It happens more often than you might think – attendees complaining about this and that, sometimes pointing fingers at you, even shouting. You – as a professional organizer of training courses, conferences, workshops – have to be ready to handle this kind of situations. Your attendees may be dissatisfied for many reasons: from the most rational and justified to the unbelievably absurd and simply unfair. They can express their dissatisfaction in different ways: they can choose the elegant way or obnoxious one. Anyway, you have to be prepared. It’s especially important on the “front line” – during the ongoing event when you need to respond to the crisis instantly.
Most of us, surprised by the attack, responds with a defense with an intensity directly proportional to the strength of the attack. Unfortunately, while in wildlife it is a natural reaction, in the event industry (and more broadly – in business relations) it can only bring about the intensification of the conflict. The first rule of dealing with an upset or annoyed participant is to neutralize his emotions. It will create a space for working out a solution to the problem. Remember that your goal is NOT to fight for a win in the conflict situation. Your goal is to develop a win–win situation in which both parties will be moderate, but still satisfied. So, how to handle an angry attendee?
First of all – listen
Take a deep breath and listen carefully to what an angry attendee of your event has to say. Let him speak, even when you hear accusations that have nothing to do with you or an event. By creating a possibility to express his complaints, you show him respect and, at the same time, you are giving yourself the chance to draw the right conclusions.
Secondly – show empathy and apologize
Being empathetic with customers is critical to providing great service especially in conflict situations. Showing empathy will help the attendee understand that you really are interested in finding solutions to his problem. It helps to relieve tension. Try to talk in a natural way, finally apologize on behalf of your organization and assure you that you will do everything to solve the problem. Don’t be defensive. Defensiveness can make attendee feel even angrier than he is already.
Thirdly – ask questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It will allow you to understand what the real problem is. It’s also the way to let the attendee vent. Ask about the details and what you can do to resolve the situation and make things right. Answers will give you valuable knowledge about the possibilities of ending the conflict.
Fourthly – suggest solutions
More important than finding the right solution is just offering one. You want to keep moving the situation along in a productive way. Some problems can’t be solved instantly. Some of them are unsolvable. So what you have to do is to offer a solution proposal or compromise. Make sure you understand what the problem is, explain as much as you can and what you do to help. If you can’t solve the problem yourself, let the attendee know when he can expect a solution. Do not promise solutions that are unrealistic!
Fifthly – express gratitude for reporting the problem
Thank the participant for reporting the problem. It may sound awkward when you face the dissatisfaction, anger or irritation of the attendee. It may also be difficult, but think bigger! This particular situation may be a chance for development and improvement. See how to turn a negative into a positive. Remember that most dissatisfied attendees won’t say anything if you don’t ask them about it. They simply won’t come back, and most likely you will continue to make the same mistakes.
It doesn’t matter what kind of events you organize (workshops, training courses, conferences or festivals) – dealing with nervous participants is an inseparable part of this work. Nobody likes to hear complaints, but there is something you can do about it – you can improve the way you respond to them. The good news is that with the development of coping skills in difficult situations, you raise the quality of your service, and this will certainly pay off.