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Metric Monday - Improving Customer Service Scores

Jenny Day
Jenny Day
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Receiving a bad review or customer complaint can feel defeating. Let’s face it, nobody wants to deal with someone who is disappointed or perhaps angry due to their experience in your restaurant. However, these negative interactions can be opportunities to build customer loyalty when handled correctly.

Restaurant customer service stats

According to smallbizgenius.com’s service statistics, more than 90% of customers who are dissatisfied with your product will never complain; they’ll simply leave. Those who leave will tell at least 15 of their buddies just how disappointing your business is. This leads to you losing customers (and potential customers) without a chance to understand why or correct a misunderstanding.

Here are a few other customer service stats from SmallBizGenius:

  • 95% of consumers indicate that customer service is important to their choice of brand and loyalty.
  • For 33% of consumers, the most important aspect of a good customer service experience is getting their issue resolved in a single interaction.
  • 51% of consumers think most brands don’t take action or make changes when they receive customer feedback.
  • 97% of consumers are more likely to maintain loyalty to a brand that implements changes based on their feedback.

Why is improving customer service scores important?

Improving customer service scores is important for the lifetime value of current customers, which can make up a large portion of your restaurant’s revenue. Customer retention statistics show that 65% of a company’s business comes from their existing customer base. And as an added bonus, customer loyalty helps bring in new customers since happy customers are more likely to recommend your product or service to others.

What is a good retention rate in the restaurant industry?

The restaurant customer retention rate sits at about 30%, which means that less than 70% of customers don’t come back to the same restaurant after visiting it once. This is why we need customer retention strategies specifically created for restaurants.

82% of companies agree that customer retention costs are cheaper than new customer acquisition. Improving your customer service score can create a loyal customer base. Following the steps below to get started on improving your customer service scores.

How to improve customer service scores

Address the issue quickly

If a customer feels slighted or disappointed, it’s best not to let them sit and stew over the issue. Talk to the server to hear their side of the story then quickly – but calmly – visit the table, return the phone call, or answer the email.

As a restaurant owner or manager, you should be checking Yelp, Tripadvisor, social media, and other restaurant review sites very regularly to watch for bad reviews. When you see a negative online review, it’s important to respond to it within a day or two.

Listen to the customer

The first step is to listen in order to thoroughly understand the customer’s issue. Often, complaints simply tie back to a misalignment of the customer’s expectation with the actual experience that has been delivered. Perhaps the guest is celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or some other important event and felt let down. Whether you or at fault or not, offer an empathetic ear.

Talk to the customer

If you receive a bad online review or a complaint via e-mail, be sure to pick up the phone and actually talk to the customer to understand the issue. While it is easier to stand behind tech tools and not have an actual conversation, resolving issues can prove to be difficult through a keyboard.

Remain neutral

No matter the complaint, don’t take it personally. Remember, people will often mirror the emotional signals you emit. If you respond with hostility and anger, don’t expect friendliness and understanding in return.

Find a solution

If mistakes were made, be honest, admit fault, apologize for any mishaps, and correct the situation in an appropriate manner. For example, if you server was having a bad shift and was rude to a guest then perhaps they are entitled to a free meal so that they do not feel that they wasted their hard earned money.

Meal comps are not the only way to appease customers. If there is a simple solution to an issue such as their appetizer was cold, simply replace the item but leave the charge on the bill. If you had to 86 their favorite menu item because you ran out of product, a gift card in the amount of that item and an invitation for them to come back to have it another time is very reasonable.

Train employees

Employee training should include well-built playbooks, role plays, and escalation paths. When a customer is dissatisfied, there is typically a positive outcome if the staff is trained to listen and empathize, defuse the situation, then take action. That is not as easy as it sounds, so that is where the role-play comes in.

Keep in mind that training is not a one-and-done activity. The more staff is trained the more likely they will be able to develop good judgment skills that can pivot based on the needs of the customer and business objectives. 

Create an escalation plan

If your server has properly tried to defuse the situation as trained, the next step is for the manager to check on the customer. Whether the customer was content with the way staff handled the situation or not, a manager should always double check to be sure the best resolution was reached and the customer leaves on a positive note.

Invite the customer back

As stated above, 90% of customers simply leave and do not come back after a disappointing interaction. If a customer has taken the time to discuss an unpleasant situation, always thank them for their feedback and invite them back to give your restaurant another try. If necessary, consider including an incentive to return such as a discount or a free appetizer or dessert.

Learn From Your Reviews

Reviews are great for learning about areas where your restaurant can improve. Keep a close eye out for trends and address the root of the problem. If you hear complaints that the bathrooms are dirty often, assign an employee to check it every hour without fail. If there are repeated mistakes regarding food, take the time to retrain the kitchen staff on recipes, portions, or plating.


Negative feedback is not the end of the world. Even the best restaurants make mistakes. In most situations with unhappy customers, the most important thing is to make sure the customer feels heard and that you are working toward a resolution.