Episode from the podcastThe Culinary Insider: Food, Drink, Dining News

How To Handle Disappointed Customers The Right Way

Released Thursday, 22nd January 2015
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In today's special episode you will discover how to handle a disappointed customer that allows them to be heard, and feel like you are there to help them out. 

If you have ever had a job, you have had a disappointed customer. It can be a really tricky situation to make things right. A disappointed customer can suck business away from you faster today than ever before. Handled right, that same disappointed customer will become a raving fan.

I’m going to be really honest with you right now, transparent like a window pane. I can be a real picky, pain in the butt, type of customer. Especially when it comes to eating in restaurants. Because I have worked in restaurants over the past 20+ years, I have a level of expectation of service, and food quality, that some others might not have. Along with those expectations comes a huge dose of understanding as well. I should also say that level of expectation will vary depending on the type of establishment I am in.

Let me explain…
This past weekend at a local cafe I ordered a hamburger, simple enough request. We had made a trip specifically to this cafe because two weeks prior we had been there, I ordered a hamburger and it was one of the best hamburgers I have had in years. Everything from the fresh soft bun, to the pickles (made in house) they chopped for me to put on it. I drooled over it. I have been craving it ever since. So, when we finally had the chance to return, I knew right away what I was going to order; hamburger medium-rare with extra onions and pickles.

First off, “We are out of pickles” rang out from the kitchen. I was told they were being brined and had a few more days to go. Other than the disappointment that came over my face, I let it slide because they are making all of their products from scratch, I can appreciate that. When the burger hit the table my mouth started watering immediately. It looked fantastic. My joy lasted just into my first bite, then sadness struck. The meat itself just tasted old, and kind of funky. Just as a point of clarity, this could have just been my tastebuds playing a trick on me, a mirage of bad flavors, but I just don’t chance it when it comes to “off flavors” and ground meat. Too much could go wrong.

Since we were seated on the patio, I decided to take the plate inside and talk to the cashier. Quietly, very quietly, I asked if I could replace the burger, because it “tasted like old meat.” The gentleman at the register, who I think is the manager of the cafe, quickly said, “Sure, no problem. What would you like?” I asked for the fish and chips to avoid having a second attempt at a burger go wrong.

Here’s where all hell broke loose.
I started walking back to my table thinking everything was fine, when I glanced back to the kitchen. The gentleman who took my order was explaining to the cook my concerns and asked to replace it with the new order of fish and chips. The cook slammed the plate into the garbage, and started cursing about making another plate of food. If you’re like me, you don’t want the cook that’s handling what you’re going to put into mouth to be angry. So, I immediately went back in and just cancelled my order. As much as I believe in the goodness, and standards most cooks might have. I wasn’t chancing what could come out on my plate. I thanked the cashier and returned to my table. Mikey shared half of her sandwich with me.

We tipped the waiter a fair amount when we were finished, packed our things and I went off down the street a few steps. I thought Mikey was by my side until I turned around. She had been stopped by the cashier before she could leave.

Here’s where the magic happened- How to Handle a Disappointed Customer
The cashier was trying to catch both of us before we left, but I had snuck away. When Mikey caught up to me she was carrying a small bag from the cafe. Which was odd because we didn’t have any leftovers. In the bag was four of the cafes homemade cookies. Dammit, wouldn’t you know it, they were freaking awesome. They rivaled my Aunt Connie’s cookies (more like dominated). Mikey told me the cashier apologized for not meeting the cafe’s standards, and hoped we would come back again soon. Just a classy move.

Let’s break this down into easy steps:
1) Identify what the customers’ needs are, see if you can meet those needs. His quick response, and no hesitation to replace my hamburger showed, he was interested in making things right.

2) Be cool about it. Even if the customer is not being cool about it. Think of Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse:

"All you have to do is follow three simple rules.

One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary. And three, be nice."

3) Give them a reason to come back.

The cashier gave me every reason to come back, and give the cafe another shot. It wasn’t the cookies. It was the act of giving the cookies. He cared about our experience and it will force me to go back to the cafe and have another hamburger.

As we circled back down the street to head to a bookstore nearby, the cashier was pulling dishes from our table. He noticed us across the street and gave us a head nod. I waved, pointed at the cookies and gave him a thumbs up. I will be going back to that cafe, because they showed how to handle a disappointed customer in one of the most classy, and honest ways possible.

Want to learn more about customer service?

Check out: Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach To Customer … by Ken Blanchard & Sheldon Bowles. (amazon affiliate link)

If you have a question that you would like answered, or have a great artisan food producer I should highlight on the show go to foodcraftsmen.com/speakup where you can leave me a voice message or email directly.

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Episode Details

Length
8m 36s
Explicit
No

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