Combat all 10 of the most common nightclub and bar complaints using Cluboid’s guide to negative feedback. We’ve analysed the most prevalent concerns, and have the perfect rebuttal to each and every one of them. Now, you will too.

Dealing with Nightclub & Bar Complaints

There are some things in life that are unavoidable. Taxes, aging, grid lock, difficult in laws - that sort of thing. In the nightclub and bar biz, there are certainly a fair few things that will inevitably arise on a fairly regular basis. 'Occupational hazards' shall we say. The most infuriating of which - not too dissimilar to the difficult in-law - is the unreasonable customer complaint. Never fear, Cluboid have compiled a list of the most prevailing nightclub and complaints so you can be one step ahead, and in best possible stead for maintaining customer service.

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1. 'The toilets were gross. Will not be returning.'

Cleanliness is super important in hospitality work, but it's near impossible to ensure spotless bathrooms around the clock. What you can do however, is encourage your customers to notify the staff if they see something they think isn't up to scratch. Leave polite notices on show that instruct your clientele to come forward because your staff would hate to think they were unhappy.

Thank them for their readiness to offer constructive critique and ensure them it'll get looked at right away. People like to feel heard, and if they're venting to you right there and then, they'll be less likely to do so online. Turns out there is such a thing as 'bad press' after all. Thanks TripAdvisor.

2. 'Your security are on a power-trip, dude.'

This is also where you might encounter your standard helping of entry quabbles, a few 'that's not what it said on your website's and the social activists gunning your girls free before 11 policy on the grounds of sexism. It's crucial, in which case, to trust your bouncers. Your security are the first staff to be client-facing, so therefore do a great deal in defining how your venue is regarded. Security can at times have their feathers ruffled, it is fair to say that they have to deal with a lot so on occasion, they may sometimes even respond in anger like any other rational human. As long as you trust them, you should know it was only a momentary lapse. The important thing to note here however, is that research shows that 68% of customers abandon a company or venue because of the belief that you don’t care about them which when you are dealing with an unruly queue of a few hundred people, can be an issue. This is your opportunity to make them feel like you do care by having any issues with security passed directly onto a more senior member of staff before anything properly kicks off. Just the act of ‘taking it hire’ can be enough to defuse a miscommunication on the door, and combats yet another potential negative review.

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3. 'I'm not even drunk, this is discrimination'

Similar to #2 on our list, this complaint tends to come into play when a customer gets wind of inconsistent entry policies, and the aggression usually comes from a feeling of not being understood. You can generally combat this by being super respectful but clear and honest in why you feel they shouldn\'t come into your venue, adopting a formula for delivering bad news known as 'The sandwich'. This might go something like this: 'You're looking great this evening so thanks so much for following our dress code. It does seem as though you may have had a bit to drink though so for safety, we're going to ask you to step out of the queue for a little while. We'd love to see you come back though, so if you take a little walk and grab some water, let's try again in an hour or so.' With a 'good news, bad news, good news' approach, the visitor shouldn't feel the need to be defensive, instead seeing that you're just doing your job and are looking out for their safety.

4. 'I was queuing for hours outside in the freezing cold. Would not recommend.'

Aside from upping your resources like external heating or recruiting a street team to keep your queue pumped up as means of distraction (and who the heck has the funds for that?), there is diddly squat you can do about cold weather. One way to both reduce the size of the queue and overall waiting time is to actively encourage and incentivise the use of guestlists. Drip feeding 'have you got your name down for the weekend?' posts on social media with Monday motivation memes and other opportunistic hashtags to start getting for followers buzzed for the weekend. Reward your clientele for being prepared by saying that guestlist entry receives a free shot on arrival or free use of the cloakroom - something that makes them feel it is a fair exchange, because as we all know, people don't really like to give out their data. That is, unless it feels like they're the ones that are coming off better.

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5. Something articulate like 'It was sh*t'.

Translation: 'You didn't provide me with what I wanted or expected.' This could be in relation to anything from dress code or music to demanding a 'proper glass' when you only ever use a plastic alternative. Here, transparency is key. It may sound simple, but it can be tempting to be quite vague and mysterious with your marketing in an attempt to get bums on seats and make more money. This is a peril than many struggling venues fall prey to, but it actually tends to do more damage than good so try to look at the long-term benefits over the short-term pay-off. Target those that you know will enjoy your venue because what you offer is enjoyable- to them. There’s no shame in admitting if you’re a bit of Marmite. To be an original, you kind of have to be.

