Get on a First-Name Basis
When you approach the customer, introduce yourself and ask for their name. This simple action can have an impact on de-escalating the customer’s frustration. By using names, it helps shift the interaction from being between a customer and an employee to between two individuals.
Clarify the Problem
When you take an order over the phone, you repeat the order back to the customer to make sure you’ve heard everything correctly. Doing the same thing—clarifying the customer’s problem—demonstrates you’ve really been listening to their problem, and you genuinely care. It also gives them the chance to correct you before you find a solution to their problem.
Fix the Customer’s Problem
The operative phrase here is the customer’s problem. It’s an important distinction to make, because the customer probably doesn’t care much about your problem; they want theirs fixed. So if they came to try your specialty but you’re sold out, don’t bother telling them about how your supplier ran short this week—it’s not their problem. Instead, find a way to either solve their problem or make it up to them.
Apologize in Earnest
After you’ve fixed their problem, make sure to give an earnest apology. Try to avoid using the word ‘sorry,’ as it can come across as trite and worn out. Instead, try using phrases like the following:
- “I apologize for the mistake…”
- “Thanks for your patience…”
Check in on Other Customers
Attention shouldn’t be like pie: more for one customer doesn’t need to mean less for the others. Depending on how intense the situation with the upset customer was, it could have a negative impact on the other guests’ experiences. Therefore, it’s important, after you’ve fixed the main problem, you or your staff check in on the surrounding tables, giving them a bit of extra attention so they know they’re valued and appreciated.
Before the customer leaves, make sure you check in with them once more. Following up a final time demonstrates you’re not just focused on getting them out of your hair, but you’re invested in providing a great experience. This also provides one more chance to make things right if they’re still upset.
Develop Standard Operating Procedures
Developing standard operating procedures for dealing with upset customers can make things more straightforward, and increase the level of success you have in improving guests’ experiences. Consider having plans for when your restaurant does the following:
- When should your staff escalate to the manager?
- In what instances should food or beverages be comped?
Take a Moment for Yourself
Sometimes it may seem like you absorb a customer’s anger by fixing their problem. Take a moment to yourself and let go of that negativity. Remind yourself the customer was upset with their experience—not you, personally.