COMPLAINTS are a valuable source of market research and should be viewed in a positive light, according to ABTA head of consumer affairs Keith Richards.

“A complaint is a positive gift to you which is wrapped up in a negative package,” he said. “The consumer is telling you what they think.”

He argued that the vast majority of holiday complaints are valid. “By casting them aside, we are dismissing people who do have a valid complaint.”

He urged tour operators to take care at the contracting stage where the seeds of a complaint are often sown.

Richards also said there should also be open lines of communication between the customer-service department and other departments.

“It is also important to ‘tell it like it is’ in brochures so the customer expectations are not too high.”

Studies have shown that, if you deal with disgruntled customers properly, you will win back that customer, he added.