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6. 'This place was completely overpriced'

This complaint may sometimes arise in defence or pride, but remember that you are completely within your rights to ask them, respectfully, why they feel that way. Perhaps cost wasn’t properly displayed or the interaction with your bar staff wasn’t in line with what a drink of its price should be. If your drinks are on the higher end, it helps to include a small description alongside to give an insight into the process and effort undergone. It is also important to educate your servers so they can further explain and narrate the process and discuss the ingredients as they go. Drinks prices should reflect their value, and misunderstanding what has gone into your unhappy customers drink could have a little something to do with why they’re feeling hard done by. But most of all, be respectful. Be fair and relative with your pricing, and charge drinks according to their actual worth. Your average customer is going to cotton onto a traditional mojito at twice the price!

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7. 'I lost my coat/handbag/phone and they didn't help me'

This one is bit unfair really. If you provide a service that is meant to prevent loss/damage of property (i.e. a cloakroom) and people opt not to use it, then why is it your problem if something happens to their stuff? Well, unfortunately, unless your cloakroom is free- it is. Feeling safe in your establishment is invaluable, so it helps if you are able to include a cloakroom fee within your cover charge as standard if you can. After all, nobody likes sneaky additional charges. Think of it this way, whatever money you may sacrifice in cloakroom charges is made back in staff time, because dealing with these complaints takes time, but will significantly reduce if they’re handled well. If you’re not prepared to do that, you may instead consider creating a specific email address for lost property enquiries. This then becomes a responsibility of your CRM team whose job it is to make customers feel heard and above all, helped. Going that extra mile makes all the difference when customers are asked to leave you feedback.

8. 'The waitress was rude'

The old 'Customer is always right' comes into play here. It's an oldie, but a goodie. Sometimes, as we all know - the customer is so very wrong it is infuriating but that, unfortunately, is the world of customer service for you. Staff can feel attacked by customers, so it is important to instill a professional front in the face of negativity. This is achieved through correct and thorough training, perhaps even role-playing some typical scenarios in preparation. Having your staff feel comfortable putting a proper complaint procedure into action saves the 'let me speak to your manager' line coming out of the bag every 5 minutes. Dealing with complaints should follow the 3 A's: Acknowledge. Apologise and Assure. Acknowledge the customer's concerns and thank them for their feedback. Secondly, sincerely Apologise for any inconvenience they may have faced and finally, Assure them that the complaint will be handled swiftly now that they have been made aware. You should also encourage your staff to be attentive. This gives them the opportunity to swoop in before anything escalates to a level that it can’t be remedied with ease. Consideration goes a long way, and many customers’ irritation will defuse just purely seeing that you're trying to make their experience more comfortable.

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9. 'It was wasn’t wheelchair accessible'

Accommodating your customer is Customer Service 101 so in this day and age, you actually have no excuse for this one. We're not saying you absolutely must have a top of the line, brand spanking new lift facility fitted, but we are saying you should at the very least have an entry route planned, obliging and ready-to-help staff, unobscured walkways that are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, and appropriate bathroom facilities or you could find yourself with a Disability Discrimination charge. Some savvy venues ask wheelchair users to give them a heads up so they can make necessary arrangements and even offer free entry to their personal assistants. Don’t make them feel like the effort you’re going to is a hassle either. If you’re responding this way to someone trying to enjoy your venue, but just can’t due to accessibility, then maybe you deserve the complaint!

10. 'Our table was too small'

It may sound like a fairly obvious solution, but willingness to remedy something a customer is unhappy about is how best to avoid this one. If possible, conjoin a few tables or move the group to a better fitting area. If not (which a lot of the time is the case) make some sort of gesture of goodwill to keep the group morale high. Returned custom is a lot more valuable than a complimentary round of shots in the long run. For clarity, you should also provide table dimensions alongside booking info, so they can make an informed choice when reserving and can choose an appropriately sized space. It also means you can call upon the fact it is disclosed when booking if necessary.

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BONUS: 'They said I was wearing the wrong shoes'

Again, disclosure and empathy. Think of how irritated you'd be if you’d took the time to venture somewhere new and had no idea about policy. Make sure - if it is something that could disrupt entry - it is plastered on every ticket, poster, flyer, mini-feed, bio and mailout possible. A) It’ll save your a heck of a lot of trouble on the door and B) Your queues will move a lot quicker, curtailing any more of complaint number 4 in our list. You’re welcome.

About the Author

Cerys McCluskey is a regular writer at Cluboid focused on helping large and small businesses achieve better bookings and reservations.

You can read more posts by Cerys on our blog.

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