Restaurant Guide: Keep your customers happy to keep your bottom line happy

The care and consideration you show when handling an unhappy customer is an important aspect of your business. In fact, the way you respond to customer complaints can make or break your brand.

Remember that the average American tells 15 people when they’ve had a poor customer service experience. All the time and effort you put into perfecting your food and service will be in vain if you fail to effectively address even one customer complaint.

In today’s hyperconnected world, it has become easier than ever before for customers to publicly voice their opinions and experiences. While 90% of consumers read online reviews, 68% of them will form an opinion about a brand after reading between one to six online reviews. On the brighter side, this also means that the customers will also share and read about all the positive experiences they have had with your brand.

No matter how hard you try, every business is bound to make a mistake at some point in time. The question is will you lose a customer with incompetent customer service or will you excel at satisfying them with your professionalism and turn them into invaluable brand advocates?

Here are five things you can do to satisfy unhappy customers and win their loyalty.

Make them feel heard

The first and most important step to take when dealing with a dissatisfied customer is to make them feel heard. You cannot solve their problem without first listening and acknowledging what caused their frustration.

In most cases, the customer, first and foremost, wants to be understood. This can be done by sincerely apologizing, making an effort to know both where you failed them and how this lapse made them feel.

One key thing to remember is not to get defensive or offended. The complaints are not meant to be a personal attack on your brand. If you lose your cool, you will definitely lose a customer for life.

Find a solution quickly

Once you have clarity on the issue faced by a customer, you not only have to find a solution but have to find one with all possible haste. According to an American Express survey on customer service, 40% of customers said they wanted their needs taken care of swiftly.

Today, you have the option of taking help from several technologies, including voice response system and online chat, to provide quick service, especially for simpler grievances like late delivery, missing food items during delivery, etc. For more severe complaints like substandard food quality and payments, customers still prefer personal interactions with the restaurant staff.

Remember that customers are time-sensitive and an immediate response will reduce their angst to a great extent. People like to know that someone is paying attention. If you keep them informed of the steps being taken to rectify issues, they will appreciate it.

Give personalized attention

Even if the nature of the complaints is similar, no customer is the same. The solutions you offer to each one must be tailored to their individual preferences. This again boils down to closely listening to each person’s problems but having a marketing tool in your system that aggregates customer data, will help you know them even better. Today’s customers not only expect but demand personalized services. Understand what they want - Is it a refund, a credit, a discount, or a replacement?

Hire a professional customer relationship manager for this job and create an online profile on the website with a little bit of personal information including place of birth, birthday, anniversary, etc. and do not forget to put up a picture of the person. This will help customers connect better with your staff as well as your business.

Go above and beyond

Delighting unhappy customers with a surprise gift like a discount or free meal or just a thoughtful gesture like following up and asking if there are any other areas you could improve on will go a long way in turning them into loyal brand advocates. This shows them how much you care and various studies on customer satisfaction suggest that when customers have a positive emotional experience, they’re six times more likely to make a repeat purchase and 12 times more likely to recommend you to their network.

When customers know that you will deftly handle any problem that arises at any point of time, they’ll trust you and turn into repeat customers.

Use this as an opportunity to make your restaurant better

Bill Gates once said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”. Experts believe that an unhappy customer is also the most honest one. The critique they provide will help you recognize any shortcomings in your business that you can improve on. Other customers may have been facing the same issues without being vocal about it. So when anyone raises a problem, it’s worth taking careful notes and introspecting. Let them know that their opinion has been heard and it will help you improve the overall experience.

The Final Note: Is the customer always right? Maybe, maybe not! But they are important, so as long as you keep the customers happy and satisfied, your bottom line will be happy!