I have mentioned before that customers who leave unhappy will end up telling a lot of people (ultimately over a thousand with social media). If you can catch them before they go out the door, you can save about 83% of those–a substantial number.
You can’t save the 83% of unhappy customers, however, if you are not paying attention. Most customers are not going to speak up when things aren’t going well for them, they feel awkward in doing so. I have always loved that one. The server does their part and checks back often to make sure everything is okay, and the guest says, “Yes.” How can they fix any potential problem if they aren’t aware there is a problem? Kind of annoying.
It’s a two-way street
However, the server must claim some responsibility here. Yes, the customer did say everything was all right, but did the server notice any of those obvious signs that things are not all right? Did that server happen to notice some of that customers body language, for example?
Like I said, most customers are not going to speak up. We have to pry it out of them. That is, if we want them to leave somewhat happy and not go tell thousands of others that your restaurant sucks. So, if you don’t want them to complain to others about your restaurant, try to notice those things, those signs that they are not happy.
Did they eat their food?
When you cleared the table, was there a lot of food left on the plate? Kind of an obvious sign. Were they pushing the food around and not putting it in their mouth? Did you happen to notice them looking around a lot? Maybe they needed something–like some silverware to eat it with. Are they simply not eating what is in front of them while everyone else at the table is chowing down? I would investigate.
Those are some ideas of what I would call clear signs that things are not going as well as the customer would like. Remember, they are spending a lot of money, and it is not up to us to decide whether or not the steak is the proper medium-rare or not, or if the fish is cooked enough for them, even if you know it tastes better and is more moist if it is a little underdone. They are the ones who are paying for it and eating it, so let them decide if it is or isn’t. And then be sure to keep an eye on them to make sure they are enjoying it.