I have done 10 years in gastronomy, and I’ve learned, heard and tried already quite a lot of theories about dealing with customer’s complaints, but just one always works (in my personal case). This holy-gastro-tool is called “empathy” and is quite easy to use.
To use empathy, you need to practice to execute it well but of course, to know how it works is essential as well.
When you understand how other people feel it is easier to connect and to communicate in the same tune. What happens most of the times when someone is angry is that they cannot express feelings rightly (most of the time). That is why our job is to let the words aside and fully empathise with our customers before we get angry with their complaints.
There are many ways to use this tool, but the way that works perfectly for me is in these three steps:
1. Know how the customer feels
I take my time to understand how my unhappy customer is feeling without giving my personal or professional opinion on the matter while he/she is expressing his/herself.
After he/she is done whit the complaint, I apologise for what happened; I put myself on his situation to really understand how he/she is feeling. I then apologise a second time, and then I offer a drink a coffee or a dessert for free. For me, the first goal is always that the customers leave the restaurant with a good impression or emotion.
3. Ensure the situation is resolved
The last part of the process is to make sure they are back to a good mood before they leave. To check this, I go to the table again, and I try to talk to make verbal contact with them and leave again. When they leave the restaurant, I apologise for the final and then continue with my work.
Two further tips from my personal experiences:
1. It's extremely important that you as a manager, or the person in charge, not to take these kinds of situations personally.
2. The second tip is that if at the beginning doesn’t work as you expect, keep trying because it is all about practice and understanding.