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Turn Your Diners Complaints Into A Challenge

Sep 3, 2008
It really is not as crazy as it sounds. We all know that customer satisfaction plays a huge part in the success of any restaurant. The truth is many business owners and employees have no idea how to go about handling the concerns of an unsatisfied patron. Hospitality is of great importance in keeping loyal customers loyal, including not only turning a potentially lost customer into a saved one, but turning them into an ambassador for your business.

With common sense, sincere concern and tact, most issues can be resolved quickly. Customers want a voice, and they want you to pay attention. You can save a great deal of time by utilizing a checklist and training your employees with this checklist. This gives your employees a guide for the skills needed to resolve complaints in a proper manner. There is always an added benefit when a restaurant maintains consistency. Most significantly it portrays professionalism.

The first and most important thing to remember is to listen to the customer. Consider this critical point; every complaint gives your restaurant a valuable opportunity to improve. It is the opportunity to set your restaurant apart from the competition, many of whom are often indifferent. Give the customer your undivided attention, and they will know that you truly care about their concern. Make sure you understand the concern and especially how the customer is feeling about the situation.

Even if you don't agree, the important issue is to identify what the customer is feeling. Always offer a sincere apology for any wrong that was done. Explain to the customer honestly what you can do about the situation. Don't make promises that you don't intend to keep, but do find a way to right the wrong and make the customer feel comfortable. Be certain there is immediate follow through to correct the problem. Optimally, it should be done right away. If it is not possible to remedy the problem immediately, make sure there is a plan in place, and that the situation will ultimately be rectified. Inform the customer of both the plan and approximately how long it will take. Remember to thank the customer for making you aware of the situation. Without their voice, the problem could have affected many more customers with adverse consequences for your business.

Following this simple strategy empowers the customer as well as your restaurant's employees. It will also give both a sense of accomplishment. If handled appropriately, complaints have the potential to increase customer loyalty. If a customer has a good impression of your restaurant when they walk out the door, they are more likely to walk back in again as well as tell others about their positive experience.
Handle your customers with care, sincerity, and professional courtesy and the reward can be lifetime allegiance. There is no greater pay off to your restaurant business than building a network of happy customers. It is important to remember that a happy customer is a loyal customer.
About the Author
Jim O'Donnell of Jaguar Consulting in Kingston, NH provides marketing and business development services for small business and has developed a series of Business Checklists to help business owners achieve higher growth and profitability. See Restaurant Marketing to review all checklists that are currently available. He can be reached at (603) 642-8338, JimODonnell@JaguarConsulting.com, or http://WWW.Checklists4Business.com
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