Archive for November, 2013

How to turn complaining customer into loyal guests.

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013


A customer who complains is a customer who wants to give you a second chance.

Fielding complaints from customers, whether the customer and their complaint are reasonable or silly, valid or invented, can be draining, annoying and disruptive, but it’s all part of a restaurant owners’s job.

Sometimes complaints can be overwhelming, but if you are able to listen to your customers patiently and attentively, what they are telling you may alert you to a situation in your restaurant that needs attention. What the customer is complaining about just may inform you about a problem that could be costing your restaurant business—and you might never have known about if the customer didn’t tell you.

Who Cares?

Chris Tripoli of A’la Carte Foodservice Consulting Group has heard “the customer is always right” refrain thousands of times. But Tripoli has a twist on the saying. He enthusiastically declares, “The customer isn’t always right, but who cares?”

Tripoli’s point is that it doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong. As an operator, your goal is to fill the seats in your restaurant in a profitable way. If you have to comp a meal or eat some humble pie, that’s ok.

Tripoli says that resolving a customer complaint can never be about who is right and who is wrong. Rather he says the best decisions have everything to do with what works.” Here’s how one operator describes it: “I find that the only barrier to comping a complaining customer is my ego. Who cares if you give away a dish? What does it cost you? Almost nothing. You can only win; they are either unhappy, nasty people who will never come back anyway, or they will be impressed and come back, maybe to become regular customers. So get your ego out of the way, give away the food and move on to the next guest who is in love with what you do.”

Dozens of studies exist that prove the beneficial effect on a business when a customer’s problem is resolved in a positive manner. One such study says that 85 percent of people who have a problem with a business that is not resolved will not return. These people are dissatisfied customers, but instead of telling you why, they just walk out and never comeback.

The Bright side is that 80 percent of customers who are a problem resolved will return. Whether you retain those customers comes down to how you handle their complaint. It’s not the problem that makes a restaurant lose an individual’s business; its how that customer’s complaint is resolved.

A Bird in Hand

In Leading on the Edge of Change, authors Emmet and Mark Murphy say that acquiring new customer can cost five times more that satisfying and retaining current customers. It’s cheaper to retain and satisfy an existing customer than to go out and find a new one. That should be motivation enough for putting a smile on your face and dealing with a customer complaint.

Its clear there are strong and sound business reasons for doing what you can to retain a customer. That’s why our first reaction to a complaining customer should always be to extend a hearty “Thank You!”

A customer who complains is a customer who wants to give you a second chance. When your first step is to thank the complaining customer for giving you the opportunity to make things right, you are assuring the customer that you want to do everything you can to make the customer happy again.

Source: Restaurant Startup and Growth