Silver service: How to deal with ‘that’ customer

We've all been there. You are trying to get through your day at work and then 'that' customer comes in. The high-pressure individual that demands a lot and essentially goes out of their way to ruin your day. Working in the hospitality sector is all about customer service, so it can often be difficult to maintain this if someone is just being difficult.

Often you will find that you will bear the brunt of angry customers, even if it is not your fault, as it is essentially your job to find a solution the more you reach management levels. If someone's food is cold, you may need to replace their order, for example, even if another waiter was too slow. If you are facing nasty comments, you can diffuse the situation by thinking of just one word: LAST. This is a model to base your behaviour on:

L is for listen: Allow the customer to vent and be sure to clarify anything that you may not understand. Listening is key to ensuring you understand the full extent of the problem.

A is for apology: This needs to be as sincere as possible, even if you feel like you have not done anything wrong.

S is for solution: Try and think of different ways in which you could solve the issue, as often the solution is quite easy. This could be anything from offering a new room in hotels or replacing the meal. Ask the customer if the appropriate solution is right for them before carrying the action out. Try and avoid using the word 'no' ever, but if there is no solution to the problem, it is best to bring in a manager as they will be able to reject the customer with tact and professionalism.

T is for thanks: Once the issue has been resolved, be sure to thank the guest for not only bringing the issue to your attention but for being patient. This may be done whilst smiling and gritting your teeth, but it ensures that customer satisfaction and retention is maintained.

If you remember this code, you should be able to deal with the situation correctly and appropriately. Generally, you should be aware of how far to go. If the customer starts engaging in objectionable behaviour, and your manager cannot sort it out, it may be worth getting in touch with security. If your customer is using aggressive language and behaviour, you have gone as far as you can go and you need to leave it to security to deal with it. The same rule applies if a customer is either drunk or under the influence of drugs.

If you feel like you are dealing with difficult customers too much and it is having an impact on your general psychological state, it is worth flagging the issue up with your manager, as it may hamper your work performance over time, only leading to even more disgruntled customers. Difficult individuals naturally come with hospitality jobs, but as long as you know how to handle them, you can avoid a sticky situation.