There’s a golden rule in the catering industry that the customer is always right. No matter how demanding or unreasonable their complaints might seem, failing to give them a fair hearing reflects badly on your business and so tolerance and consideration must always come first.
Other customers in your restaurant, might not pick up on the nuances of the conversation you’re having with that red-faced diner who’s just blown his stack because the ice in his drink was too cold or their prawn cocktail wasn’t pink enough.
I mention catering only because it is one of the few industries in which customers can voice their complaints directly to the service provider, in real time, and seek reparation – but it equally applies to others.
All businesses, to be credible, strive to deliver an attentive and positive customer experience.
No matter the effectiveness and quality of your product or service, if it’s delivered in a second-rate, slapdash or sullen way, they you will inevitably end up with disgruntled customers or clients.
No matter what industry you serve, dealing with the public means you need to be prepared for the serial complainers and downright bampots who will, occasionally, test your patience to the limits.
The corollary to the rule is that if the customer is unreasonable and has all the charm of Mr Creosote from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, you still have to present a serene demeanour and do everything you can to avoid conflict.
If you hunker down for an argument because you don’t think that their complaint has merit, all they will remember is the disagreement and they won’t be bothering you with their custom again.
There are undoubtedly advantages to working in public-facing industries, particularly if you’re a people person and you get pleasure from giving good service.
But, whatever you do, you need to be prepared to deal with grievances. As a society we encourage people to seek what they feel they are due and to complain if they do not feel that it is being delivered.
The explosion of review sites like TripAdvisor and Trustpilot has contributed to the creation of a nation of nit-pickers. We rarely buy anything of any value now without checking to see what previous customers have said.
Returning to the catering industry, a recent study found six in every 10 Britons have complained about a meal at a restaurant at some time. Among those who have never complained, some 44% said they hadn’t done so for fear of their food being tampered with if they make a fuss.
Here is a selection of the most bizarre customer complaints supplied by British restaurateurs.
So, whatever industry you work in, remember that the customer is always right, except when they’re wrong but you still have to pretend that they are right, smile and promise to improve. And if you don’t agree with that principle, you may be working in the wrong business.