If you’re anything like me, then one of the things you really hate is bad service or inferior product, especially in pubs. Again, if you’re anything like me it will take a lot to make you complain, and if your complaint isn’t dealt with to your satisfaction you never return to that venue again.
As publicans we cannot afford to have valuable customers decide to walk away from our pubs feeling dissatisfied and vowing never to return, so having an effective customer complaints policy and procedure is an essential part of our customer service tool-kit.
What are the benefits of having a customer service procedure?
Sales psychology teaches us that customers want a long-term relationship with the businesses they use, and none more so than those they experience in their social lives. Developing a good reputation for customer service will benefit your pub in the following ways:
- Customer loyalty – satisfied customers will keep coming back and tell their friends, work mates and families that they’ve been treated well
- Feedback –customers will be more inclined to tell you where you can improve and where you’re doing well
- Market research – a happy customer will be happy to tell you about what your competitors are doing and save you money on expensive research.
Of course, the level of customer service you are willing or able to provide will depend on certain factors unique to your pub:
- Competition – if your prices and offering is very similar to other pubs in your market place customer service will be a key differentiator
- Customer expectation – it’s up to you to manage what your customers expect from your business, for instance if you have a small kitchen and limited staff then be honest on your menus and at the point of ordering that there may be a wait on food. If you aim to exceed their expectations (say the wait time is 20 minutes, then tell them 25 minutes, then you’ll be a hero to them when it comes out in 20 minutes), but don’t go to a level you’re unable to satisfy. Saying “no” is sometimes necessary if you can’t meet their needs, for instance when a customer says ‘‘I’m in a real hurry and need my food in 10 minutes’’ it’s better to refuse the order than inevitably disappoint them with food that is 10 minutes late.
- Profitability – whilst the “customer is king” and you endeavour to satisfy all their demands don’t put so much emphasis on customer service that it starts to eat into your margins, for instance “if you have to wait for over 30 minutes you eat free” or where you are writing off whole meals as opposed to offering a free drink to satisfy a complaint
Dealing with a customer complaint.
When a customer complains don’t take it as a personal criticism, but rather as an ideal opportunity to restore your customer’s goodwill, build a stronger, long-term relationship with them and improve your procedures. There’s no set way to deal with them, but there are four basic stages to satisfactorily deal with your customer’s complaints.
1. Receive, acknowledge and log the complaint
Tell the customer this has been done. If there is no immediate resolution (say for instance they are complaining after the event about a member of staff who is not currently on duty), explain that you’ll investigate the issue and you’ll update them at a specified time.
Identify the source of the error and, if possible, remedy the fault. For instance if a dish is served cold, when it should be piping hot, then replace the dish as soon as possible.
Report your findings to the customer and how it has been remedied, for instance they complained about poor service, that you have spoken with the member of staff concerned and have re-trained them in customer service. Making amends through a refund, a free drink or food, or a gift voucher for use at another time is often the best course of action.
4. Follow up
Go back at a later date and find out if the customer was satisfied with the way the complaint was handled, for instance at the start of the meal a dish was not up to standard and had been replaced, then go back to make sure the replacement offered is satisfactory.
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