Wednesday, 18 December 2013

How to respond to an access complaint

After becoming stuck in a hotel loo (see Toilet Traps) I had a quick word with reception who promised to send the message on. Later I called the hotel, and was pleased that the member of staff I spoke to was aware of the issue and knew it was being addressed by management - and gave me an email address to write to.

I sent the email. 3 times - because I hadn't heard anything back and emails can sometimes end up in spam.

Yesterday I called, and was put through to the Health and Safety team. The manager was out but the assistant was able to confirm that my email had been received and was being acted on, and the manager would call me later.

Sure enough, a few hours later the Health and Safety manager called. He'd investigated and found a solution: the internal door to the ladies would be removed forthwith. And he thanked me for raising the issue because otherwise they might never have seen it - sounding genuinely grateful.

And he asked me to raise any access issues I have in the future, because it was very helpful.

And offered me a complimentary afternoon tea once they've sorted the WC access.

It got me thinking: although an intial email response saying 'thank you for your email, we are working on your case, and hope to get back to you within ?? days' would have been nice (access complaints are so often ignored that unless I get an acknowledgement I tend to assume nothing is happening) the Imperial, Russel Square, got it about right.

And the best bit was that they didn't make any excuses: they said "It just never occurred to me, I'm so sorry." and got on with sorting it.

So, based simply on person experience, what I would say to anyone receiving an access complaint is:

If there is an obvious, immediate solution, like moving a bin from the middle of the access ramp, it should be sorted immediately with a simple 'sorry, I'll make sure it doesn't happen again.' (No excuse, and no fawning necessary. The customer wants to get on with their day, not waste energy arguing.)

And if a person with a disability raises an access issue which is going to take more work to solve:
1. Listen. If appropriate, ask if you can try and describe the problem back to them to make sure you have understood properly. (It is your comprehension being checked, not their ability to communicate.)
2. Apologise. Explain that you will investigate and get back to them with a plan of action. Try to avoid writing off any solutions at this stage as there might be ways they could be made to work.
3. If the issue is having an immediate effect, ask whether there is anything you can do immediately so the individual can get where they want/need to while the main issue is being looked into (e.g. alternative route, using the bathroom of an accessible hotel room, lifting a wheelchair up a step, assistance from staff.)
4. Investigate, think laterally and creatively about solutions and don't be afraid to ask the customer for ideas. Real life isn't ticks in 'accessible' boxes, it's about creatively solving issues.
5. Follow up on your promises - and if finding a solution is taking longer than expected, tell the customer. Keep them in the loop.
6. Tell your customer your plans. And then solve the access issue.
7. Invite them back to experience the improved access.
8. Thank them for their input, and encourage them to raise any issues in the future.

NOTE: Avoid excuses as to why the access issue happened. It happened. It shouldn't happen again. Excuses sound like you are trying to ignore/devalue the access issue raised - even if really it comes from nervous horror at discovering an access fail.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic result. Well done Hannah and here's to no wheelies getting stuck in between loo doors.


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