Many of the complaints you receive from residents will be sound related. The sound in question may be from the playing of live music and/or from patrons leaving your venue.
Excessive noise from any source at high levels or for continuous periods can have a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of those affected. These effects include stress, increased aggravation, fatigue and reduced sleep.
Low frequency emissions from drums and bass instruments are particularly harmful to a person’s health and wellbeing. They are harder to insulate against, can’t be reduced by closing windows or doors and are often accompanied by vibration.
If a person has or is experiencing any of these effects, they are more likely to be highly aggravated and distressed when making a complaint.
Please take this into consideration when speaking to them. Remember you may not know how the noise generated from your venue is affecting their health.
Complaints that are managed in a sympathetic and respectful manner can often be resolved immediately between parties, without further action.
If your neighbours are familiar and comfortable with your venue and activities, they are more likely to talk positively about you than complain. The same principle applies to your awareness of the concerns of surrounding residents.
To familiarise residents with your venue and staff, and vice versa, consider holding a monthly meeting or social night on a quiet night, especially for residents. Opening your doors and welcoming them in will not only increase your patronage, but help them to see that you are part of the neighbourhood too.
For example, you might use the night to showcase what changes you have made to accommodate their needs.
By inviting your neighbours in you will help to reduce communication barriers and help increase awareness.
Forming good relationships with local authorities, such as the police, the relevant Local Government, community and residents’ groups should also be part of your overall communication plan.
Keep the channels of communication open by scheduling regular meetings with these groups, particularly before big events or if you are making changes to entertainment schedules.
Use these chats to discuss potential issues and keep them updated with improvements to your sound management plan. This will confirm that you are taking your role and responsibilities in the neighbourhood seriously.
Demonstrating a responsible and well managed venue to the relevant Local Government will help to maintain good relationships. It will demonstrate to them that you are taking the right steps to manage the venue to resolve issues with residents as quickly as possible. This in turn can help to ensure that action is less likely to be taken against you.
Ensure that after-hours contact numbers for you and your managers are available to staff, patrons, residents, the local council and other authorities.
This will ensure that if there is an issue, it can be dealt with immediately thereby reducing the potential for it to progress formally.
In all cases it is much better to resolve an issue directly with the individual or representative before it becomes a formal complaint to
the local council or Liquor Licensing Authority, or is taken to the media.
Formal complaints can be time consuming, costly and damaging to your reputation in the neighbourhood and overall industry.
Always be polite and open to discussion when someone is making a complaint. The individual may have been experiencing the effects of music or excessive noise for some time before complaining. If this is the case, they may be in a highly stressed state by they time they make a formal complaint to you.
Try to see the situation from their point of view – how would you feel? Your empathy and consideration of their situation could resolve the complaint immediately.
Never say ‘no one else has complained’ as this invalidates their opinion and could potentially inflame the situation even more.
The person probably doesn’t care what anyone else thinks – they only want a solution for their situation.
As part of your overall management plan, you should keep a central file or book where details of all complaints are recorded.
The information should include the date, time, nature of the complaint; and the name, address and contact details for the complainant. Details about how the complaint was handled should also be recorded.
This information will be vital if a formal complaint is made against your venue.
On every shift there should be a Duty Manager or Supervisor whose responsibility includes handling complaints from the general public. Ensure that this person is properly trained in how to deal with conflict situations.
You may even consider sending your staff on courses on the Liquor Licensing Act to gain a greater understanding of roles and responsibilities. General staff members should also be trained on how
to deal with complaints and where to direct them.
Get your staff involved in finding solutions. Consider discussing complaints with your staff at staff meetings.
Explain what happened and how they were rectified. Encourage your staff to present practical solutions to how these situations can be prevented in the future.
Dealing with complaints should always be handled in a sensitive and professional manner to ensure that they are resolved as quickly as possible.
If handled incorrectly a complaint can damage the venue’s reputation and may also lead to a formal complaint and/or legal action.