Some compare dealing with angry people with taking a lava bath. It can instantly throw you out of balance and ruin your day. Ancient wisdom compares angry people to a house on fire. The problem is, if you are a guest, you will get burned too.
Knowing how to diffuse a situation with an angry or unruly is paramount. All staff members should be trained to handle uncomfortable situations—even those in the kitchen who do not get in front of customers. Having your whole staff well-versed in conflict management will protect your restaurant in the long run and improve interpersonal communications.
Diffuse the Situation
Serving good food is just one ingredient for longevity in the business. If you were to poll flourishing restaurants, they would also emphasize excellent customer care. Good service comes in many shades, from a welcoming host to a well-timed kitchen. Get your staff up to speed on all manners of service, including how to diffuse a situation with an unhappy customer.
Now, round up the crew and go over these pointers.
Ask for A Name
To call a customer “ma’am” or “sir” is formal and polite, but in this situation, get to know the name of your unhappy patron. Using their first name creates a sense of intimacy and care. The diner will feel an inherent sense of being understood and looked after, which will help you resolve the conversation.
This might be the most crucial training: At no point should any staff member respond with anger, resentment, or rudeness to a customer. Such a response will be perceived as aggressive and will not diffuse the situation. Explain to your staff that they should never take feedback personally. Encourage them to maintain composure.
When diners are angry or unhappy, they must explain themselves before a resolution can be reached. This is a part of the complaint and feedback process. To respond without compassion or in a rash manner will only escalate the situation further.
Be genuine and avoid using standard scripted language like “I understand how you feel; let me see what I can do.” Instead, put a bit of personality and compassion to throw them off and make them see that you genuinely care about their feelings, “Yikes, holy cow, I don’t know what to say; this is embarrassing. (With your hand near your heart) – I’m so sorry we put you in this position.”
Hear them out and be on their side. When you match their voice tone and be angry with them (and not at them), they subconsciously sense a friend, and their frustration will ease. You will become an ally in their eyes, and they may even leave your restaurant happier than they could have expected.
Do Not Interrupt
Listen to an unhappy customer without interruption. To ensure that your customer leaves satisfied, you must assess what they want. When customers are interrupted, however, they will feel their needs are considered unimportant, which could lead to further anger.
Allow them to tell their full story. “Can you tell me more about how this happened?” Then listen intently. Look in the eyes and make sympathetic facial expressions if you can. This will allow them to vent a bit more. Think about this from your perspective. Tension will only be released when you enable the customer to vent. Once they are calm, explain your own position as to what could have happened.
A common complaint from diners is that the food takes too long. In these situations, restaurants do not want to hear that the kitchen is backed up. Instead, offer to send them free coffee at the end of their meals or short discounts on the bill. This is what they care about—being taken care of. Responding with a solution, no matter how small, tells customers that you take their happiness seriously. Only in serious situations should an explanation be offered.
In general, it is wise not to get emotional with the customer. If you weather out their emotional barrage of abusive words or complaints and remain calm, they will leave embarrassed about their behavior and respect you even more. Think of a day you launched into a complaining mode and watched an excellent salesperson calmly and professionally handle your emotional state. Didn’t you secretly leave with a significant amount of admiration for that person when everything was said and done?
Staying calm, listening, and providing a solution are the crucial steps to finding a resolution. But the final clincher—the proverbial “cherry on top”—is an apology. One clear apology is enough for the average disgruntled customer. Keep in mind; this does not need to be a weepy, long-winded statement. Keep it simple. By apologizing, you are showing deference to the , a feeling that will not be forgotten.
While apologizing, it is essential to avoid sounding like a weakling, as many angry customers tend to feed on the feeling of having power “over” someone. Don’t say “sorry” either; it’s way too overused. Say something like, “For what it’s worth you, I truly apologize for putting you through so much trouble. Honestly, we never meant for things to go this way. Let me see what I can do.”
Represent the Restaurant
This ties in with de-personalizing the client’s anger. Remember that dealing with angry customers is important even if you cannot satisfy the angry customer’s concerns. Other customers may be watching, and how you handle yourself reflects on you and the restaurant. Dealing with demanding customers appropriately goes a long way toward convincing others that you will also deal properly with their concerns.
As you train your restaurant staff to deal with complaints, emphasize the importance of showing respect to customers, no matter what complaints (or insults) they might have. Your customer could be having a bad day or be in a perpetual bad mood—yet none of that matters to you. Make your staff comfortable with these situations in advance. That way, if a mad diner calls for attention, your team will be able to solve the issue smoothly and soothe the customer.