When you deal with your prospects and customers, you have to always think long term. For each action that you take with them, think that you are making an investment, because you are. This will also help you think more strategically whenever you have a problem with one of your customers.
For example, imagine that you have a table of four people, and that they are not in a very good mood today. No matter what your staff does, nothing seems to please them. Minor details that other times pass unnoticed, today seem to be a big deal. What can you do about this?
First, always try no to take the issue personally. Try to evaluate objectively if they are totally right and effectively there is something wrong with your food or service that day, and if so, of course take immediate action to correct any wrongdoing.
However, sometimes there is nothing wrong with your food, service, or ambience, and the problem lies within your customers. They are probably having a bad day, and they are looking for any external excuses to blame their internal feelings. We all do. Better for them to pick in your place than in their friends or spouses, at least for them…
So even in this case of unjust accusations, look at the big picture and think about that specific table as a long term investment for your business. You could take the short-term approach, recognize that it is their fault or problem, and do one of two things:
1.- Confront them and tell them that there is nothing wrong with your restaurant. Your pride will be very happy, but you will lose these customers for life and will get many negative reviews about your place in online social networks and offline referrals. This could mean tens (or even hundreds depending of how big their social cloud is) of potential new customers lost.
2.- Ignore their behavior and do nothing. You don’t confront them, but you don’t recognize the bad experience that they are having.
If you take this action (or inaction), in both cases these customers will leave your restaurant with a negative memory (it’s unfair, I know, but that+ ‘s life). So they will be less likely to come back to your place.
Or you can think more strategically and take this negative event as an opportunity for you to think long term. What if you could compensate these customers so that they leave your place really impressed with the way you handled the situation? Imagine that you approach the table and tell these people: “I apologize that you are not having an excellent dinning experience today. I want to make it up to you so here you have two gift certificates (and you handle one to each couple) valid for a free meal. I want you to come back to my place and try again. I promise you that next time will be much better for you.”
Now, how do you think that these people will react? Deep down they know that there wasn’t anything specially wrong with your place or your food, and however, you still acknowledged their feelings and tried to compensate them for something that you didn’t do wrong. I can guarantee you that this small investment that you made (two free meals), will pay you back a hundredfold in free advertising and referrals from these people. They will tell all their friends and family how gracious you are and how wonderful your place is.
If you think about compensating unhappy customers as a long term investment, you will remove any personal feelings from the situation. You will be more inclined to be generous with them, and they will leave your place with a really good feeling about your restaurant and your behavior. This is a win-win situation for both parties.
Jose L Riesco
©Riesco Consulting Inc.