Upturn the Downturn into… GOLD!

… by Ken Wong

Recently, there is an article in Asiaone that reported one customer who had paid for 2 whole chickens, from a Fried Chicken chain, instead received mostly chicken wings after waited for 1 hour. The customer took it to the social media to air her grievances. The chain had responded due to the chicken export ban from the neighbouring country, they have also placed a notice to inform their customers.

After reading this unfortunate incident, it might be easy to point the finger at the customer whom had overreacted despite the chain’s explicit notice at the store. However, going by the age-old service slogan “The Customer is Always Right”, this incident did not reflect well on the vendor.

The whole incident could have been handled with more sensitivity and professionally. This customer might be visiting for the first time or even a regular, it was a wasted opportunity that the staff and outlet manager were not trained adequately and professionally to address the customer’s concerns at the store.

I believe the above unpleasant incident could have been avoided, or at least better handled, if the management had developed a “Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)”, at the onset, that all employees (front and back of house) are familiar with and knows how to apply the different customer service tactics skilfully.

Usually, due to cost and lack of time consideration, little has been invested by the management in giving their employees proper and regular training. Oftentimes, it is done on an understudy arrangement by following and observing the senior crews.

Below are a few common customer complaints you can expect your service team to encounter.

1. Long Waiting Time – usually happens during peak hours if your food is cook-to-order.

Suggested solution – long waiting times means that there is high demand for your products. The hiring of more employees, having more hands means higher productivity, to meet the demands of your customers. To appease your customers, your front of house employees must apologize for the long waiting times.

To quicken things up, your operation needs to plan for some pre-cooking of foods and preparation of beverages just before the peak hours to reduce wait time complaints and create a more satisfying service experience.

2. Unavailable or Out of Stock Product – this is usually a good sign when a product goes out of stock, but if it stays out of stock for some reasons (eg. export ban), customers can become impatient for its return and instead patronise your competitors or settle for other alternatives.

Suggested solution – The service crew and outlet managers should be trained and be knowledgeable to apply the SCAMPER principles:

– Substitute

– Combine

– Adapt

– Modify

– Put to Another Use

– Eliminate

– Rearrange

As a service crew, one might have no idea when the new stocks will be available. The employee should suggest substitute products or combine different options to satisfy the customer’s needs. When all possibilities are exhausted, and the customer still insists on the same product, the service crew should report the issue to their managers promptly. The crew then requests for the customers’ contact details (eg. email address, mobile phone number, etc) so that he/she could be informed when the item is available. This will assure your customers that their concerns are being addressed.

3. Lack of Follow Up – When a complaint is filed, it is usually expected by the customers that the company follow up on their cases. The customers will have different expectations for follow-up communication. Some will expect a series of regular and timely updates while others will be more patient, depending on the severity of the issue. Hence, it is important that you are prompt in responding to their complaints else your customers may think you have forgotten about their case. If this falls beyond a reasonable response time, there might be possible repercussion or even serious consequence with the customer taking their complaints openly on the social media channels.

Suggested solution – If you do have to follow up on a case, your service crew or outlet manager should make the communication expectations clear to your customer (eg. complaints would be addressed within a certain timeline). If your internal team is having trouble keeping track of follow up, you should consider adopting a logging system directly attached to the customers’ profiles.

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