What A Complaining Guest Wants

Have you ever found yourself displeased with an experience and shared your thoughts with an employee or manager? Did you pickup that they cared? Did you feel your complaint was resolved?

Believe it or not, this often happens in the church. Perhaps you have been on the receiving end of a complaining guest. How did it go?

Here are the top six complaints I have heard from people attending one of our five churches:

  • The music is too loud
  • You need to provide coffee
  • It's too dark in the Auditorium
  • It's too cold in the Auditorium
  • Parking can be confusing
  • Too much traffic

Why do guests complain? Guests complain when don't receive what they expected. Sometimes we don't get it right. Sometimes the guest has expectations that exceed reality. Living somewhere in between is the tension we manage.

Are complaints from guests a bad thing? No. In fact, I often find complaints to reveal a potential blind spot. You will not do everything right all the time. You're human and you're dealing with humans. Plus, listening to a complaint gives you an opportunity to create a surprise and delight moment of recovery for that guest. Perhaps you can help them walk away with a feeling that creates a memory to replace what initially started out as negative.

I regularly discover that when a guest complains, they want something specific and sometimes it is unrelated to their initial dislike or to the actual event. What do they want? 

A guest wants:

  1. Dignity - to feel respected
  2. Validation - their thoughts and feelings acknowledged
  3. Chance to vent - actively listen to them without interrupting
  4. A live person who takes ownership of the problem - no excuses
  5. Empathy - walk in their shoes for a minute
  6. Solution - offering a helpful and complete next step

Here are some helpful tips as you show care to a complaining guest:


  • Actively listen
  • Re-state their complaint
  • Empathize
  • Apologize
  • Thank them for taking the time to talk with you
  • Own the mistake if one was made
  • Provide quick service recovery
  • Promise to act where possible
  • Log feedback to look for patterns
  • Discreetly move the conversation off to the side to free the guest to openly talk without having other guests to hear the conversation
  • Offer what you can do, not what you cannot do


  • Be defensive
  • Make excuses
  • Look annoyed
  • Argue
  • Take it personally
  • Put them off on someone else
  • Neglect the opportunity to respond
  • Interrupt
Elevate the dignity of the individual.
— Andy Stanley