April 30 2009 by Chris McGinnis
A perfectly planned business trip is sort of like a finely tuned watch. There are a lot of moving parts, but if one tiny pin or wheel stops working, the watch stops.
The same goes for a business trip. An unplanned traffic jam, a thunderstorm over the airport, a missed wake up call, and yes, even an outbreak of the swine flu can stop your trip in its tracks.
Sometimes travel glitches are no one's fault. That's when you've got to roll with the punches and make the best of a bad situation like everyone else. But at other times, it makes sense to write a letter and seek to resolve the issue when it's clear that someone has goofed up.
Do you think you've got a good case? Don't keep those feelings bottled up or start a negative word-of-mouth campaign. Write a letter and give the supplier the opportunity to make good. Here's some advice on writing that first email or letter:
- Be concise and professional. While you may be upset, it's best to extract any emotion from your complaint letter. Write your emotion-packed "I'll-never-use-you-again" letter first, and then put it in a drawer. Then revisit and re-write it a few days later.
- Don't rant. State your case, propose a solution and suggest fair compensation. Be reasonable.
- Make it short and sweet. If you cannot get around the need to make your note longer than two or three paragraphs, provide an "executive summary" at the top with the gist of your complaint and your proposed solution or compensation. Then show the details below--but never ever more than a single page.
- Let them know who you are. If you're a frequent business traveler and can prove it with a loyalty program number, be sure to include that.
- Don't threaten to copy the media or post your complaint to social media/travel message board Web sites in your first correspondence. Save that for later.
Play nice at first and see what happens. You might be surprised to find the supplier to be as eager to resolve the issue as you are.