Handling Parent Complaints Within Your Recreation Program

By Jason Schaitz, MBA, CPRE | Posted on December 15, 2021

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If you run a well-organized program and you are a great communicator, parent complaints will be at a minimum. However, sometimes things will happen that are out of your control causing a parent to complain. Any complaint that comes in, whether by phone, email or in person, should be handled and resolved as quickly as possible. If the complaint cannot be resolved immediately, a follow-up should occur within a maximum of two days. The program administrator should continue to follow up with the parent until the issue is resolved.

If front line staff receives the complaint they should always try to assist first. If you do not have the information necessary to resolve the complaint, make sure to get it to the appropriate supervisor immediately. If the complaint involves an incident or injury, make sure the proper documentation is filed. If the complaint is in-person and on-site, always move them away from the kids immediately.

Below are seven common steps to follow to handle a complaint effectively, resolve it and move forward:

  • Actively listen
  • Ask supporting questions
  • Apologize sincerely
  • Find out what they want from the complaint and verify the resolution
  • Document the complaint and notify a supervisor
  • Resolve the complaint
  • Thank them

If the parent becomes unruly use the CARP Method to de-escalate the situation and stay on track so both parties can come to a resolution.

  • Control the situation.
  • Acknowledge the dilemma
  • Refocus the conversation
  • Problem-solve 

General Customer Service

Regardless of the type of inquiry or type of communication used, all staff should follow the guidelines below as it relates to customer service and interacting with your camp parents and participants. Displaying great customer service and building trust with your participants is another way to curtail a complaint before it ever happens.

  • Be friendly and greet with a smile
  • Be respectful
  • Listen
  • Be responsive
  • Be positive
  • Clearly communicate
  • Say thank you
  • Keep high standards
  • Keep response time low
  • Closed-ended responses such as “I don’t know” and “It’s not my responsibility” are never appropriate responses. Continue with getting the customer to the right person or resource to meet their needs.

Regardless of the severity of the complaint you should take all of them seriously and be responsive. Great communication, great customer service and building trust will greatly reduce your parent complaints. If a complaint does come in, you will have the ability to get ahead of it and resolve it before it escalates so you and your participants can move forward and continue to enjoy your program!


Jason Schaitz, MBA, CPREis a park and recreation director in the state of Florida with 15 years of experience managing youth sports, camps and recreation programs. He also created and manages League Source and The Summer Camp Source with the goal of providing free high-quality resources for any type of youth sports or camp program. Take your leagues and camps to the next level by visiting our websites for free resources and education!


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