Doing it the right way can boost customer loyalty
The word “sorry” is very under-used these days but it’s a very effective one to employ when you have a disgruntled customer.
And let’s face it, unhappy customers are part and parcel of operating a bar or a nightclub. If you can learn how to handle these people you’ll be doing both them, and your business’ bottom line, a favor.
In fact, you should view every complaint as a gift, says Randi Busse, a customer service speaker, trainer and author of Turning Rants Into Raves: Turn Your Customers On Before They Turn On You!
“If customers have a complaint and don’t tell you about it, there is a chance they are going to leave, stop doing business with you and you won’t even know about it,” she explains. “By complaining they are saying something is not right; fix it so we can have our regular relationship.”
The alternative to complaining is the customer leaving your business, and not only that, telling people they know and perhaps spreading the word through social media. Losing one customer can ricochet out towards losing many others.
“A complaint is a gift because customers are giving you a heads-up,” Busse says. “It’s your chance to know about these things that aren’t right. Wouldn’t you rather know the problems and have a chance to change your business?”
First, thank customers for complaining, says Marilyn Suttle, customer service expert and president of Suttle Enterprises in Novi, Mich., as well as author of Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer Into Your Biggest Fan and its followup book, Taming Gladys! The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty, to be published May 17.
“Most people won’t tell you their complaints because they don’t want the discomfort of a confrontational conversation,” she says. “But a complaint gives you the chance to restore good feelings.”
Once you’ve listened to a customer’s complaint, here’s how to handle it:
Empower all of your employees to be able to handle customer complaints. “There’s nothing worse than complaining through the lines of several employees,” Suttle says. “If you empower everyone it’s more seamless for the customer.”
In addition to following these steps, you may sometimes want to offer something to the customer. Only do this if applicable, Suttle says, “because customers don’t want to feel they’re being bought off.” It’s best if you ask them how you can make the situation better for them.
And, says Busse, it’s always better, if possible, to be proactive rather than reactive about offering something to a customer. So, if a couple has been waiting for a table for too long, offer a free drink before they can complain about it. This is much more effective, she says, and pre-empts a complaint.
At the end of the day, make it easy for customers to complain, she adds. “Customers don’t just complain for the sake of it. Anyone can pick up their phone and find another business that does what you do. You want to make it comfortable for them to come to you. Remember: A complaint is a gift.”