Is the Customer Always Right?

As the pub owner, you’ll naturally have learned all there is to know about customer service and building relationships over the years. You’ll have had many customers who have slept & ate very well while staying with you, but how do you deal with the small percentage whose mattresses are slightly too soft, or whose eggs have been served overly over-easy?

Some of your guests will unfortunately have a slightly less than perfect stay, from time to time. Being the top notch customer service guru that you are, it’s important to know how to bring about a speedy conclusion to all complaints, and to use the experience to get even better at handling these situations.

Everything’s peachy
The best way to deal with complaints in the first place is to try to stop them from happening at all. This means leaving no mattress unturned, and being extra vigilant to ensure that you don’t mix up the toast and the fried bread. Quite simply, good attention to detail from you and your staff will make sure you never mix up the normal and decaf tea ever again.

Make sure the guests’ rooms as well as the communal areas are all clean, comfy and cosy – you want them to feel relaxed at all times. Also, when you advertise your pub online, make sure that any images you use are a realistic representation of your pub. Use a good photographer to capture all of your pub’s best sides, but be honest – don’t grab a view of southern Italy and claim it’s the view from your rooms, you’re just going to give your guests something to complain about.

Being ready for anything
Despite your best efforts, some guests will undoubtedly find something that’s not what they expected, and they may want to take it up with you in person. This means that you’ll have to be well-versed in the art of customer service, ready to negotiate.

Be sure to know your pub and its workings inside out. You want to be ready for almost any question that your guests could possibly think up. You should also decide what your stance will be when a customer confronts you, what your policy is on compensation and how you will validate a complaint.

How to ‘diffuse the bomb’
When a guest does decide to make a complaint, it’s important to think about your tone of voice, staying polite at all times and choosing your words carefully – especially if the complaining guest is quite animated. The golden rule to remember is to stay calm, even if they’re not.

One small, secret tip is that you don’t necessarily have to agree with everything that the complaining customer is saying – especially if you feel that some or all of what they’re saying is unfair. A better way to diffuse the bomb is to acknowledge what the customer is complaining about, and try to shift the conversation on to the resolution. You’ll hopefully have prepared an outcome for as many complaints as you could think of, so try to bring the topic on to this, so as not to draw out the length of the discussion.

From a negative to a positive
It might seem like a bad thing to receive a complaint, but you really can flip it over into being a positive. Whenever you receive a complaint (hopefully it isn’t very often), this gives you a good chance to test out and improve your customer service skills. The more issues that are solved with little hassle, the more times you can give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

Be sure to also take the nature of the complaint on board, and look to improve whatever it is that went wrong for the guest. If they didn’t have a great sleep for example, you could look into buying a better mattress or a bigger bed.

Whilst receiving a complaint may seem like a daunting thing, you really can turn it into a positive by honing your customer service skills, taking on board the criticism and using it to give your guests better experiences every time they come and stay with you.