Handling complaints at any business is never easy, but restaurants are always presented with a different breed of grievances. Whether the steak was overcooked, the waiter rude, the waiting time too long or what have you, a multitude of grey areas exist that make it virtually impossible to run a complaint-free restaurant. While you can’t completely stop complaints from happening, you can do your best to handle them appropriately and professionally. Easier said than done, yes, but few tweaks here and there and you’ll be customer-complaint-handler in no time! And yes, we did just make that word up.
Here are some best practices for handling customer complaints at a restaurant:
Listen: Just like when you’re listening to your friend tell a way too long break-up story, you need to put your listening ears on when a customer has a complaint. Even if it’s something you have no control of—such as waiting time—it’s important to give the customer room to gripe and assuage them as much as possible.
Body language: No matter how ridiculous this may sound, body language matters. It’s easy for a hostess or waiter to remain distracted while a customer is complaining. It’s necessary to sustain eye contact and smile. This shows the customer that you are staying attentive and sympathizing with them.
Apologize (Duh): Of course, every complaint from a customer must be bookended with an apology from whoever is dealing with the complaint. Apologize while clearly articulating that you understand the problem and are working to fix it as soon as possible.
Handling customer complaints isn’t an art form; there are simple basics that all owners and managers should abide by while passing them on to other employees. Make sure your servers, bussers and hostesses all understand the protocol for managing complaints at your restaurant.