In today’s culture and with all of the choices consumers have, we must ensure that we do not let any of our guests walk out the door not being a raving fan.
Things will go wrong. It is how we react to these situations that our customers will judge us on. As human beings, we all want to be heard, to feel important and feel that we are spending our hard-earned money with the right vendors who appreciate us.
I was at a large chain restaurant for dinner with a group of friends last week – and it was horrible. Service was slow and very unorganized. When the main entrees came, 2 of the 8 entrees were missing entirely, and the server did not realize until this was pointed out to her once everyone else was done eating. Even though both items missed were quick entrees, it still took an additional 10 minutes to get to the table with no real sincere apology. The washrooms had no toilet paper or hand towels, although there were staff members standing in the lobby chatting. The manager was not on the floor – he was tracked down in his office in the middle of the dinner rush. When I finally found him, he apologized and said he was going to take care of the issues. The bills took an additional 20 mins to come to the table, and an additional 20 mins to be paid. The server knew that she had made an error, and pretty much gave up in the middle of the mess. How many of those 10 people will go back to that restaurant? The answer –probably just me, and only because I like their food. Could it, and should it have been handled differently – the answer is everyone.
Do we make errors? Of course, everyone makes mistakes sometimes. The key is to own your mistake, fix the issue as quickly as humanly possible, and make sure the guest is happy with the outcome before they walk out the door. Don’t give in and give up thinking that there is no way of coming back from your error. We live in an age of Social Media now – no longer will an unhappy guest tell 9-13 people about their experience – now it’s 100 times those numbers. A post on Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, or Trip Advisor is with your company for life. The world wide web is forever – and scarier than that is 94% of people believe peer recommendations. Just think about how often you the reader have read a book, gone to a movie or a restaurant based on someone else’s recommendation; often someone you do not even know personally. Every mistake is fixable – giving up is not an option.
The first step always has to be to acknowledge and take ownership of the problem. One of the biggest complaints in customer service is the customer feeling like no one is taking ownership of their error. People do not like pitiful excuses, blaming others or other departments, or even blaming the company and its procedures. Customers do not care – they are complaining to you and expect you to help them. Take that weight off of the customers shoulders, it is now your problem. Ask questions, ensure that you fully understand the issue, take notes if needed. Ensure that you verify with the customer that you understand what went wrong.
Fix the problem as quickly as possible. For every problem there is a solution, even if you may need to think outside the box to come up with a compromise. Ensure you are letting the customer know what they can expect, from whom and when it will happen. Expectations are important when dealing with a complaint. If you are unable to help them, who will? If a hand-off is mandatory – ensure that you are doing “warm” hand-offs, not just simply cold transfers. Ensure the customer is not telling their story over and over. What happens is that the more times the customer has to tell their story, the madder they get. Ensure that the person who will be helping the customer knows what went wrong and your feelings of how to make it right for the customer.
When these situations arise, we have a chance to show a customer just how great we can be when something bad happens. Ensure that the customer is happy with the outcome. Ask the customer what sort of compensation they feel is appropriate. Ensure that you are having a two-way conversation – not just talking at them telling them what you will do for them. People are fair if you are fair with them.
The good news is that 95% of people will return after having a bad experience if they felt that the issue was solved quickly and they were happy with the outcome. Loyal Guests are the people you want coming back to your establishment. They will spend more money, have less problems, and be much more understanding when a mistake happens. It is all in the handling of the customer experience.