TOP TIPS: Are your restaurant staff turning customers off?

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Dealing with tricky guests is never easy, but what affect is their negativity having on your staff?

It goes without saying that customer service can ultimately make or break your hotel’s reputation. Leave guests with a bad taste in their mouth and not only will they be discouraged to return but they won’t hesitate to jump on social media and let their fingers do the talking.

New research published in a report called Human Performance from Routledge has uncovered how counterproductive work behaviour by staff behind bars and in restaurants really affects the customer experience.

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Rude customers are a tricky breed and should be handled with the upmost attention and care, but put strain on staff making it difficult for them to really perform at their best.

The survey questioned 438 food service employees, including servers, hosts, bartenders and managers, and focused on how these staff members deal with the stress of stroppy customers. It found that unsurprisingly employees who experience extra stress from customers are more likely to lash out at guests in a negative way. Factors such as verbal aggression, unpleasant customers and ambiguous customer expectations can all contribute to a lack of positivity from staff.

Having frequent demanding interactions with customers is taxing on service employees who, despite feeling frustrated with or angered by customers, must maintain a friendly demeanour. The survey made the point that this may leave employees with few emotional resources left to allocate toward positive service behaviours.

"Food service employees generally do their best to provide a positive experience for customers," said Dr. Lisa Penney, one of the co-authors of the report. "However, they are human too, and the strain of dealing with extremely rude, demanding or difficult customers can manifest in ways that do not benefit customers."

The results of the survey pinpointed exactly what actions worked admitted to, when pushed by difficult customers. This included making fun of customers to someone else (79%), lying (78%), making a customer wait longer (65%), ignoring them (61%), acting rudely (52%), arguing (43%), to absolute extremes such as refusing a reasonable request (25%), confronting a customer about tips (19%), insulting a customer (14%) increasing a tip without permission (11%), contaminating food (6%), or threatening a customer (5%).

"The laborious emotional demands of these positions make it difficult for an employee to maintain positive emotions while managing any negative emotions they may experience on the job," said Dr. Emily M. Hunter, a co-author of the project.

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