At the beginning, at the end, in the middle; it doesn’t matter, thank the customer for calling and complaining.
Why? With the simple act of complaining, your customer is telling you “I care about your business and your success”. They are giving you the opportunity to fix the problem and invite them back so they can give you more of their money. Puts a different spin on it doesn’t it? Thank them for giving you that second chance, for letting you know that something in your restaurant didn’t work like it normally does, for giving you the chance to make it right, and for the opportunity not to damage your reputation!
Reputation? I had to throw that one in. You work hard, day in day out, trying the best to make your business the best, and yet one unhappy customer can take it away from you. A happy customer will tell two or three friends about a good experience, but an unhappy customer will tell at least ten friends about their experience and it always multiplies through word of mouth.
Case in point, when I moved cross country to my new hometown, I was at a Chamber of Commerce event and being the new person in the group, I introduced myself and what we did. No sooner than five minutes passed did I get a list of 10 restaurants in my area that in their opinion were in “need of my services”. Only one person gave me a good restaurant. I didn’t ask, I was told.
To this day I still haven’t been to those restaurants as a customer, why do I want to give them my hard earned money, when they made my new friends unhappy? It may not be a rational thought, but it is human nature.
Will some people take advantage of your kindness? Of course, a rule of thumb I used in my restaurant was:
First time shame on me, Second time shame on me, but I’m watching you, Third time… Shame on you and I will make the decision on how I will deal with you as a customer. Keep track of who calls to complain, names, phone numbers for follow up, addresses for your postcards. Using a binder and tracking your complaints, you will be able to detect and deter those that would take advantage of your new complaint procedures.
Adding B.L.A.S.T to your expanding toolbox of customer service tools will help you in dealing with customer complaints and turn them around so they can tell their friends what great service you have!