Dissatisfied people with restaurant manager

Your customers are the lifeblood of your business, how to manage a complaint!

Without their approval, your business would never grow, which is why customer service is so crucially important. More now than ever, thanks to the internet and social media, people are becoming increasingly vocal about their experiences with businesses – whether it’s good or bad.

Unfortunately for customer-centric businesses, no matter how well you treat your customers and no matter how efficiently you run your business, you will receive a customer complaint at some point. 

Considering that only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers make a complaint to the company, and an unhappy customer will tell about 15 people about their bad experience, chances are you’ve already lost some business due to unhappy customers without even knowing it. 

Managing a Complaint

  • Stop and listen carefully – Be attentive
  • Breathe, and do not interrupt
  • Think – Do not argue or make excuses
  • Act, apologise suitably and offer a corrective measure and remove the problem from the table
  • In return make eye contact, follow up and give feedback
  • Be sincere
  • Think on your feet and inspect the food in back of house
  • If it is a removable irritation, take it away from the guest immediately ie. A wrong meal
  • Apologise – Know that the guest will remember how you dealt with him/her and his/her problem and not necessarily the complaint
  • Investigate
  • Go back and give the guest feedback
  • Correct the mistake
  • Tell the guest what you will do about the problem going forward
  • After a short while, follow up on the table and give feedback again if required
  • Thank the guest for bringing the matter to your attention
  • Invite the guest back just before or during the departure
  • If applicable, take the guests’ names and numbers and give them a follow up call the following day after the incident
  • Decide at which point during your handling of the guests’ problem you need to disengage
  • Once the guest seems to be satisfied, disengage
  • Do not over-promise and underperform

Guest Complaint Control Sheet

  • Never acknowledge any mistake or fault, take the complainants’ details and say that you will investigate the matter thoroughly and revert with feedback once your investigation is completed
  • Guest complaints will unfortunately happen.
  • It is not always what happened that causes the big unhappiness – it is in most cases how we handled the situation
  • When a guest calls you to complain, thank the person for calling and say that you will now listen carefully to the caller to ensure that you record all the details of his or her call
  • Listen and do not interrupt
  • Once the caller is complete, thank them again for the call and apologize for the inconvenience to the guest.
  • Now you commit the first time to do a thorough investigation
  • If there were doctors or dentists involved ask the guest to please e-mail you all these details and copies of the accounts and or prescriptions and or sick notes
  • If the guest is really furious or threatens with legal actions you need to disengage and supply the guest with your insurer’s details
  • Do not make any statements or commitments unless your insurer has approved of such
  • Fill in the guest complaint control sheet with as much information as possible and keep copies of bills, possible pictures of incidents, and statements by witnesses on file

Nobody likes to handle customer complaints, but these sometimes painful occurrences can be a chance for you and your business to shine. This is your opportunity to create a happy and loyal customer for life.

Excellent customer service should always be a priority, but in the unfortunate event that you receive a customer complaint, here are ten tips on how to handle it.

Marius Joubert
Author: Marius Joubert

Founder of Restauranthub.co the first true community for the restaurant and hospitality industry.

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