By John Self

Most restaurant managers love to eat out and when we do, we often like to tell the manager on duty about the great service we had from one of their employees. It never ceases to amaze me that most of the times that I’ve asked my server to get a manager to come by when he or she has a moment, the manager comes out with an attitude. He’ll come to the table, cross his arms and ask very seriously, “What seems to be the problem?”

Problem? What kind of message does that question and body language send to customers? It can only make a bad situation worse or cause damage to an otherwise positive situation. In my case, all I wanted to do was compliment an employee. Nothing ruins a great opportunity to pass along a compliment to your employees than a defensive attitude by the manager.

A similar thing happened recently. I was in a restaurant and complimented the manager about the hostess, who was standing next to him. Instead of using this as a great opportunity to say thank you and praise the employee, the manager just looked at me and said “So, she must be a relative.” The young hostess went from glowing to hurt and embarrassed. The manager had blown an opportunity to instill pride and actually turned a slam-dunk positive situation into a very negative one. That employee’s attitude was bruised by an insensitive manager and you can bet that she won’t forget it. It won’t take many more to cause her to quit. And you can bet that she will tell that story to all her fellow employees.

Similar negative attitudes affect customers. When a customer wants to see you regarding a problem, treat it as an opportunity, not a nuisance. Remember that most customers wouldn’t tell you if they didn’t care. I’d bet that many loyal, regular customers in restaurants started out as disgruntled customers who received exceptional personal care by a manager and employees.

The first rule of customer service is to believe your customer. Even on the rare occasions when you just know they’re trying to scam you, don’t let this influence your attitude. Believe them. The vast majority of customers are telling you how they really feel and trying to help.

Here are some common negative behaviors that managers should not do:

· Say “yes but”. This sends a clear message to your customer that you are not listening and being defensive.

· Look bored. Pay attention, LISTEN. Don’t think about the phone call that is waiting or the change you need to make. If your customer feels that what he is saying is not important, whatever you say or offer will not be enough. Sincerity and attention is needed.

· Don’t handle it yourself. Even in the most enlightened and empowered workplace, there is nothing more effective than a few words by the manager. Don’t send a server or hostess.

· Give excuses. Customers just don’t care about your problems. They came in to forget their own problems. Just apologize and solve the problem.

· Don’t do anything. There are few things in life that are better ignored, and a customer complaint isn’t one of them.

· Delay. It is easy to get busy and forget about the complaint or put it on low priority. It’s happened to us all. But force yourself to put customer complaints as a priority. Research has proven that when a complaint is resolved quickly, it costs less and the customer is much more likely to be satisfied.