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Food, location and excellent customer service: the holy trinity of any successful F&B business. Many business owners tend to invest time and resources into prioritising the first two, while unintentionally neglecting the importance of maintaining customer relationships. Taking complaints positively is one thing, but converting them into business opportunities requires a high level of patience and understanding. Do this right and you’ll be gaining loyal diners by the tableful.

1. Listen and acknowledge the problem


When confronted with a disgruntled customer, start off with a short introduction of yourself and politely enquire the cause of their dissatisfaction. Listen closely to their feedback, understand the root of the problem, and apologise sincerely. Always remember to keep a calm stance even though the customer may be visibly upset - it’s important that you demonstrate a collected demeanour in order to tackle the issue with a clear head.

2. Identifying the solution


There are two ways to go about this - either consult the customer on their preferred resolution to the matter, or proactively offer an immediate solution. The first step is often reserved for tricky circumstances such as situations involving a third party or guests who are already leaving the premises.

Be very careful not to make snap judgements - this reflects poorly on the establishment’s managerial staff. Instead, gently enquire about their opinions. This gives the impression that feedback is valued, even actively solicited, so there’s a higher chance for a return visit.

3. Take action


Complaints are best resolved while customers are still at the premises. Hence, efficiency is key in dealing with situations like this. For example, if a customer is unhappy with an undercooked steak, immediately offer a complimentary exchange and place the order on high priority to cut down waiting time.

In the event the complaint can’t be resolved during their visit, be sure to take down the customer’s contact information and promise to follow-up on the issue.

4. Damage control


Although discounts may seem like a convenient solution to appease disgruntled customers, try not to resort to this unless necessary. There are plenty of recovery methods that you can employ as damage control. For instance, a diner served an unsatisfactory meal could have that item removed from the final bill.

If the customer is satisfied with the resolution of the complaint, exceed their expectations by offering a complimentary dessert or discount coupon for the next visit. This generous gesture will leave a positive impression that leads to the possibility of a return visit.

Encourage your team to follow a standard operating procedure in the event of a customer complaint. Maintain a professional image at all times while working out the best possible solution. Be sure to share such experiences with your employees so they are well-informed of ongoing matters in the restaurant and how to resolve similar issues in the future. At the end of the day, feedback reflects an opportunity for further improvement that will help improve the restaurant’s reputation over time.

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