The Customer is Always Right – one of the most cliched and repeated phrases in marketing. And frankly, I don’t believe it’s true. I know that in some circles it’s scandalous to say, but the reality is that sometimes, the customer is wrong, and ANYONE who has worked as a waitress or in the restaurant business probably knows this.There, running into an irate, expectant, obnoxious customer is part of the job… and understanding how to handle and diffuse the situation is also ‘part of that job.’
What I’m saying is not earth shattering, and restaurants do regular training on customer service and how to handle crisis situations like this. What they don’t focus on, however, are all of the ways a restaurant can lose a customer in the common and sometimes silent interactions you have with them. There are so many turns in the customer experience where we tell them that we just don’t care. Here are 9 ways to not do that:
1. Slow as molasses: Many Quick Service Restaurant customers walk in the door because they are absolutely starving and in a hurry to satiate that hunger. The starving part is the excruciating element when the QSR we expect quick service from, is painfully slow. Combine a hungry customer with an annoyed customer and there is a special adjective invented just for this: hangry. And those ‘hangry’ customers complain loudly, often.
The answer, of course, is to be fully staffed and expertly trained, something every QSR starts out aiming to be. The fall down is usually when systems for holding staff accountable aren’t in place. Fix this issue, and you fix a lot of the complaints streaming out on social media about your restaurant. Complaints like this one:
I waited “around front” for 10 minutes last week at a B**ger K**g and after receiving cold fries and onion rings I went in to…*ahem*…complain. I waited another 10 minutes at the counter. I called the number on the receipt and was contacted the next day and told that “according to our record of the transaction, you received your order in 97 seconds” and that I had no recourse. ~J. Labowsky,
Most importantly, when I crowdsourced this issue, ‘not fast’ was by far the #1 complaint about QSRs.
2. Lack of hospitality: It’s basic customer service training that your employees should be doing their job with a smile, or, at the minimum, common courtesy. Lots of mistakes are forgiven when your employees are polite, and many PR nightmares initiate with rude employees.
3. Feeling Invisible: Your regular customers are your life blood; anyone running a restaurant knows this. They both even out the peaks and valleys of your income, and are one of your greatest sources for word of mouth promotion. Not recognizing them regularly makes it clear that they just don’t matter, and means you risk losing them to another QSR that ‘gets it.’
It doesn’t take much to make your regulars feel special; learn their names, remember their orders, and make sure your employees understand that it’s POLICY to treat them well.
4. Painful POS: So, your employees get a gold star on #1 and #2, but your point of sale system is cumbersome and fraught with problems and your customer becomes frustrated because they can’t leave the register. Technology has dramatically increased our demand for fast service, especially when we’re patronizing a business that we expect fast service from.
Ergo, your decision for the right POS is essential if you intend on growing a series of happy, non-complaining customers.
5. No Plan for Customer Flip Outs: There is a lot of talk about planning for social media firestorms coming from marketers today, and QSRs in particular have been a primary target of both disgruntled employees and angry customers. What seems to be missing in many restaurant training programs is WHAT to do when a customer loses it.
Complaints may happen regularly, but what are you going to do if you have a You Tube Sensation type of customer explosion? It effects not only your reputation, but the way all of your customers experience your restaurant. You need to prepare your staff thoroughly so that, in the worst case scenario and you have a customer lose their cool and it’s recorded, you’ll be lauded for your handling of the situation rather than laughed at for being caught off guard.
6. Inconsistency: Not only is it the ‘hobgobelin’ of small minds, not knowing what to expect when visiting a QSR is a surefire way to tell your customers they’d be better off elsewhere. Food, cleanliness, employee appearance, and procedure all play into how your customers feel about your restaurant. Think about the most successful QSR businesses you know, and I can guarantee this is a primary ingredient for their success.
7. Not listening: Some of these seem pretty basic, right? One reason they’re basic is that MOST OF US have experienced them. How many times have you been to a QSR, told the employee your order, only to have to repeat it more than once because they asked the question and then got distracted by something else?
8. Behaving like a Fast Food restaurant: One of the best quotes from my crowdsourcing request nails this idea:
That they act like fast food restaurants. They assume we don’t expect much, so they don’t give us much, and that’s the culture from the top down. It’s one reason why the service at a Chick fil A is far superior to your typical fast food place. ~ K. Mueller
9. Loyalty plans that take all the fun out of it: I think I have 475 loyalty cards in my wallet, and at least 16 loyalty apps. The problem is, I can either not FIND the card for a specific drug store (and no, I don’t have time to wait in the customer service line for 20 minutes to register my card), and half the time my apps. don’t work. The way I feel when I can’t earn my loyalty points because of one of these issues? Like I’ve been cheated.
You see the point, it’s better to skip the plan altogether than to have one that makes a customer feel that they’re losing out. But that’s not the answer either, because you know your competition has one. The only answer: a streamlined mobile loyalty plan that does not require cards OR apps. Yep, that’s us, and yes, we can help you.