This article originally appeared on RestaurantNews.com.
Even if your restaurant is successful, chances are you’ll have an unhappy customer every once in awhile. Maybe someone didn’t get what s/he ordered, wasn’t happy with his/her service, or had to wait too long for his/her meal. Whatever the problem, many customers don’t keep quiet about your restaurant’s mistakes. Believe it or not, a customer complaining to you is actually a blessing in disguise.
This might seem counter-intuitive—how can a complaining customer be a good thing? Although you most likely don’t want to face an unhappy customer, consider the alternative. A customer can complain to you, and you’ll be the only one to hear his or her concern. Or, a customer can complain on Yelp, Facebook, or Twitter, and everyone online can read his or her comment. Which one sounds better to you?
Like it or not, the Internet has changed the way customers complain. If you don’t keep your customers happy when they’re in your restaurant, they’ll likely take to social media to voice their displeasure. And when they do, the consequences are huge. In fact, one survey estimates that each Yelp review star is worth a 5 to 9 percent revenue change…that means that a ton of one or two star reviews can really make your restaurant’s reputation take a hit. Of course it’s important to address the concerns your customers express online, but by that point everyone who looks up your business’s profile has already seen them.
And, even aside from social media, customers are more likely to return to a business if their concerns are alleviated. An estimated 95% of customers are likely to visit a business again if their complaints are resolved quickly.
So what should you do? Manage customer complaints before the customers even leave your restaurant. This way, you’ll make a customer happy, which means you have a greater chance of him/her returning to your restaurant. And, just as importantly, you avoid having a customer post a comment online for everyone to see.
Of course, managing customer complaints can often be easier said than done! However, there are a few things you should be sure to do if you want to turn unhappy customers into happy ones:
Ask your customers if they’ve enjoyed their meal.
Some customers might not feel comfortable telling you that they’re unhappy–they might feel safer expressing their feelings from their computer. But if you give them a chance to complain, they’ll be more likely to talk to you instead of the entire Internet.
The key to keeping customers happy is actually listening to their complaints–not being judgmental, not shrugging them off, and not assuming you know their problems.
Customers want to know they’ve been heard, and an honest apology is the best way to do that. Even if you don’t really think you’re in the wrong, offer an apology anyway.
Make it right.
Do what you have to in order to make it up to the customer–comp their meal, offer a gift certificate, etc. Even if it costs you a little bit of money, it will create a lot of good will–and lead to a customer who comes back often instead of leaving negative comments online.
No matter what you do, you can’t always avoid customer complaints. But luckily, you can do your best to make sure customers leave your restaurant happy.