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Buzztime - Business Bar Trivia by Buzztime

Plenty of lip service is devoted to what practices businesses should engage in as they attempt to keep their customers as happy as possible. To be certain, a proactive approach will usually solve most problems a restaurant will encounter during a shift.

But customer service also boils down to the actions you don’t take. Bringing repeat customers to your establishment and ensuring their satisfaction throughout the dining experience can be helped by avoiding some common pitfalls of customer service.

1. Avoid using social media platforms

Transitioning traditional marketing tactics toward social media efforts can prove to be an intimidating notion for some restaurant and bar owners. However, with 700 million Facebook users and counting, this platform cannot be ignored.

Here are 13 best practices for leveraging social media in your establishment and bolster customer service practices.

Social media sites provide a sheath to hide behind for many users. Have a plan set in action to respond to any negative feedback regarding a dissatisfied customer.

This is the perfect opportunity to right any wrongs in the public sphere. If you spin a negative situation into a positive one, you can not only mend a relationship with a current customer, but also show potential customers that you truly care and their satisfaction is of the utmost importance.

2. Minimize complaints

You cannot please all customers all of the time. However, if you shrug off a complaint one time because the customer is finicky and impossible to please, you allow a downward thought and attitude spiral to erupt that can cascade down to all employees.

Do not make it difficult for customers to file a complaint. Complaints should be viewed as a tool for improvement. Dig deeper into the root of the issue at hand and fix it. Better yet, find a way to capitalize on the problem and improve it beyond its original.

On a parallel note, do not make it difficult for your staff to provide feedback as well. These people are your front-line staff who are present when incidents take place.

3. Ignore the importance of customer loyalty

There is a simple formula to follow in order to maximize customer loyalty. You must exceed your customers’ expectations and surmount competitors’ customer service practices.

After all, acquiring new customers can be five times more expensive than keeping current customers.

In a study conducted in Canada, 43% of respondents left a particular provider due to a negative experience with staff members. Another 30% of respondents deemed not feeling as if they were a valued customer as the reason for relocating their business elsewhere.

There are simple ways to make your customers feel special when they dine at your establishment to help foster a loyal customer base.

Once you have achieved this goal, avoid any practices that can kill customer loyalty.

4. Over-complicate things

Forbes magazine found a quick-service restaurant with 55 different ways for an employee to ring up one of its items. “When it takes that much energy just to manage a cash register, how much is left over for taking care of customers?”

Using the KISS approach to your customer service (keep it simple, stupid) accomplishes two things: It frees up your staff to better attend to the needs of a customer and reduces the chance that your customers face the additional headache of waiting as your employees navigate an unnecessarily complex process.

5. Create unrealistic expectations

It is difficult enough to make customers happy. That is particularly the case with certain types of customers who always seem to have a problem with service providers. The key becomes making certain you don’t set yourself up for failure in these types of situations.

When your staff interacts with customers you should make clear they are never to make promises without knowing with certainty they can fulfill a request.

The bottom line is that when in doubt “I’m not sure, but I’ll check on it” is always a better answer than “Absolutely.”

6. Say ‘No.’

Obviously there will be times when you’ll need to tell customers they won’t be getting what they want. The key becomes how to tell them no without actually telling them no.

To that end, improvestaff.com offers a simple four-step process to handling situations where you won’t be able to meet customer expectations: A. Acknowledge, B. Decline, C. Give Reasons and D. Offer Alternatives.

When your staff encounters a request they know to be a no-go, it is critical they make a point of relating to the frustration the customer is experiencing. From that point explaining why they won’t be able to meet their request and offering potential solutions becomes a far easier process.

7. Avoid taking responsibility

Customers don’t like it when you can’t make them happy. But they also don’t care much for passing the buck.

Blaming a co-worker or company policy isn’t going to solve their problem. Even worse, it doesn’t shine a positive light on the business during a time when the customer might already be doubting the efficiency of your operation.

People aren’t (for the most) completely irrational. They know that everything in life doesn’t go according to plan. Customers will respect an employee who takes blame for an issue while earnestly working to rectify the situation.

8. Ignore reviews

Customers will post reviews, both good and bad, whether or not you monitor review sites. According to Forbes, responding to a negative review or complaint can change an unsatisfied customer’s attitude toward a company.

Actively monitor popular review sites like Yelp, Urbanspoon and Google Places, and provide a timely response to negative reviews. While complaints can feel like a personal attack, remember that reviews are your customers. Keep responses courteous and genuine.

If multiple reviews cite the same type of complaints, examine the issue and make necessary changes to improve customer experience.

9. Say “I don’t know”

While there are certain questions all staff should know the answer to, there will undoubtedly be times when customers have unique questions or requests that leave servers stumped. It’s important to train staff members to never say “I don’t know” to a customer, even when they really don’t.

When an employee says “I don’t know,” the customer may lose confidence in the restaurant, wondering what else the employees don’t know. Saying “let me check on that,” or “I can find out for you,” makes the customer feel like their question is important and will be taken seriously.

10. Be inconsistent

No one likes a hit-or-miss restaurant. Customers do not appreciate being treated well during one visit and poorly during another. Make sure servers treat all of their guests well and do not put extra focus on a particular table while ignoring another.

Always serve the same quality of food. Tips for keeping consistency in the kitchen include using standard recipes, using consistent suppliers and quality ingredients and providing uniform training for all kitchen staff.

And the list could go on and on. Implementing excellent customer service practices is an integral part of your business. After all, it wouldn’t be much of a business without your customers.

What are some customer service don’ts that you strive to avoid in your day-to-day operations?
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