According to consumer surveys, a person who has had an unpleasant experience with a business will tell 10 other people. Approximately 13% will tell more than 20 other people. Customers who have a good experience tell an average of only 3 other people. One of the most important things a waitperson is responsible for is turning dissatisfied customers back into satisfied customers.
- Deal with the problem immediately. It is important to deal with a customer’s complaint immediately. If you do not attend to the customer, he or she will leave feeling dissatisfied. The first two minutes after the complaint are the most crucial to regaining that customer’s loyalty to your business.
- Listen. Listen to the nature of the complaint. Customers may simply be having a bad day and want to vent. Most often, customers have something valid to complain about. Finding out what is wrong can be invaluable information for making sure that complaint is not repeated in the future.
- Acknowledge. Find out all the details of the actual complaint and acknowledge these. Ask questions to identify and analyze the problem. Obtain the customer’s ideas concerning possible alternative solutions.
- Apologize. Always apologize even if you did nothing wrong. The customer is always right. Apologizing helps to deflate a customer’s anger. Don’t make excuses to customers, who will always respond negatively if they think you are being evasive.
- Respond and resolve. Resolve the complaint according to policy if your restaurant has one. Decide in a fair manner what you are responsible for and initiate some positive action to remedy the situation. If you can’t resolve the complaint refer it on to your superiors.
- Thank the customer. Thanking the customer for letting you know there is a problem reaffirms that you were listening to them. Customers are also more likely to remember that you thanked them for bringing a problem to your attention.
- Report and follow up. Report the complaint to your manager. Keep a written report of what transpired and what you did to resolve the complaint. Written records are useful for making sure the complaint is followed up. The record is also useful if you have regular staff meetings and it is shared with other staff as a learning tool.
- Stay calm and do not argue with the customer. Getting defensive never helps and almost always makes things worse. This is not about who is right and who is wrong. It is about helping a disappointed customer and keeping their business.
- Body language is very important. Stay away from crossed arms, putting your hands on your hips and leaning against a wall or table. The best body language to use when dealing with an irate customer is to stand with your hands clasped behind you. Having your head tilted slightly to one side can help give the impression that you are listening closely to what the customer is saying.
- Voice modulation, pitch and tone are very important. A raised voice sounds upset and combative. A customer will respond the same way in return.
- Eye contact is very important in affirming to the customer that you are listening to them. Don’t stare but look your customer in the eye when you are having a dialogue with them. Constantly looking away from the customer gives the impression of inattention.