Thursday, October 11, 2012

4Q Consulting | Restaurant Consulting NYC | Bad Experiences Can Make Loyal Customers

Bad Experiences Can Make Loyal Customers
Customers have complained since long before there was the Internet. However, in today’s hyper-digital world, unhappy guests often immediately go to the internet to report their bad customer service  experiences on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and a slew of other websites.  On-line complaints are very public, and can be damaging to your business reputation to a point that is hard to overcome. 

Even in the best establishments, not every guest will be satisfied with the product and services rendered, and unhappy guests do not always complain in person, waiting instead to tell the World Wide Web. You must train your staff to be aware of when their guests are not happy, and how to address issues, voiced or not.

Here are 4 important steps by which properly trained staff can not only address and rectify a problem appropriately, but can pre-empt an on-line tirade and make a positive lasting impression.

1. Be Quiet and Listen
As simple as it sounds, the first – and most important – step to take when dealing with a complaining guest is to be quiet and listen. Train your staff to not get emotional with an upset guest.  Sometimes the person just wants to be heard, and having an employee acknowledge the issue calmly is all it takes to settle the problem.

It is an employee’s job to listen attentively. Often guests feel the need to vent their frustrations completely before even considering a solution. The employee should take the time to hear out the issue before determining what can be done.
Your employees should be empowered to resolve certain issues on their own. However, serious matters should be brought to the manager’s attention immediately.

2. Admit and Apologize
This seems easy, but employees often do not want to admit a mistake or apologize, and they are quick to pass the blame. Complaints are not personal (even if heated); your staff should simply apologize and accept the responsibility for the entire team. Admitting an error and apologizing will set the guest’s mind at ease and help to dissipate the negativity. Then the complaint can be addressed directly, in a manner that has meaning for the guest.

EXAMPLE: saying, “I am sorry you’re waiting a long time for your food, but our kitchen is really slammed tonight” is not effective.  Guests do not care, nor need to know, why they do not have their food; they want to know when they will get their food.  Much more effective is saying, “I am sorry for the delay with your entrees, let me find out what the hold-up is.  In the meantime, please let me bring you a complimentary round of drinks.” This tells the guests that you are now going to be their advocate and you are already working to rectify the situation for them.

3. Fix the Problem and Thank the Guest
Now that the problem has been identified, a solution must be enacted. This can take many forms, and is often a simple fix - depending on the complaint.
In the example above, simply returning to the table to deliver the complimentary drinks, assuring the guests that the server has checked that the food will arrive in a few minutes and thanking them for their patience, can go quite far in quelling the situation.

For a bigger issue, engaging the guest in coming up with a mutually agreeable solution is often effective. If you ask the customer to propose a "fair and reasonable" solution, acting as a partnership with you to find a resolution, chances are it will consist of less than what you would have thought to offer.
The goal is to go above and beyond the expectation so that the guest’s distaste is transformed into enjoyment.

Finally, it is important to thank the guest for giving you the opportunity to fix the problem.

4. Keep your Word
Above all else: Keep your word. Be sure to promptly follow through with your promises.

Again referring to our example: A server who does not return to the table to report on the status of the awaited food is only making a matter worse.

If you agreed to send guests a coupon in the mail or via email, make sure you follow through in the agreed upon amount of time. If you promised to have the guests come back for a meal on the house, make sure this happens. If you promised to cover a dry cleaning bill, send the check without delay.

After the incident is over, analyze what happened.  You will want to take steps to ensure that it does not happen again. Learning from a problem can actually help improve your business if you make sure that the problem is avoided in the future. Don’t make the same mistake twice.

Making guests happy must be an attitude that all employees understand and practice daily. In being able to quickly turn a poor situation into a positive experience, you have the chance to create a loyal customer for life.  However, this is no substitute for top-notch customer service.

In the long run, it is easier and cheaper to maintain happy returning customers than to replace unhappy one who don’t return.  Not only will good service keep your customers loyally coming back, but their on-line reports of your customer service will attract new guests for you to impress.
Ask yourself, do you have the proper training programs in place to foster this culture of guest satisfaction in your establishment?  4Q Consulting can help you develop training and programs to foster a guest focused culture. 
Call us today for a free consultation!

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2012-2013.

No comments:

Post a Comment