Customer complaints are unavoidable in service industries. As much as the wait staff and restaurant owner does not want to deal with an unhappy customer, it provides the chance for the service provider to fix a solution and ensure that the customer has the best experience possible.
If a complaint is treated as an opportunity, it allows the service provider to hear constructive feedback and earn a second chance to win the customer back. Despite those unavoidable situations, the key is how to react. Here are four steps to handling customer complaints.
1. Listen to your customer’s complaint.
The first thing that is necessary to do when you receive a customer complaint is to listen. The customer is concerned about an aspect of the service, and you need to figure out what happened. Whether something was missing in the order, the food wasn’t cooked properly, or it took an extremely long time to receive the meal, listen carefully to understand the issue. This is pertinent to determining how to solve it.
There may be a situation where a customer is physically upset or speaks in an angry tone, and it can be difficult for the server or customer service representative to remain calm. Despite the situation, don’t succumb to the temptation to raise your voice or speak to the customer in a negative fashion. Ask questions and make eye contact. Your number one priority is to listen to the complaint and determine what is driving their concern.
2. Empathize and apologize for the situation.
Once you understand the issue, empathize with the customer to validate their concerns. This creates a bond between you and the customer knowing that you will do everything in your power to correct the situation. Apologize for the issue even if it is not your fault. Because you are serving or working with the customer, you are representing the restaurant and the brand. It is your face that they see.
Be genuine and sincere. This will come across to the customer as if you are in this together and want to make it right. The guest’s perception doesn’t need to be right or wrong. All that matters is that you are understanding towards their needs and work to resolve the situation.
3. Offer and execute a solution.
Next, offer a solution to the customer. If you need time to talk to your manager, let the customer know that you will discuss with your team. Always offer solutions that can be done as opposed to resolutions that are impossible. Keep in mind that there is always a solution. If the customer asks for a resolution that cannot be done, focus on finding something that will meet the same need instead of denying the request.
If the customer is unhappy with the solution that has been provided, think about other options that could be done to remedy the situation. It’s important that the customer sees that you are working with them to satisfy their needs. Once you agree on the solution, put the plan into action. Addressing the concerns right away will allow both you and the customer to put the situation to rest and enjoy the remainder of the experience at your restaurant with their family or friends.
4. Follow-up and thank your customer for their business.
Once you have gone through all of the steps above, make sure to follow-up with your customer to ensure that they are satisfied with the solution. You’ve done everything in your power to make it right and address the concerns. Thank the customer for bringing the situation to your attention and for the opportunity to resolve it. Let the customer know that you appreciate their business and that you look forward to seeing them again. Even if you had to offer an alternate solution to what the customer proposed, the customer will leave the experience knowing that their concern was addressed in the best possible way.
A customer complaint will give the wait staff opportunities to problem solve quickly and learn how to handle similar situations in the future. If there is a specific area that customers complain about regularly, it is an opportunity for the restaurant to make a bigger change. Following the four steps listed above will give you an edge over your competitors and ensure your customers want to keep coming back.
When you respect your customers, listen to them, empathize, and work with them to meet their needs, it only benefits you and your business in a positive way. With so many restaurants and food service options in today’s market, it’s extremely important to show your high-quality service and why it sets you apart. The adage rings true – treat others how you want to be treated and you will reap the rewards.
Rafi Cohen, a graduate of Baruch College & Brooklyn native is the Co-Founder @ Orders2me, an online ordering platform that gives restaurant owners all the features they need to grow their business in the digital age.
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