Aftermath: Q&A Follow-up
on Bear Attacks.

In our last post, The Five-Step Guide To Hugging Bears, Turning Unhappy Guests Into Your Biggest Fans, we reviewed the process we use at LLA Hospitality, the leading provider of campground and RV park management services, for identifying and appeasing difficult guests. Given the great feedback we've received on that post, we are writing a follow-up post to answer certain questions and to elaborate on a few key points.
Question (1 of 3):

You mention that you "separate complaints into three categories: (1) complaints that [you] can control today, (2) complaints that [you] cannot control today but can in the future, and (3) complaints [you] cannot control." Can you share a bit more about how you handle each type of complaint?
Answer...

Absolutely! Category one complaints (those that you can control today) are usually the best. These are the ones that you can solve in a short period of time. Camper doesn't like their site, that's ok, is there a site available that they do like? Perfect. Get them moved. Sewer drop is a bit too far to reach? Good thing we have that extra section of sewer hose that we lend to campers. Problem solved. For complaints that require a team member with certain skills, say an electrical issue, we will place the item on our maintenance "to-do" list and have our team members address it as soon as they are available.

Category two complaints can present short-term and long-term challenges. Again, these are complaints that we cannot address today but can address in the future. This could include a repair that cannot be completed until the camper leaves and will negatively affect their stay but will be fixed before the next guest arrives (for example, a severed coax cable that requires trenching through the site to replace). Other issues will require longer-term planning and potentially capital budgeting. We have had a pool fail that needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, insurance adjusters are not always on the same timeline as our guests. As a result, we have had our fair share of category two complaints. We know that they will go away as soon as the pool is fixed... but it painful in the meantime.

Category three complaints are ones that we have to own. Sometimes a little reframing can help. Can you hear the highway? Not the best when folks are camping but it also allows for easy access. All you can do in these situations is set clear expectations. Do not tell prospective campers that they will have the best sleep of their life if they are going to hear trucks rattle by all night.
Question (2 of 3):

Not all bear activity in our campground is directed at the on-site team. What do I do when two groups of campers are acting like bears towards each other? How do I calm them down and ensure everyone has the best time?
Answer...

When Cody was in 4th grade, he elected to be a conflict manager. It was a cool job... it came with a clipboard! Certain days of the week, he would spend his recess time ensuring that students who were involved in a dispute had a fair and impartial mediator to help them work through their disagreements. Camper conflicts are almost indistinguishable from those found on a middle school playground. Quite often conflict occurs when different groups of campers feel that their experience is being negatively impacted by another group. This could be due to noise, drinking, campfire smoke, children running through other camper's sites... the list of reasons is infinitely long.

The first step, as always, is to avoid these situations. Do you have clear rules and a code of conduct for your campground? It can be hard to enforce behavior when you have two groups complaining about each other. It is much easier when you can support your request with a rule and then explain to the guest(s) that they are breaking it. For example, if a group of campers is making a lot of noise and it is 8:30 PM, you could ask them to keep it down out of respect for the other campers, but inform the complaining party that quiet hours don't begin until 10:00 PM. However, the opposite is true, as well. If the complaint is after 10:00 PM, you can politely ask the louder group to retire into their camper or accommodation for the evening. What steps can you take to work through almost any camper disagreement? Great question! Keep reading.
Six steps to work through
(almost) any camper disagreement:
1
Create a safe place to talk:
You may have to separate the guests and speak to them individually. You will also want to remove them from public areas where their conflict could negatively impact other guests.
2
Actively listen to their complaint:
Make sure each involved party feels heard and understood.
3
Clearly define the root cause of the conflict:
Distill the main reason for the complaint. Sometimes this is obvious and sometimes it will take a bit more prying. Ask questions.
4
Determine outcomes that would make each party happy:
Brainstorm a few solutions that would allow each party to feel at ease.
5
Consider any barriers to their desired outcomes:
Would moving sites make them happy? Are you completely full for the night? That would be a barrier.
6
Agree on the best way to resolve the conflict:
Once you have an agreement, it is your responsibility to enforce the resolution.
Question (3 of 3):

What do I do if a bear attacks someone on my team? Isn't the "customer always right"? Bears can be pretty vicious and that can make it hard to retain good team members.
Answer...

At LLA Hospitality, we live by our core values. Our first core value is "we put our team first". If a bear attacks a member of your team, as the owner or manager, it is your job to step in and protect your team. As mentioned in our last post, the guest isn't always right. As tempted as you may be to mace the bear when this happens, don't. If you work through the conflict resolution steps in the previous question, you will be able to reach an actionable conclusion. Don't forget, in certain cases, it is a perfectly acceptable solution to ask the guest to leave your campground. Running a campground or RV park is difficult enough; without having the support of your team, you'll quickly find yourself up a creek without a paddle.
Asking yourself, "why am I still dealing with this?" We're here to help.
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