Service: Resolving Customer Complaints

In the past if a customer had a bad service experience in your store or restaurant, he or she would tell an average of 12 people about that bad experience. So it makes sense to put a premium on stopping that negative word-of-mouth before it begins with great service and customer-driven marketing. But when good service goes bad—and it will—you need strategies that will turn that frown upside down and ensure repeat business, not continuous complaints. Here’s a few ideas to help…..

When Good Service Goes Bad: Resolving Complaints/Customer Feedback

A great restaurant doesn’t distinguish itself by how few mistakes it makes, but by how well they handle those mistakes.Danny Meyer, Union Square Cafe, New York

In the past if a customer had a bad service experience in your store or restaurant, he or she would tell an average of 12 people about that bad experience. But in the Age of the Internet that negative experience can be told and shared hundreds of times with thousands of people for dozens of years. So it makes sense to put a premium on stopping that negative word-of-mouth before it begins with great service and customer-driven marketing. But when good service goes bad–and it will–you need strategies that will turn that frown upside down and ensure repeat business, not continuous complaints. Here’s a few ideas to help.

Be happy they complain

What you do about bad service recovery is almost as important as delivering good service in the first place. Bad Service Happens. Accept it. Look at customer complaints as a positive business experience. I believe the age old adage that for every customer who complains, there are five others who didn’t and voted with their feet by going to the competition. Customers don’t want their money back; they want a product that works perfectly or an experience that meets or exceeds their expectations. But most people will be forgiving-at least the first time-over a service faux pas. Think positively; when customers complain, they’re giving us a second chance. Use it.

Service plus One

One of the more effective ways to resolve a bad service incident is to understand the concept of service “plus one.” That means resolving a service miscue as a priority and in a cheerful manner, and then doing one more thing on top of that literally to astound or “wow” the customer. For instance, let’s say a guest orders a steak cooked medium, and it comes out rare. Standard operating procedure: the customer frets a bit, and then has to find and flag down the server. He tells the server about the problem, the server removes the plate to reheat the steak, and guess what? Everyone else at the table gets uncomfortable, unwilling to eat until their companion gets the steak back. The whole group gets edgy, nervous, wound up tighter than a cuckolded boyfriend on the Jerry Springer Show. Minutes feel like half hours.

Now, contrast that situation with a server or manager sporting the “Service Plus One” mentality. They would have checked back within two bites to discover proactively whether the guest was displeased. Next, they would politely remove the plate and offer to remove the companions’ plates to keep them warm so that everyone is able to eat at the same time. Then, they would rush the re-cook, wait for it, hustle it back, stand politely nearby to make sure the steak was re-cooked to the guest’s liking, and-”plus one”-buy a dessert for the guest or table for the inconvenience of having to wait for the re-cook.

Don’t fight, make it right

The most important thing to remember when you have a customer complaint is simply this: Never argue with the customer. Even if it’s a questionable call, remember that the customer is not always right but is always the customer, and it’s alright for the customer to be wrong. Remember, whenever you are soliciting feedback from a customer, first determine how she or he prefers to give information to you: written, verbal, e-mail, postcard, focus group.