When working in the food service industry, no matter how hard you work or how polite you are, you will eventually come face to face with 'the unhappy customer.'
Dun, dun dun!
Perhaps that was a little dramatic but when working directly with customers, you need to know what to do when you are confronted with a complaint. If you deal with an unhappy customer correctly you can calm the situation before it gets out of hand.
Even if the customer's annoyance is justified or not, it's important you react professionally and fairly. If you are unable to cope with an unhappy customer, they can get more annoyed and want to speak to your manager, and you don't want that to happen (unless it's your last option).
Learn the art of dealing with an unhappy customer so you don't have to be fearful during your shift:
Be in your customer's shoes for a moment. A majority of customers complain because they are upset about the service, they are paying to receive an exceptional food service and what they expected has not been realised. Always start with an apology, sometimes just getting an apology can be enough for a customer. They have explained their complaint and they just want someone to apologise. Give them a meaningful apology and they will more likely forgive you instead of vowing never to return.
It can be difficult to keep calm when you've been unfairly hounded by a person with an angry complaint, especially when you realise the customer's anger is not personally directed at you; it was just regrettable you were walking past at the wrong time. Keep calm and avoid interrupting them, let them speak and then reply calmly and professionally.
If the unhappy customers think you're not listening, you're just going to make it worse. They are complaining because they want someone to listen to them and understand their annoyance. Even though you are most likely juggling several tasks and table 7 is still waiting for their salt, listen to the customer and give them their full attention.
Be respectful and considerate
Most customers won't complain unless they are really unhappy. You can make the situation worse if you fail to be respectful of what they have to say. Be empathetic and show you sympathise with their complaint.
Take any complaint seriously
Unhappy customers want their grievance to be fixed. If they have complained about a certain person or one of the dishes was badly made, take their annoyance seriously. Tell them you will deal with the matter and mean it.
Try to resolve the problem
In some occasions, you are helpless to a customer's complaint. They had a bad meal, they've eaten it, you can't improve it unless you can turn back time and make sure the meal is better (if you do have that super power, you're working in the wrong industry). Depending on what their complaint is, try to resolve the issue. A customer will appreciate it if they see you have gone an extra mile to fix a problem or to make sure it won't repeat itself.
The customer is always right.... most of the time
This is a mantra repeated to all staff who work in the customer focused industry. Always treat your customer like they are right even if you are 99% certain they're not. Most unhappy customers aren't looking for an argument, they just want to share their annoyance and then leave. Once they know they've been heard, they're happy. It is only a rare occasion when a customer is unfairly complaining and the complaint is getting out of hand. If you think a customer is overacting, listen to them and be professional, always find your manager when you need extra help.
Treat any unhappy customer with respect. One angry customer can easily cause damage to a business' brand if enough people are listening. You don't want to see your name mentioned in a negative TripAdvisor review and neither would your manager.
When working in service you need to look smart and professional. Find the best shoes for work with our FREE downloadable 'Choose your work shoes' infographic. Keep calm and look smart when dealing with unhappy customers.
Have you had a bad customer experience? Tell us what happened and how you dealt with it in the comments below.