As the saying goes, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. That’s why the hospitality business is so hard, according to Brian Warrener, a professor at Johnson and Wales University.
Speaking at the recent Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas, Warrener noted several reasons that restaurant server/guest interactions can go wrong: The proximity of customers (they’re right in front of you); customizable orders (they want it their way); and simultaneous order/product delivery.
What’s more, success is determined by the guest. And when service problems do occur, most customers (96%) won’t complain, Warrener said. Unfortunately, half of them won’t give you a second chance.
So what’s the best way to handle service snafus? “An immediate and an appropriate reaction,” he said.
If a customer doesn’t like the meal or the drink, take it away and get them something else and comp the order. “A free dessert is not appropriate when someone doesn’t like their meal,” Warrener said.
Perhaps most important, the server should never say “It’s not my fault,” he added. That employee needs to be able to fix the problem. “I’ll get the manager” is the worst thing a disgruntled customer can hear from a server, Warrener noted.
This means training and empowering front-line employees to be able to fix problems with guests, Warrener said. He cited Disney as a model for service: Every employee is trained on the company’s high service standards and all have the authority to assess and fix problems up to a certain dollar amount.
Even when a customer is extremely disgruntled, you have a tremendous opportunity if you can get them to give you a second chance, Warrener said. A “flipped” customer is typically more loyal than others and is likely to spread the word of how you revolved their issue.
What if you didn’t get a chance to recover and you get a bad Yelp review? It’s best to respond, Warrener said. Contact the Yelp reviewer, find out what happened and get them to give you another chance.
If you can and are able to flip that customer, he or she will update the review with you how responded and resolved the problem.
This can be effective in attracting new guests who are checking the Yelp reviews, Warrener said. Many operators see the crowd-source reviews site as the enemy, he noted, but “Yelp can be your friend with a recovered customer.”
Melissa Dowling is Editor of Cheers Magazine.