These days, a reputation for bad customer complaints can spread like wildfire. With so many online review sites — Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, etc — a story of bad service has a bigger audience than ever. All that’s needed is one bad tweet or negative post on an influential Facebook page to create one massive headache for you, the business owner. Customers want to feel important and leave your business with an experience that makes them feel good. Did you know great customer service is key to receiving repeat customers?

If you find yourself on the receiving end of bad reviews, it’s time for improvement. Identifying the common customer complaints is a great place to start improving your customer service strategy. Notice recurring themes in the complaints you receive? From the time customers walk through your doors until they leave, customers expect to be engaged by helpful employees in a timely manner. Long wait times, poor attitudes, and overall disregard for the customer experience are the flames that fuel online review disasters.

Here are some of the most common complaints we hear from customers, and what you can do about them.

“I had to wait 10 minutes for a latte!”

We get it – equipment breaks, shifts don’t get the proper coverage, you get hit with an unexpected rush. But if your customers have to suffer a long wait, the potential for that experience to turn negative increases dramatically. So how do you prevent a 10 minute latte from turning into a bad Yelp review?

Set the right expectations. Inc. Magazine listed this as one of the best ways to keep waiting customers happy (or at least less annoyed). Be honest with your wait time estimates. In fact, overestimate. For example, if a customer is told “your latte will be out in 5 minutes”, make sure the latte is on the bar in 5 minutes, or less. If it takes less time, customers will be happy to get on with their day sooner than later. By communicating realistic expectations, customers will respect your honesty and be less disappointed by the wait.

“Our waiter had the worst attitude.”

We’ve all heard the basics of good customer service: welcome customers at the door, make sure everyone smiles, say thank you. But what doesn’t get addressed often enough is the attitude behind customer care. We are remarkably good as humans at detecting authenticity. If your employees don’t engage or care about the customer experience, it becomes painfully obvious.

You can’t force your employees to care (really, don’t try this). But you can give them good reasons to care. Here are some tips to help keep your employees positively engaged while on the clock

  • Lead by example by showing everyone how important the success of your business is to you. Don’t let your employees hear you say bad things about your customers, or they will assume it’s okay to treat customers poorly.
  • Make your restaurant a fun place to work. Incentivize fun by starting an employee referral program. Current employees can get involved in the recruiting process and bring in qualified talent they’re happy to work with.The smiles and energy will be contagious.
  • Recognize team members that go above and beyond, and share it with everyone. Don’t miss opportunities to reinforce a culture of appreciation and service.

“The manager didn’t even offer an apology.”

While it may be true that customers expect no mistakes, it’s also true that most customers are willing to forgive. So what can you do when problems do arise? Don’t discount the power of a sincere apology. According to social scientists, the best apologies contain the “three R’s”: state your Regret, accept Responsibility, and attempt to Remedy. A sincere apology can turn a critic into an advocate: it shows them how much you care and appreciate their business.

Of course providing great customer service isn’t about checking the boxes. It’s about building a culture of service and engineering the perfect customer experience through communication, engaged employees, and sincerity. Tell us how you’ve recovered from negative reviews in the past. What were some of the things you’ve changed for the better? Tweet us @joinhomebase and let us know!

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