How to deal with difficult customers [+ examples]

7 min read
Sep 19, 2023 6:05:15 AM



In hospitality, dealing with difficult customers is as inevitable as the sun rising in the east. And even if a customer is being unreasonable, it’s important to deal with the problem head on without faltering on the level of customer service delivered. After all, 80% of customers will forgive a bad experience if they view the service team as ‘very good’.  

Venues can also learn from these complaints. Nine times out of ten, a customer complaint may indicate there’s a wider issue at stake, which can help you improve areas including customer service and dish quality. 

For example, if you’re a family friendly venue and are getting several complaints about children running around and screaming you could implement activities like colouring to prevent this from happening. 

At Yumpingo, we’ve helped many restaurants improve their customer satisfaction levels by analysing customer complaints. Here’s our advice on how to handle these situations. 

The rise of businesses being shamed on social media 

With the rise of people shaming businesses on social media for poor customer service or quality of food, it’s becoming increasingly important for businesses to get the customer experience correct the first time.

For example, a sushi restaurant in Canada got an influx of negative reviews after one TikToker claimed they shamed her for ordering too much food. This highlights how one interaction with your customer can escalate and lead to negative reviews that damage brand reputation, and ultimately impact the footfall and bottom line.

We understand that you can’t get everything right all the time, after all, no one is perfect. But sometimes customers only think about their experience, and in this day and age, they’ll hop onto social media to share their experiences and opinions. While you can’t control what people put on the internet (and it may not always be entirely accurate), it’s important that you put measures in place to manage what people are saying. Offering different ways for customers to express their opinions and frustrations directly to your company could also prevent them from sharing them on social media, helping you protect your brand reputation. 

If you’re constantly getting complaints about certain aspects of your service, it may be beneficial to find a simplified way to maximise guest and team engagement through using a trustworthy customer experience management system, like Yumpingo. 

Our system benefits from:

  • One inbox – This allows you to create a repository of real-time sentiment from social media, review sites, emails and Yumpingo reviews.
  • Case management – This gives you real-time notifications and allows teams to respond quickly and with the right message. 
  • Automated workflows – This gives you the opportunity to automate repetitive tasks and workflows to reduce team responsibilities and ensure brand compliance. 

To learn more about how you can maximise guest and staff engagement, request a demo today. 

Simple tips to learn from customer complaints 

Dealing with tough customers can be hard, but there’s no need to worry as there are a few ways you can easily handle these challenging situations, such as: 

Train your staff to stay calm

When a customer is being rude or yelling, staying calm can help diffuse the situation or prevent it from escalating further. It’s unlikely that the customer is angry with you and is instead likely frustrated by the quality of food or service provided by the restaurant as a whole. 

In stressful situations, it can be easy for staff to lose their temper and act unprofessionally. Taking the time to breathe can help reduce stress and anger and help servers navigate an uncomfortable situation professionally.

When a member of the team is feeling overwhelmed and breathing exercises or counting to ten isn’t cutting it, let them know it’s okay to ask for help or walk away (professionally of course).

Teach empathy

Sometimes all a customer wants is to feel understood. Displaying empathy will show the customer that you are taking their concerns and complaints seriously and have every intention of finding a solution. 

One way you can show empathy is by saying something like ‘I’m sorry that the service hasn’t been up to standard this evening, I’ll work with my manager to resolve this for you and make sure it doesn’t happen again’. This validates the customer’s feelings and highlights that you’re working hard on finding a quick fix for their problem. 

Ensure staff don’t make any promises they can’t keep

While it’s easy to make a promise to keep a customer happy, you really should avoid promising something you can’t deliver. People will expect you to follow through and when you don’t meet their expectations it’ll only intensify the situation further. 

Provide quick responses and solutions

Engaging with the customer promptly can help the customer feel valued and that their complaint is being dealt with properly. For example, a CX Trends Report found that 76% of shoppers expect to engage with someone immediately after they’ve reached out to a business for help.

Teach servers how to maintain a positive relationship

Maintaining a positive relationship with your customers can show them that you respect and appreciate their feedback. It could even encourage them to return in the future if you demonstrate that you can fix any outstanding issues. By asking the customer if they have any other concerns it shows that you were listening and want to know about other issues you may be able to resolve. 

Record feedback

Recording customer feedback is important as management can look back at it to identify any recurring issues. Yumpingo can help managers pinpoint any continual issues with food, helping you find solutions and reduce how often you need to deal with customer complaints.

5 Types of customer and how to handle them

Type of customer Example problem Solution
Customers repeatedly complaining If customers are complaining about the same thing again and again, such as the chips always being cold, it’s a sign that something needs to be changed.

Reinforce to your staff that these complaints aren’t personal. They should look into whether the restaurant is getting the same complaints on a frequent basis and come up with any solutions to prevent them from occurring. 

The customer that refuses to accept they’ve made a mistake

We all know that at some point we haven’t been able to admit when we’re wrong. This can often be the case for customers in restaurants. 

For example, they may be adamant that they booked a table for today but actually they booked it for tomorrow. The customer may stress they are right and your system is wrong, causing an issue where one isn’t needed.

Once again this is another situation that requires patience, calmness and empathy. If there are no tables available, it’s best to apologize to the customer and not make any promises you can’t keep. 

For example, you could say something like ‘Apologies, your booking is on our system for tomorrow and we’re at capacity. If you come back in an hour we may have a table available for you, but we can’t make any promises’.

Customers complain about waiting time

All restaurants should know when their peak times are and if you’re not preparing for them to run as smoothly as possible then you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Using Yumpingo you can see your trending dishes, helping you better prepare properly for more popular dishes and busier periods.
The customer that resorts to verbal abuse Some customers don’t handle their temper well and resort to verbal abuse to get their point across.

Your team shouldn’t have to put up with verbal abuse in the workplace. In these situations, It’s perfectly okay for staff to walk away from the situation and get help from another colleague or manager if needed.

The customer with a ridiculous complaint

Some customers will complain about absolutely everything or anything.

For example; a customer may complain about there being no meat in their vegetarian dish. 

But do you have the data and knowledge to figure out which complaints are genuine or ridiculous?

Collecting data surrounding customer experience and creating smart actions, as well as ensuring your staff are trained properly can help you deal with and resolve issues effectively.


Learn from customer feedback

The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If a venue is getting a high volume of complaints, it’s time to start looking for a solution. 

One solution is introducing customer satisfaction surveys. These surveys are a popular method of collecting feedback in hospitality, as they can be easily distributed by email within an hour of a customer’s visit or it can be completed at the customer’s table at the restaurant. 

Customer satisfaction surveys give you the ability to ask structured questions to help you dig a little bit deeper into feedback. As well as hospitality businesses being able to receive them immediately, you can gather responses from a variety of people with mixed views.

At Yumpingo our customer experience management platform can help you harness the power of customer feedback through seamlessly integrating our platform with your POS systems. 

We help you gather feedback through emails and in-store devices and can calculate an NPS score (Net Promoter Score) and Sentiment Score to help you fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of your whole brand promise. 

These insights could relate to:

  • How good each dish was 
  • Whether a server was friendly/knowledgeable/attentive/fast 
  • How their overall experience was
  • The cleanliness and ambience of the restaurant 

To learn more about how our customer management experience platform can help you use customer feedback to your advantage and reduce the amount of difficult customers you deal with, read our article on the power of customer feedback.


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