Complaints? Don’t get angry, get smart


Managing gripes with grace means your customer service is showing.

You can’t please everyone. It’s an expression worth remembering in foodservice, because there will be complaints. Great customer service means being able to handle them.

In healthcare, long-term care and senior living establishments, guests will speak out when they perceive you’ve fallen short of providing the best dining experience. Your team must be trained to be calm, fix the problem if they can and, ultimately, make sure guests know you’re listening. 

Brace yourself, prepare your team

Here are some best practices for managers and staff:

  • Management-level best practices
    • Support your staff.
    • Have an assigned delegate for complaints.
    • Ensure the process is guest-centred and timely.
    • Train your team on compliance policy, using a clear, timely process.
  • Staff-level best practices
    • Keep calm, don’t take things personally.
    • Allow your guest to present the problem.
    • Show active listening (make eye contact, pay attention).
    • Confirm your understanding by paraphrasing.
    • Do not challenge the complaint.
    • Acknowledge mistakes with sincerity.
    • Take responsibility and apologize. 
    • Genuinely thank your guest for pointing out a problem.
    • Offer solutions to fix the problem immediately.
    • Always smile. Do not argue, criticize, ignore or challenge.
    • Inform the manager about complaints and how they were resolved.

Always D.E.F.U.S.E. 

Remember this acronym when dealing with unhappy guests:

Don’t lose your cool.
Encourage customers to vent emotions.
Find out the facts.
Understand your guests’ feelings.
Suggest a way to fix the problem.
End on a positive note.

Manage diet order complaints

Guests in care settings may complain about prescribed diet orders – a legitimate complaint, but one that must be deferred to clinical staff. Here’s how to handle such complaints:

  • Explain that prescribed therapeutic and consistency diet orders can only be changed by a member of the healthcare team.   
  • Suggest that concerns can be brought to the foodservice manager.
  • Let the guest know you have escalated the issue.
  • If food quality and safety standards are not being met, report it to your manager.

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