In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to deal with customer complaints. Every one of your guests would leave satisfied, and you would receive nothing but glowing reviews. Sadly though, none of us are perfect, we cannot please everyone and we’re bound to get complaints sooner or later.
In the past, bad news spread rather slowly. Unless you were unlucky/incompetent enough to annoy a well-known critic, your reputation would be based on word of mouth. In the age of social media though, any dirty laundry can be made very public, very quickly.
Now that people take to Facebook and Tripadvisor to air their frustrations, you need to know how to nip bad publicity in the bud, before it spirals out of control.
Have a Plan
Complaints are inevitable, so you might as well take the time to outline a policy and procedure. If two people make similar comments, but receive different responses, one of them is going to feel like they’ve been cheated.
This is not to say that your response should be robotic and standardised. When you phone up customer services, is there anything more annoying than a pre-recorded message claiming that your call is important to us?
Set yourself some rules, allow yourself to bend them, but don’t break them.
Don’t Delete Comments
This is the worst thing you can do, you will not silence your detractor, you will just make the situation worse. You cannot hide bad news anymore, one of the great things about the internet is the idea that the more you try to censor information, the more publicity it receives.
By deleting a comment, you are amplifying the negative press.
I’m going to split the room here, but you don’t want a comments page containing purely good reviews. Firstly, it looks a bit too good to be true, almost as if you have been deleting complaints or getting your friends to comment.
Secondly, negative comments give you the opportunity to show your human side and customer service skills. When people check your page, they don’t just want to see good reviews, they want to see that you respond well to bad ones.
Many social media complainers become loyal customers it they are dealt with properly.
Don’t Feed The Trolls
Just like some restaurants will post positive reviews on their own page, you may experience people making false allegations against you. This is one of the few occasions where you can delete the comment, no amount of your reasoning will bear fruit.
Stay professional, don’t get drawn into any childish behaviour.
Bad news travels fast, but so does good news. If you offer a good service, social media should be seen as an opportunity not a threat, and complaints are a great opportunity to show how much you care.
Look for opportunities in house as well. If you see someone taking a picture of their meal, there’s a good chance it is going on Facebook, Tripadvisor or Instagram. Going the extra mile here will ensure that the picture is accompanied by some pleasant comments.
Joe Errington is a former bar manager, currently working in marketing and social media for MITIE, a UK based strategic outsourcing company.