Let’s face it, even if you get fantastic reviews at your restaurant, problems and complaints are bound to happen no matter how hard you try. From burnt food to rude service, foodservice operations have to deal with it all. Ensuring complaints are handled the proper way is essential for your restaurant to keep customers returning and making them happy in the long run. There are many ways to handle complaints, but here’s how you should handle them the right way.
The first step in dealing with a customer complaint is to train employees to give their undivided attention to that particular customer and listen to what they have to say. Let them express their complaint fully without any interruptions, and if the situation is a little lengthy jot down notes. This lets the customer know you’re taking the complaint seriously. When the complaint involves something that you can’t really do anything about, such as a wait in line, an employee should still listen intently and let the customer vent.
Remember that when you’re interacting with a customer, body language is just as important as listening because this can convey the right or wrong attitude towards a customer. Even if employees feel defensive, they need to maintain eye contain and never cross their arms over their chest or roll their eyes. This body language portrays a poor image towards the customer and could possibly anger them even more if the employee isn’t working with them. Make sure to nod and smile, even if you’re very irritated and angry. In the end, kindness will help solve the issue and give a good impression of your business.
After actively listening to the customer, an apology needs to be issued to the customer no matter who is to blame. As you already know, restaurants are extremely busy so there isn’t much time to debate on who’s actually right or to make excuses, so just apologize and state that you’ll act immediately to get the complaint settled out. Remain calm even if you’re dealing with an irate customer to keep the situation from escalating and creating a scene at your restaurant.
Next, you’ll need to find out what you can do to resolve the problem. If it’s a simple complaint about cold food or the wrong order, offer to replace the items immediately. When you do this, alert the kitchen staff so they know this order is urgent and they understand the situation. If the complaint is more involved than replacing a meal, or if they’re still unhappy, bring the manager in to speak with them. Customers sometimes feel better when someone “in charge” speaks with them instead of the server or hostess. Offering freebies also helps diffuse situations and can go a long way in assuring future business. Some examples include free round of drinks, free dessert, a gift card for their next visit, taking a percentage off of their meal or comping the total meal.
If the customer is still angry after your efforts, it’s best to apologize for a second time and state that you’d love for them to come back and try out your restaurant again. By saying goodbye to an angry customer on a positive chance, there’s a good possibility they’ll come back once they’ve cooled off.
Learn from the Situation
Customer complaints will always be a great learning opportunity for every employee, whether they witnessed it firsthand or not. Complaints will usually signal a kink in your service or process that needs to be improved. If a change needs to be made in how you operate your restaurant, this is a great time to prevent future problems from occurring. Remember to train your employees well on how to deal with complaints the right way and when to call for a manager’s help.
If your foodservice operation can handle customer complaints the right way, your business will benefit in the long run. Restaurants always want to improve their reviews and reputation so customers will want to come back and keep coming back!