Creating a Positive Outcome From a Negative Customer Experience.

Why a customer service failing is an opportunity for your business.

We all screw up from time to time. Staff screw up, you as the owner screw up, and even customers screw up.

Mistakes happen; it’s a simple fact of life, but what’s important is making sure the same mistake doesn’t happen twice, to learn from it, and wherever possible turn a negative customer experience into an opportunity.

It’s an opportunity to learn, it’s an opportunity to train and most importantly it’s an opportunity to turn any negative customer experience into an amazing customer service experience. The sort of customer experience that they’ll tell their friends about, and turn them into loyal regulars.

In this post we’ll look at why a customer complaint can be such a great opportunity for your café or restaurant.

And, as a special bonus, I’ve included a downloadable guide to help you deal with those awful negative customer reviews that might pop up online.

Creating a positive out of a negative

As restaurant owners you’re in the business of providing hospitality. And that means looking after your customers’ needs and building a great rapport with them.

A complaint gives you a great opportunity to build this rapport in a way you normally would be able to, by demonstrating to them that you take their experience and their satisfaction seriously.

And by remedying the issues generously, quickly and professionally, you have the opportunity to wow them.  The outcome of this is a delighted customer, and those customers will most likely keep on coming back; and also tell their friends about their outstanding turn of events.

A customer service failing of any description is also a great opportunity learn. What was is it that caused this issue and how do we ensure it never happens again?

These sorts of learnings are what helps you refine and streamline your business. And often highlights an area of risk that could have far greater repercussions further down the track. 

It’s also a great training opportunity for your staff. Raising the issues with them in a really supportive way, by getting their thoughts and ideas on how to prevent the failing in the future, will help them learn.

Who’s fault is it?

It doesn’t really matter.  A negative customer experience can be can be caused by more than just a screw up or misunderstanding on the part of the restaurant.

It could be the customer’s fault.

Or, it could be caused by something indirectly connected with the dining occasion.  Perhaps the battery has run flat on their phone. Maybe they dropped their favorite winter coat in a puddle getting out of a taxi, or maybe they locked their keys in the car.

It could be anything. Whatever it is though, it’s not the fault of you or your staff, but it will have tarnished their experience. And there’s likely to be an opportunity for you to turn it around for them.

Think about the last example. Let’s say, as they’re leaving, your customer discovers they locked their keys in the car. That will have certainly put a dampener on their night; you could just leave them to solve the problem themselves.

Or, your staff could suggest to them that they take a seat while they call the roadside assistance on their behalf. Offer them some coffee or a glass of wine on the house, and make sure the great hospitality they were enjoying up until then carries on until the keys are returned.

In that example, you’ve been able to create an opportunity to look after a great future customer and provide them with a great experience far beyond their expectations.

How to create positive outcomes

Empower your staff: Make sure your staff fully understand the importance of creating a positive outcome, and your commitment to making sure every negative experience is turned into a positive one.

Be gracious: Be aware that one way or another you’re going resolve the issue, so it may as well be done with as much positivity, empathy and care as possible.

Correct quickly: If the solution is swift it’s likely to be cheaper and more impactful.

Be generous: Ensure that the value of the solution is greater than the cost of the mistake.  It’s likely that a generous remedy will be a great investment that will pay you back many times over in the long run.

Get the facts: Get all the facts from your staff (if you can do so discretely and quickly).  Not only will this help you work out the most appropriate solution, but it will help ensure your staff feel empowered and valued. It will also help them learn.

In Summary

No matter who’s to blame, there’s always an opportunity to craft a positive outcome out of a negative experience. And if done promptly with grace and generosity, you will almost certainly be creating an experience that will reward you well in the long run.


Despite your best efforts; the occasional bad review may pop up online. Is it something to panic about, and what should you do about it?

You can find out by downloading the ultimate guide to dealing with bad online reviews below.


Download the Ultimate Guide

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