No matter how good a tour guide or tour director you are, you cannot please everybody.
You will encounter several types of upset guests on tour. Some will be sullen and withdrawn. Others will be outspoken and negative. All deserve your attention and respect, and none of them is a lost cause. In fact, if you're able to reach common ground, you might even find that your relationships with them become some of your strongest.
Here are six tips for comforting upset tour guests.
Listen patiently: When guests are already upset, one of the worst things you can do is cut them off before they've had a chance to say their piece. Remember, they are coming to you because they believe they've been wronged. The floor is theirs until they've released it to you. Civility is best achieved when one person isn't interrupting the other.
Don't be defensive: Tour guides and tour directors are a passionate bunch. We take our responsibilities seriously and go to great lengths to ensure that our guests have a great time. Therefore, it can difficult not to take it personally when someone believes you aren't doing your best to make them happy. Try not to take it personally. Look at the issue from their perspective as you attempt to resolve it.
Refer to them by name: Customer service 101 here. Addressing someone by their title - Mr., Mrs., or Dr. when applicable - is a universal sign of respect. If you happen to be on a first-name basis with the individual, go that route. If you're not sure what's more appropriate given the situation, it's probably wise to err on the side of formality.
Address their concerns immediately: This is extremely important for a number of reasons. First of all, you don't want them to think you don't care. Secondly, the longer they have to stew, the more upset they're likely to become. They might even complain to other guests and sour their experience. A swift and thoughtful heart-to-heart is critical.
Maintain a positive relationship: There will be occasions when, despite your best efforts, you and your guest simply won't see eye to eye. Rather than go around in circles, recognize when it's time to move on. Just be sure to offer them the same level of courtesy and service as everyone else throughout the remainder of the tour.
Trust your ITMI training: During ITMI's 15-day Tour Guide / Director Certification Program, we discuss the Psychology of Group Travel and how to appreciate many types of unique and challenging personalities. It's a subject you'll be glad we covered when you meet them on the motorcoach.