Food Services Businesses: Steps for Handling Customer Complaints
The way your business handles customer complaints can determine whether the problem persists or diffuses. Of course, every situation has its own nuances and considerations. But as a general rule, listening to the customer, being sympathetic to their position, and offering a speedy resolution can make all the difference. Plus, you can use these situations as learning experiences for the future.
For example, let's say a customer has a meal they consider less than satisfactory and they allege their server was slow and discourteous. Let's take a look at five basic steps for handling this complaint about your food business's service and products.
Complaint Resolution Step 1: Listen
When your customer has an issue or a complaint, make sure your employees allow the customer to be heard. This includes…
- Focusing their undivided attention on the dissatisfied customer.
- Letting the customer voice their complaint without interruption.
- Listening to what they're saying.
Jotting down notes can help your employees retain information for future reference and let the customer know that their concern is being taken seriously.
Complaint Resolution Step 2: Respond
After the customer has complained that their dinner was cold and their waiter was inattentive, your employee should…
- Apologize for the problem without making excuses.
- Express sympathy for the customer's situation.
- Assure the customer that their complaint will be addressed immediately.
As always, a friendly and calm attitude can keep the situation from spiraling.
Complaint Resolution Step 3: Offer Solutions
Train your employees to ask the customer what they can do to amend the situation. Give your employees the ability to offer some basic solutions, such as offering…
- A meal replacement.
- A free dessert.
- Contact with a manager who can speak with the customer.
Be sure your employees understand what they can and can't offer to resolve a customer complaint so that they don't accidentally make the situation worse.
Complaint Resolution Step 4: Go Beyond
"Under-promise and over-deliver" is a common business strategy that helps create satisfied customers. Essentially, it means you set your customers' expectations low, and then wow them by exceeding their expectations.
This technique isn't just a handy sales tip – it can come in handy when you're trying to make amends, too. So after the disgruntled customer has agreed to a proposed solution, throw in an extra perk, such as…
- A discount on the day's meal.
- A certificate for a future meal at your establishment.
And of course, ask if there is anything else you or your employees can do to improve their experience.
Complaint Resolution Step 5: Learn
This final step is perhaps the hardest. It's easy to resort to platitudes like "the customer's always right!" or shrug off the customer as a finicky person. It's much more difficult to take an unpleasant situation and use it as an opportunity to reflect on what can be improved in your establishment.
When you do treat problems as a learning experience, though, you can potentially reduce future problems. For instance, you may use the situation to…
- Implement operational changes to prevent similar problems from recurring.
- Train employees on how to properly handle a complaint.
- Make employees aware of when they should handle a situation themselves and when they should request a manager's involvement.
If your establishment keeps running into the same types of problems, you can determine the changes to make to improve your customers' experience.