Recently our local food scene was dominated by “stars”. Not your usual Michelin stars, but the "stars" that were given on Facebook pages' reviews.
The news of a steak house and a seafood place sparing with their customers on the numbers of stars they should received on Facebook went viral on social media. Both situations began with customers giving low ratings on their Facebook pages and the company defending on why they should not be rated that badly.
In lieu of that, tons of articles were written on how they should handle this situation properly, from not doing anything to giving the customers more stuff to “silence” them.
I suppose each remedy has it's own merit but my personal view is this: if the F&B outlet is so bent on getting better reviews, then this situation is exactly the PR angle that they should exploit on.
If both shops are so sure of their product quality, then either refunds or complimentary items should be given to pacify agitated customers on every occasion. This might seem excessive and will lead to abuse by many customers.
The right way to handle this is to mitigate the situation before it even goes online. Following is the process flow which I have in mind:
• Servers should check the reactions of diners. If food is left unfinished or guests seemed unhappy about their food, the servers should probe for more feedback.
• And if it is a case of food quality, then the meal should be complimentary.
• I know of a local restaurant that does this and they are doing well both in terms of reviews and sales.
• And of course, Ritz Carlton is famous for checking and ensuring their food's quality is met.
• I am sure there will be some people out there that will try to work around the system for a free meal, but personally I think the pros outweighs the cons.
• When customers are paying their bills, ensure that they had a good meal. Otherwise, invite them back with a free meal voucher.
• I know it seems that you have to give a lot of things simply to make your customers happy, but if you think about the lifetime value of a customer, this free meal is worth investing in.
• Suppose a customer walks away feeling shortchanged, not only will they not return but if they talk about their experience online, you stand to lose potential customers.
• If you open a restaurant/cafe, the food quality must be of a certain standard otherwise you will start losing first-time customers. And it is only when you feel the pain of these feedbacks, then you will start to improve your food quality and keep it high.
It all boils down to two factors that people usually like to comment about an F&B outlet, the service and the food. To succeed, the food has must be delectable and this is the baseline that all F&B outlets should maintain in order to survive.
How business thrives depends largely on how customers perceive your service standards. I am going to end this article with a few examples of good and bad service:
I was in a pizza restaurant and had ordered a large pizza but was served a small one instead. When they realized the mistake, they told us to help ourselves to the small one first (it's on the house) so that we had something to munch on while waiting for our original large order.
This is a simple example of good service but even after more than a decade, I still remember it.
On another occasion, while dining in a chain steak house, I found a plastic bottle cap on my plate. The manager took the plate away and changed a new plate. I was charged accordingly.
While there are no laws that states they should not charge for the steak, I thought that should be part of their service recovery.
Anyway, which outlet do you think I will frequent more and talk about more favorably when people ask about them?
About the Author:
Ebenezer Heng runs a community that reaches out to 0.5 million people daily (Oncoffeemakers.com’s digital assets). Lectures in a Singapore Tertiary Institution and advises digital marketing for organisations such as Chinese Chamber of Commerce, National Sports Association, Constituencies.