The restaurant industry is a ‘one strike and you are out’ kind of business. If you disappoint a guest they are likely never coming back. There are just too many other options out there. Because of this brutal reality, many restaurant organisations have multiple listening posts to ensure that they are able to hear from their guests. Most concepts have guest experience surveys where a customer can take a survey and provide scoring on attributes such as their overall satisfaction, likelihood to return and likelihood to recommend the business to a friend or family member. These businesses also have live agent contact centres, either internal or outsourced, to answer guests calls for everything from rude service to simply providing the nutritional content of a specific menu item. These same services are available to resolve guest comments posted to a brand’s website. Another tool for capturing guests expressing frustration is monitoring social media venues such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp! and other social media sites. These channels are all examples of best practices for brands being available to restaurant customers.

Listening to guests across these channels is critical. Why? In the 2016 Market Force QSR/Fast Casual Consumer Preference Study, one out of every three guests reported a disappointing experience at the restaurant that they most recently visited, and two thirds to three quarters did not report it. Of those who did: 

  • About 15% talked to a staff member or manager in the restaurant. Clearly, staff need to be empowered to resolve issues and make guests happy—or guests just won’t come back.
  • 8% responded using customer surveys. Providing a guest survey option is a critical channel to capture and manage complaints.
  • 3% chose to make a call to the contact centre. You might think this is old-fashioned, but it’s still an important channel and requires attention.
  • 3% posted to social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. 

What is clear and critically important is how well brands recover these guests when they do complain. Ensuring that each of these listening posts includes a closed loop guest recovery process is a best practice to ensure that team members are responding to guest concerns and complaints quickly as well as being accountable to document the issue and the resolution. Included in this process should be templates for how best to respond to guests depending on the issue, standards for the timing of follow up and providing senior leadership visibility into the type and severity of problems that are surfacing at each location. If you only get one shot, it can be priceless if you can find a way to get just one more chance. Effective guest recovery is a must have in today’s hyper-competitive restaurant industry

Brad Christian is a Managing Director at Market Force and consults with retail and restaurant executives to design cost-effective customer experience measurement programmes that help them protect their brand's reputation, delight guests and drive greater unit economics.