How To Train Restaurant Employees To Handle Difficult Customers

Posted on October 31st, 2018 by Breck Hapner

It’s an unfortunate inevitability: no matter how hard you work to deliver an excellent dining experience, you are bound to have difficult customers from time to time. You might have the most professional, pleasant and efficient restaurant employees, but they’ll still run into customer complaints. The key is to train them how to deal with those situations in as calm and reasonable a manner as possible.

Develop A Standard Procedure

You can’t predict what is going to set a particular customer off, but you can come up with a list of common scenarios, such as a mistake in an order, dissatisfaction with quality or the service not being fast enough. Discuss these scenarios with your employees and have a standard procedure in place for each. For example, if an order comes out wrong, let them know if they can offer to take the item off of the bill or give the customer something like a free dessert. Having a plan in place will help your employees stay calm in a stressful situation.

Role Play

Before or after business hours, consider role playing with your employees. Have some of them act as customers and others act in their normal roles and then play out some of the scenarios you’ve discussed. You can critique their handling of the situations, and having them learn in a mock setting – where there is less pressure – will help them feel more at ease when they interact with actual disgruntled customers.

An Apology Is The Best Policy

When it comes to difficult customers, the first and best line of defense is a sincere apology. Teach your employees how to offer an apology in the kindest possible way. Sometimes that alone will allay a customer’s displeasure. Teach them also to acknowledge and not deny the customer’s complaint. As the saying goes, the customer is always right – even when he or she isn’t.

“Don’t Tell Me The Problem, Tell Me The Solution”

Explain to your employees that they should never make excuses, even when there is a valid one. Customers don’t care if you’re understaffed or if there’s a problem with your ordering system. Instead, teach them to offer a solution immediately after they’ve offered an apology. They should also ask the customer if that solution will rectify the situation and, if not, what he or she would like instead.

Teach Them When To Pass The Baton

There will be times when employees encounter difficult customers who are all but impossible to please. Let them know that once they’ve exhausted their efforts, they can turn to you to help. If a customer isn’t happy with the solution an employee has offered, it might be best for the employee to ask if he or she would like to speak with the manager. Knowing they have you on their side can help your employees keep their cool.

Live It, Learn It

Train your employees to think of encounters with difficult customers as teachable moments. Hopefully dissatisfied customers will be few and far between, but your employees can learn from these interactions and be better prepared should similar situations arise in the future. And if you notice the development of a common complaint, you can work together as a team to make the necessary changes.

Deliver The Best Possible Customer Experience

There are so many factors that go into delivering an exceptional customer experience, from your employees to the quality of your food to the ambiance of your establishment. DineEngine can help you improve your customers’ experience by designing, developing, and deploying engaging in-store experiences that maximize your checkout and ROI. We’d love to get to know you and come up with a strategy specifically tailored to your business.

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