Customer satisfaction, specifically in the restaurant industry, is a ripple effect that begins as soon as a consumer walks in the door. Whether their experience is positive or negative can be felt by every department in the company. You're essentially one bad review away from having your reputation tainted… scary. Generally speaking, retrieving customer feedback can be tricky. The customary way is via in-store or online surveys. However in this day in age, maintaining a positive reputation can be quite challenging. The Internet can be an asset or liability depending on a customer’s experience at your restaurant.
We’ve discussed customer satisfaction in great length throughout the past year but mainly at a high level. For instance, did you know business intelligence software could be your pathway to satisfying customers? If this concept is new to you, click here to continue reading. We’ve also discussed customer satisfaction from a business point of view and the impact it could have on your margins. Business and software aside, customer service is in the hands of your employees. Do they understand the importance of keeping customers satisfied? Here are a few suggestions to make sure they keep customer service top of mind – all the time.
Top-Down Leadership (The Trickle Effect)
Leadership in key operational positions is critical. In most, if not all, restaurant companies there are initiatives to continually increase customer satisfaction. The success of these initiatives is contingent upon the depth of implementation by each operational leader. Each company has a different organizational structure depending on the number of locations and employees. In most cases where there are 25-300 locations, the structure will be based on regions and districts. Regional VPs will preside over District Managers – and District Managers preside over the Restaurant General Managers. Chances are, you’re already holding regular regional and/or district wide meetings with all top level operators to go over weekly and monthly P&L reports... but are you discussing customer service metrics? If that’s not occurring, make it a priority to discuss at the next meeting and every one thereafter.
General Managers Hold the Keys – Hire and Train them Accordingly
Having a top notch GM run your restaurant is an invaluable asset. Ultimately their job is to make money – the measuring stick for success is restaurant profitability and they are in control. GM’s are also responsible for customer satisfaction. Each employee, front of house and back of house, needs to always be thinking with the customer in mind with everything they do. Whether it’s friendliness or speed of service, the customer needs to feel comfortable and relaxed during their dining experience. After all, isn’t the goal to make them lifelong customers? If your GM is a customer maniac, similar to the first point listed above, the feeling should matriculate throughout the entire restaurant. Takeaway quote: “Hire character, train skill.” With the right motivators, you can train your GM properly to be wired to have every customer leave his/her restaurant happy and satisfied.
What to do when a Customer is Dissatisfied
This part is always challenging but this is life and everything is not always perfect. Every single customer that walks in your door will not leave satisfied – but what do you do to get them to come back again? It depends on the situation, of course, but in most cases the issue is the food and not necessarily the service. If it’s a personnel issue, that would need to be dealt with privately with the employee. Mistakes to an order, under/over cooked food, poor tasting food, or bringing out the wrong order can all be fixed. Though it tends to annoy the customer, generally it doesn’t result in a never-return-again situation. The end result should always be a happy customer and your employees should understand the importance of that. If they are unhappy, most companies have a protocol to follow that usually begins with admitting fault, apologizing, and fixing whatever the issue is to ensure absolute happiness. Not to mention the server’s gratuity is riding on it!
If customer service is an issue at your company, make a proactive effort to fix it. Start by collaborating with your team of above store operators and address the issue. If data is available to back the issue, use it to your advantage to plan for success.