A couple of weekends ago, a story broke about Molten, a popular restaurant in Mt Eden, and how the restaurant had engaged with a disgruntled customer who had complained about their poor customer experience on popular review site Zomato. Molten hit back at the unhappy patron by reviewing the unsatisfied customer’s behaviour in return. Adding further fuel to the fire, another prominent restaurateur has called the websites that review establishments as “parasites.” While there are a few issues at play here, the issue of ‘customer complaints and how to deal with them’ are at the heart of this emotive and unfortunate series of events.
What to do when a customer complains
Firstly, when a customer complains, a business should see this as an opportunity to learn and improve. Typically, 96% of people will not complain when they have an unsatisfactory service. Thus the percent that do come forward give businesses the chance to not only fix the issue, but also fix any issues with the customer experience that often result in that unhappy patron becoming a raving fan.
A survey commissioned by Impact PR indicated that when it came to complaining, close to a third of Kiwis were unhappy with the way local companies dealt with customer service complaints, making those businesses who are proactively dealing with complaints far more likely to be successful.
Proactively finding complaints and doing something about them seems so sensible, you wonder why businesses haven’t been doing it for years. Changing customer service models within a business allows dialogue to be exchanged in a safe and useful way, allowing businesses to grow in the direction best suited to their customers.
In times past people did not have a voice, the food critic was a culinary demi-god who walked (and ate) among us. Politely applauding establishments when they performed well, and tearing apart unfortunate under-performing outlets, the food critic was revered and feared all at once. While some power is still welded by long-standing, reputable and witty food critics today, now it’s the ordinary person who carries a lot of influence and a loud voice.
The power is shifting to the masses thanks to social media and review sites, bringing out the critic in us all. ‘Word of mouth’ is a powerful tool. We spread news, both good and bad, like wildfire through our circles, applauding the efforts of a business that has gone the extra mile, and vilifying those who leave us wanting. In today’s technologically driven world, we are able to hear more ‘word of mouth’ than ever before, especially from those who we’ve never met.
Review sites such as Zomato amplify this. We visit them before making purchase decisions, relying on a plethora of sites to tell us where to eat, where to stay, what’s good, and who’s bad. TradeMe, Bookabach, Holiday Homes, Trip Advisor, Menu Mania, Wotif and Hotels.com are just some of the sites that Kiwis regularly frequent. In recent years it has become the voice of the ‘people’.
What is concerning about this issue is that it calls into question the integrity of online reviews. Molten owner, Sven Nielsen, told the nzherald.co.nz that Irish Eyes’ review was unfair, unjust and “a little bit vindictive”, prompting him to stand up on behalf of restaurant owners.
He adds, “I think things would be dealt with a lot more constructively if the problems were brought to our attention beforehand so we can have the opportunity to address them. There’s some people that feel that they should not mention anything and go home and write anonymous reviews and it just seems a little bit vindictive to me.”
Best practice for bad reviews
Results of the survey also showed that rectifying the issue was essential to making many customers happy. While some respondents are generally satisfied with an apology, or to have someone listen to their grievances, 12% wanted to get to the bottom of the issue. They felt it was important that they were given an explanation of what went wrong, and a further tenth (11%) required additional compensation over and above receiving a refund.
Business owners in the restaurant trade can’t afford to risk their reputations by allowing a review site or social media page to be the default outlets for customers to air their concerns. Inevitably there will be customers who feel like they’ve been wronged, and want to vent their frustration in a very public forum, if they feel they haven’t been heard. That’s why it’s important to have a channel for customers to give direct feedback to you and sort these concerns before they grow bigger than they need to be. Restaurant owners need to ensure their patrons can easily give them feedback directly should they wish, because the default option for many unhappy customers now is to vent in social media whether it is justified or not.
We developed Customer Radar for business owners just like Sven Nielsen because there was an obvious gap in the customer feedback model. Feedback (either good or bad) is exceptionally healthy, as it allows businesses to grow, by doing more of what their customers love and eliminating the things they don’t like. Even mystery shoppers and surveys have never been able to provide a live, daily report on what sort of customer experience businesses are providing, and thus Customer Radar was designed to specifically address this issue. The moment feedback is received by a customer (via text, smartphone or online), this appears in a live dashboard and an alert is sent to the manager if it the customer has complained. With more than 800,000 people giving feedback through Customer Radar across a range of industries from mum and dad operators to large multi-national chains, Customer Radar has provided a solution to address disgruntled customers and allow businesses to change the way complaints are handled, better and faster than ever before. The technology allows businesses to offer their customers an easy way to give feedback, while giving business owners access to their feedback in a constructive and useful format, increasing the chance for owners to diffuse negative customer feedback and avoid similar social media blowouts in the future.
I would love to help Molten and any other restaurant owners (in fact, any retailer or business) to lessen the frustration of poor customer reviews, and ensure that your customers continue to come back. We’d be more than happy to provide you with a *FREE trial of Customer Radar, so that you can see for yourself how we can assist you in continuing to build on your excellent reputation and should any customers happen to have a complaint or suggestions for improvement, give them the opportunity to tell you directly, not via social media.
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