GITOMER: Complaints offer opportunities
Friday, May 18, 2012 7:00 AM
It’s Saturday night around 6 p.m. Early dinner for Jessica, Gabrielle and me.
We’re sitting in Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Charlotte, N.C.. We’ve been customers at this location for as long as it has been there. Seen several managers come and go; seen hundreds of servers come and go.
This particular visit was pivotal because it may have been our last. The restaurant’s 10-year consistency has been compromised at least three ways: 1. New bread – lower quality. 2. New croutons – lower quality. 3. New espresso – lower quality. It used to serve the best espresso in the city (Illy). But it seems corporate decided to remove all the machines and substitute with a lesser (cheaper) brand.
Same price. Lower quality. More profit. Not good for anyone but them.
And they’re not bragging about their new low quality. I guess they figured no one would notice. I was disappointed. Not angry or anything, I just had an expectation when we entered the restaurant that wasn’t met when we were served.
The manager happened by. I asked him about the sudden reduction in quality. He smiled, hemmed, hawed and looked embarrassed that we “caught” them. He, of course, blamed it on “corporate.” I asked him for an email address to voice my concern. He promised he would return with it. Never did.
As the manager walked by our table a second time, we heard him say, “Another aggravated customer.” He was referring to some people waiting to be seated. Did nothing about it. Sad.
REALITY: When a customer is aggravated, complaining or angry, there’s a REASON. If you’re smart enough, empathetic enough and willing enough, you can discover the reason, help the customer, resolve the issue and prevent the same thing from happening again.
STOP READING AND START THINKING: I’m not just writing about Carrabba’s. I’m writing about YOU. You have customers who complain, don’t you? How do you receive the concern or the complaint? How is a complaint handled? What do you do about it? How do you turn it into a WOW?
Here’s what it is – and what it isn’t:
It’s an opportunity, NOT an aggravation.
It’s an opportunity, NOT a complaint.
It’s a chance for WOW, NOT an angry customer.
It’s an opportunity to prevent this situation from reoccurring.
If you really want aggravation, complaints and anger to diminish, here are the elements you must possess and execute:
• Attitude of acceptance.
• Attitude that’s willing to listen with the intent to understand.
• Attitude of taking responsibility.
• Ability to respond in a friendly, pleasant manner.
LOYALTY REALITY: Every aggravation, complaint, concern, discussion or question posed by a customer is a huge, FREE opportunity to improve your business by a factor of WOW – and for little or no money.
And a bit more reality: When managers and employees turn over at a high rate, it’s not the “nature of the business”; it’s the cheapness and policies of the home office. When you try to milk a nickel to save a penny, when you sacrifice quality just to increase profits, you lose employees, customers, good will and reputation.
Me? I’ll go away with a little bit of noise – others will just go away.
You? Document the issue, the resolve, the response and the outcome.
These are the steps: Listen. Process. Think. Take responsibility. Question. Respond. Say something positive. Do something positive. WOW.
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