How to deliver superb customer service in the restaurant industry

Last week’s post around handling negative feedback sparked quite the debate here at The Stone Grill. One of the main things to come out of that debate was the number of businesses that don’t grasp the basics of good customer service. Something we all take for granted.

Which is what today’s post is all about. We’ll cover the basic tricks of great customer service to help all those new food businesses out there. We’re sticking with handling complaints or issues for now but we may move on to other areas in another post.

Listen to the customer

The most important thing any business owner, or employee, can do is to listen to the customer. Not just hear what they are saying, but genuinely listen. Listen to their tone, their words and the inflection they place on words.

Try not to interrupt unless you need clarification or understanding. If you do want to react, repeat key phrases back to the customer to demonstrate you are listening.

Some customers just want to be listened to and understood and this is often enough to calm them down and address their needs.

If the customer gets loud or irate, calm them but don’t fuel the fire. Remain calm and remain as impartial as possible to allow the customer to have their say. You may be seething inside but as long as the customer doesn’t see, or hear, it you’re good.

Empathise with the customer

Now comes the hard part. Now you have listened and heart the customer’s issue, it’s time to empathise. Put yourself in their position and try to understand the situation from their perspective.

Is there something that could have been done differently? Is there fault? Is there something you can do immediately to remedy the situation? Is the customer being reasonable?

Take action

Depending on the situation, the action could be anything from an apology, refund, discount, replacement product or dish to a promise of better staff training or a change of policy.

The exact action you take depends entirely on the situation at hand. Take a minute to consider the situation, what the customer expects, what is reasonable and what is possible.

Then take whatever action you think is necessary. Explain to the customer what you’re going to do and why. Explain the effect any change will have and how it will prevent the situation happening again if appropriate.

That last is more important when it’s policy or training changes. Anything the customer cannot see will need assurance that something will be done to prevent whatever it was from happening again.

Follow up

Depending on the severity of the situation, you may want to follow up in a day or two. A quick phone call or email apologising, explaining the action(s) you have taken and any preventative action taken can often be enough to turn around that customer.

While it may not prevent a negative review or bad feeling, it’s the right thing to do and shows a professional attitude towards the business.

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