Dealing with ‘Challenging’ Customers

It can't be said often enough how important it is for restaurants to have excellent customer service. You’ve probably heard it so many times – customers are always right.  It’s a motto that many restaurants owners adopt, every single day. The thing is, customers aren’t always right.

Like other businesses, restaurant owners have their fair share of difficult people. Customers who hate waiting. Customers who don’t have any good words to say. Customers who will call for the manager because he doesn’t want to hear a word from the woman at the cash register. Customers who will beg for discounts when it’s not possible. Unless you close your restaurant and stop doing business, you are bound to encounter them once in a while, if not every single day. 

So, what do you do?

Dealing with difficult customers is both a skill that every business owner, and more importantly the staff, should master. Your goal is to address customer concerns without compromising your restaurant image. How can this be done? 

First and Foremost – Listen

If you want to settle the matter quick, you should never try to talk over the customer and argue with them. Even if you know why they are fussing, even if they are misinformed. Listening to your customers is a wonderful opportunity to build rapport. And it calms them down. Try to understand where they are coming from. Acknowledge their frustration and try to see things from their perspective. 


Assume the Whole World Is Watching

Never do things that could significantly hurt your restaurant image. Try to be as calm as possible. In most cases, you are not simply talking to that one specific difficult customer in front of you, but also to the audience watching your interaction (who could be recording a video already). Maintain a low, respectful voice while also remaining assertive. Never say or do anything that can be used against you. 

A Giveaway Doesn't Hurt

Did your customer get irate because he waited too long for his order to arrive? Or his soup was served cold and his salad soggy? When the shortcoming came from your part, the best way to deal with the customer is to make him feel valued. Offer a free drink or dessert, if not, a discount. It’s not that you are giving them a treat for scolding at you or your staff.


Train Your Staff

nd huddle sessions where you talk about the most effective ways to deal with difficult customers. Think about a scenario and brainstorm on how the issue can be resolved. Equipping your staff with the customer handling skills is the best form of defense against querulous customers. Moreover, give value to excellent customer service. Consider rewarding employees who managed to make it through a tough customer interaction so others would follow their lead. 

Negative customer interaction shouldn’t be viewed negatively, rather, as teachable moments. Stressful as these situations are, they can serve as opportunities to improve your business, work on your pain points, and more importantly, scale the quality of your service.