Customer Complaints

Handle each complaint in such a way that the customer will return.  Studies show that a guest lost because of a complaint will tell 10 other people of their experience.  So, in addition to losing the unhappy guest, you risk causing a negative influence on 10 other potential guests.  (Not to mention the people that they may tell.) This could be a huge amount of lost dollars over the lifetime of one unhappy customer.  Studies also show that if a guest had a complaint that was handled to their satisfaction, they are more likely to return and be loyal customers.  A typical business hears from only 4% of its customers who are unhappy. In other words, 96% say nothing when upset–they just don’t come back. Typical dissatisfied guests tell 8 to 10 people of their dissatisfaction.  One in 5 tell 20 others. It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for 1 negative.  

If front staff can immediately resolve the situation, allow that.  But, if it is apparent there is not an immediate resolution, turn customer over to supervisor.  Steps to resolving a customer complaint:

  • Sincere apology and commitment to correct the problem
  • Show empathy–really listen by maintaining eye contact
  • Accept blame and provide extra attention
  • Offer to get them something else
  • Offer a free beverage or dessert
  • Comp a portion or the entire meal if necessary
  • Don’t ask, “What would you like me to do?” Instead, offer choices: comp the meal, or different item, or gift certificate for a future visit.  Ask, “Which would you prefer?”
  • Follow up–always check back

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Never justify what happened.  No excuses. Never tell a guest that we are short staffed, training, or too busy.
  • Don’t educate the guest–how something is prepared, etc.  If the person is upset, this will only irritate them.
  • Never appear to not be taking their complaint seriously.  Every complaint is personal to the guest. If we don’t appear serious, it can make the complaint worse.
  • NEVER discuss the complaint with ANYONE within earshot of the customer.  If it must be discussed, wait till the guest has left.  

Reminders to do:

  • View the complaint, rather than the customer as the problem
  • Ask questions and make eye contact.  Always assume responsibility for the problem.
  • Offer the customer a choice of solutions
  • Follow through

Most customers who complain will do business again with us if they feel their complaint was resolved.  If they feel you acted quickly and to their satisfaction, then up to 95% return and most likely refer others.  Give service above and beyond the call of duty.