a customer complaint isn’t always valid. In our training sessions, I always make it a point to cite specific examples of previous complaints we have received from customers (leaving out the names of the DJs involved, of course!), illustrating how some complaints are totally valid, some completely invalid, and that many have some validity, but not 100 percent. This reassures your DJs that you will be fair with them in the event that a customer makes a complaint about them.

I prefer to meet with the DJ face to face, rather than handling these matters over the phone. Make SURE you resist the temptation of biting the DJ’s head off and assuming that the customer’s complaint is valid-no matter how certain you are that the DJ may have made a boneheaded decision that is contrary to your company protocol. You would be surprised at how often there can be a valid reason for the DJs action! For this reason, it is important that you present yourself in a manner that doesn’t indicate you have already rendered judgment. Remember, you are a detective on a fact finding mission. You need to LISTEN to your DJ, the same way you listened to the client.

You also need to probe the DJ for more information by asking questions that help you determine the validity of the complaint. For instance, let’s look at the customer complaint mentioned at the outset. The client is complaining that the DJ didn’t play very many of their requests, and that the DJ’s overall music selection was horrible. In this instance, the first thing I would do is pull the paperwork from the event.
I know from experience that out of the few complaints we receive each year on our DJs’ performances, this sort of complaint is one of the more likely a client may make. For this reason, I require my DJs to place a checkmark next to each of the client’s music requests as they play them during the event. Our DJs are also required to complete an event report that asks a variety of questions about how the event transpired. One important question that provides essential documentation asks if there were any problems or issues at the event. The amount of dancing that took place is another important factor that the DJs document. I also ask them to place a percentage figure next to a listing of the typical music genres, so I have an idea of the type of music they played for this event.

All of this information is helpful when a customer complaint is made. For instance, if the DJ noted that there was a LOT of dancing, I may ask the customer how much dancing took place at their event. You would be amazed at the number of people who would freely admit that the DJ kept the dance floor packed, but insist that the DJs music selection sucked! In contrast, if the DJ’s event report states that there was very little dancing, you need to probe a little more to determine if this portion of the complaint is valid.

If you require your DJ to check off the client’s requests as they play them, you can quickly see if he or she made a reasonable effort to play those requests. Of course, you have to determine what’s “reasonable.” If the client provided you with 15 requests, and the DJ played 6 of them, is that reasonable? What if the client provided 90 requests, and the DJ played 40 of them at a four-hour event? Each complaint has to be evaluated on a case by case basis, using common sense.

Just the Facts, Ma’am
I’ll never forget the complaint I received from an angry bride who called to complain that the DJ invited the guests through the buffet prior to the arrival and introduction of the wedding party. By the time the wedding party went through the buffet, it was well picked over. The bride was livid, because she had specifically chosen to keep the buffet closed until after the wedding party was introduced.

According to our event planner, the bride and groom were supposed to be the first people to serve themselves at the buffet. Needless to say, I was a bit upset with our DJ for what seemed like an obvious blunder. Then I spoke with the DJ and got his side of the story. Apparently, the bride’s guests decided to help themselves to the buffet while the DJ was outside the reception hall lining up the wedding party for introductions. When the DJ returned to his equipment, people had picked over the buffet like hungry wolves! The DJ confidently advised me that he never invited or suggested that people serve themselves to the buffet. I never considered this possibility, and neither did the bride when she made the complaint. This is the reason I always ASK my DJs their side of story, prior to rendering judgment on a complaint. Once I informed the bride about the DJ’s side of the story, she understood, and all was well.

Handle with Care
Once you’ve gotten the DJ’s side of the story, you will need to follow up with the customer. Valid complaints that are of a minor nature require that you apologize to the customer, and promise that you will use their constructive feedback to improve the way you do business. Serious complaints may result in a total or partial refund. For instance, if the DJ was 30 minutes late starting the music, it would be most appropriate to award a partial refund. The action you take with the DJ also depends on the seriousness of the complaint. If the DJ was late, and can verify legitimate reasons for his or her tardiness, the corrective action is going to be very different from that of a DJ who late for no good reason.

There are occasions where the customer’s complaint has little or no validity. Contrary to popular belief, the customer ISN’T always right. However, that doesn’t mean that you should tell the customer that they are wrong. If there is a logical explanation that you feel may change the customers mind about the complaint, explain it to them. If, however, you are dealing with a “bridezilla” who is looking for a refund without merit, I recommend that you simply thank the customer for their feedback, and tell them that you will use their constructive advice to improve your services. This is preferable to telling them they are wrong – and will help reduce the negative publicity they may spread about your company.

Getting to the bottom of a customer complaint can be somewhat challenging. In a service-oriented business like mobile entertainment, the quality of our performances will always be in the eyes of the beholder. Your job is to sort through the facts and information, and make the best judgment possible.
Problem To Ponder: No Motown?
DJ Fails to Play Requests

You send one of your DJs with one year of experience to cover a 50th birthday party. The party has a mix of guests, and some of the guests are requesting that the DJ play some Motown. For unknown reasons, your DJ fails to play ONE Motown song for the group. Shortly after the event, the customer calls you to complain that your DJ refused to play any Motown music, despite receiving several requests from the person who hired him, as well as other guests. The customer says that the DJ was very polite and courteous, and told them that he would gladly play Motown music – but then never followed through with his promise. The DJ did play other requests from different genres. Other than his failure to play the Motown requests, the DJ seemed to play a decent variety, and the party was successful otherwise.

How would you handle this complaint? What information would you probe the customer for? How would you approach the DJ, and what questions would you ask?

How would you resolve this complaint? Email your solutions to multisystem@mobilebeat.com. Please include your name, company name, and contact information. Although we will not print identifiable information (name, company name, etc.) without your consent, we must confirm your identity.

The degree of validity of the complaint can range from zero to one hundred percent.

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Mobile Beat Staff Writer (228 Posts)

This is the general editors account for Mobile Beat Magazine and Website. Who reads Mobile Beat online and in print and attends Mobile Beat events? DJs, VJs and KJs to start with, especially those who own and operate mobile entertainment services. They provide music, video, lighting and a myriad other entertainment choices for corporate events, wedding receptions, dances and innumerable other gatherings.


Filed Under: Business, Issues from 2006