Worried About Word of Mouth? Deliver a Great Experience

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Worried About Word of Mouth? Deliver a Great Experience

by Saraswati Kheterpal Mehta | February 27, 2018


Customer complaints represent opportunity. Organizations that effectively act on customer complaints can turn those bad experiences into a great ones.


I recently dined out for my birthday dinner at a mid-sized non-chain Italian restaurant in the city. My expectations were high because I had been there once before and had a very good time. So, yes, I was a satisfied and loyal customer at that time.

It was a Sunday evening, which usually gets busy at restaurants, but this day it seemed excessively busy. We received so little attention that it took a long time to place our order, special requests such as shifting to another table due to a cold draft at our table were ignored, and our food was accidentally delivered to the wrong table.

It was an awful start. I could not stop myself from complaining to the restaurant manager. However, as it was a busy evening, my complaint did not even get proper attention. I began to wonder if I had made a wrong choice that evening!

The manager approached me, heard me out, apologised briefly for the service. But he still refused to move us to another table. By this time, we had given up and just wanted to eat the meal ordered and leave politely. No doubt I would have told many friends about this unpleasant experience.

At that point, I was thinking that I should make them read the excerpt from Dr. Claes Fornell’s book explaining the simple economics about maximising complaints, relative to the number of dissatisfied customers, because the opportunity costs of not doing so are higher than dealing with the complaint.


The trick to his success that evening was that he acted to repair the situation, and turned an unhappy customer into a happy customer.


But things suddenly changed.

The manager came back, saying he will do what he can to make the evening special, and that he did not want his customers to spread negative reviews about his restaurant. I’m guessing he saw the disappointment on our faces. He was a smart manager who recognized that a satisfied customer drives advocacy, which then drives future business. He knew that word of mouth is a financial currency which he cannot afford to lose!

Not only were we told to shift to a nice warm corner table (and note I said we were ‘told’ and not ‘asked’!), we were also served freshly cooked food, and given a complimentary dessert and a birthday song.

Last but not the least, we had a one-to-one conversation with the manager, which earned him a few extra brownie points for empathy from us when he shared that the bad service at the start was caused by another table which was booked for ten guests whilst they ended up as twenty which added a lot of sudden pressure on him and his staff (understood!).

The trick to his success that evening was that he acted to repair the situation, and turned an unhappy customer into a happy customer.

My marketing mind learned a lot from this mid-size business manager. I could see the direct outcome of his actions: I left the restaurant as a satisfied customer, and I willingly wrote a positive review for this restaurant on social media, which I rarely do.

At the end of the day, this restaurant manager saved himself from losing a loyal customer. And good word of mouth is a financial currency no one can afford to lose!


CFI Group offers expertise in helping businesses measure and manage customer satisfaction that drives desired customer behaviours like loyalty and advocacy. Contact us for more information so that you make investments where you’ll realize the greatest ROI.


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