Handling an angry customer at a restaurant while managing the restaurant’s daily operations is not a walk in the park.
Trust me when I say that as I work as a Restaurant Manager.
While running daily operations many things can go south. One of which could be dealing with an irate customer.
There could be several reasons which can make a customer loses his or her cool.
Maybe the food you served was not hot enough or cooked well, or service was slow, staff forgot to serve the water, wrong billing, and so on.
Or sometimes the customer itself is not a very pleasant person.
Usually, these complaints come during rush hours. When there is too much Hustle-Bustle in Kitchen and Dining area.
It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong since you are responsible to serve the customer it is you who have to be prepared to calm the situation.
“Hospitality: making your guests feel like they’re at home, even if you wish they were.”
– Justine Vogt
With the help of my experience and this blog, I am going to teach how to handle an angry customer at a restaurant.
Not only in the hospitality industry but these points can be applied anywhere.
Let’s get started.
7 STEPS HOW TO HANDLE ANGRY CUSTOMER AT RESTAURANT:
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo
“Listen to your customer.”, A very basic but the first thing to do at the time of chaos.
By listening carefully, you can get a full understanding of the situation and can act accordingly.
Also, do not interrupt the angry customer while he is speaking as it can irritate him more, instead listen to him calmly and pick up important points.
Ask questions politely to clarify more. Once the customer feels acknowledged you can take control over the situation.
TIP: If a team or staff member is also involved in a situation, hear him or her too. This will help you to get the complete picture. Also if possible talk to your employee first so that you can prepare before dealing with the customer. I once messed up by not discussing the whole situation with a teammate as the customer told only his side of the story.
2.CALM THE STAFF MEMBER:
A point which no one will tell you besides an experienced manager.
Sometimes the conflict with a customer has the involvement of a staff member as the customer might be complaining about the rude behavior of the waiter or server.
In such cases, if the staff member keeps on interfering between you and the customer to prove his/her point, then it can create complications, and the customer can get more irritated. Calm the staff member down, listen to his/her side of the story, and tell him/her to speak only when you will tell them to do so.
If you and your teammate speak together then it will feel like that you are trying to subdue the customer which will make all your efforts go in vain.
So, don’t gang-up on the customer.
3. DO NOT DISTURB OTHER CUSTOMERS:
It’s better that you take the discussion away from other customers as it impacts their dining experience too. It would be best if other customers can enjoy their meal without any disturbance. Also by doing this, you can give full attention to the angry customer without any distractions from other customers. Also, It will help you in maintaining the restaurant’s reputation especially when it was your fault.
4. WATCH YOUR TONE:
By this, I mean “Don’t get defensive”.
Unconsciously your body will reflect what you are thinking at that moment.
Be active, focus on customer completely, use a polite tone, don’t argue back. This all will eventually convince the customer that you are paying heed to his or her problem.
You should not switch on attack mode against the customer, it will turn into chaos. Remember your goal is to offer the solution.
5. PUT YOURSELF IN CUSTOMER’S SHOES:
How you would have felt if the same has happened to you in a restaurant?
Try to imagine the situation or circumstance from the customer’s perspective, to understand or empathize with the opinion or point of view of the customer. Before being quick to judge him, try to put yourself in his shoes.
Everyone is human, after all. Hunger and thirst can make us go crazy. Maybe the customer got frustrated because of waiting for a long time.
Jan Carlson, CEO of SAS Airlines, in his book “MOMENT OF TRUTH” says that
“Whenever you have an encounter with a customer, you represent the whole company in that interaction.”
No matter if the customer is right or wrong, apologize immediately. You have to be very tactful here, whether the customer complaint is legitimate or absurd you have to look at him/her as an unhappy customer and an unhappy customer can review bad about your restaurant.
Maybe not at that moment but later on Social media. One negative comment on social media can spread like fire in the forest and ruin your brand image in front of potential customers.
To keep yourself prepare for that learn How to Handle Negative Comments on Social Media.
An apology will demonstrate that you completely understand the cause of his or her frustration and are working on resolving it.
TIP: It is better to train your staff to apologize to the customer whenever the order gets late.
“I’m sorry that you have to wait a bit longer than expected. Thank you for your patience.”
But you know what is best? to let your customer know in advance that they might have to wait for a while when you know that order preparation will take some time.
In PappaRoti (where I worked), our star product is PappaRoti Bun. The baking of one batch of buns takes approximately 16 mins in Oven, so during rush hour if we are out of prepared buns and have to bake another batch, we politely inform our customers in advance.
And surprisingly they always accept to wait for it gladly.
7. PRESENT A SOLUTION:
An apology alone won’t do any good. Your work is to find a solution to the customer’s problem but
to do that you need to understand the difference between the solution and an excuse.
Don’t make excuses such as we are short on staff or a particular team member is new.
One time I used the same reason on a customer when her order got late:
Me: Sorry Mam! that your order got late. Currently, we have a staff shortage.
Lady Customer: Then close the shop why open it?
I learned my lesson.
Customer doesn’t care that you have less or more staff, if they are coming to your restaurant then they need to get served for the price they are paying.
Ask yourself: What is the best way that I can meet my customer’s needs, given the situation?
Sometimes, you might not be able to find the solution on your own.
At that time ask the customer: What can I do for you to make things right?
Every situation you will face will be different from one another but adapting these 7 steps every time will make you more confident in handling angry customers at a restaurant or any other field.