Process Essay, 11 pages (2500 words)

The work process and operation in the restaurant industry

A restaurant is a place where you can eat a meal and pay for it. In restaurants your food is usually served to you at your table by a waiter or waitress.The restaurant service practitioner provides high quality food and drink service to guests, a continuing responsibility to work professionally and interactively with the guest in order to give satisfaction and thus maintain and grow the business. Service quality is a character, natural concept, which identifies understanding how the customers feels about service quality is all-important to effective management.A consumer complaint or customer complaint is “an expression of dissatisfaction on a consumer’s behalf to a responsible party” (Landon, 1980). It can also be described in a positive sense as a report from a consumer providing documentation about a problem with a product or service.

Among the wide range of different types of misbehaviour faced by frontline employees that is reported in the literature we find customer rage and violence (Grove et al., 2004), shoplifting (Babin and Babin, 1996), vandalism (Goldstein, 1996), sexual harassment (Gettman and Gelfand, 2007), drunkenness (Bitner et al., 1994), and illegitimate customer complaints (Reynolds and Harris, 2005). What is also reported is there’s an increase rate in the number of violent incidents against frontline employees (Huefner and Hunt, 2000; Nelms, 1998; Rose and Neidermeyer, 1999), as well growth in aggression (Gabriel and Lang, 1997). Some research even suggests that consumer misbehaviour is the average rather than the demur (Harris and Reynolds, 2004) and that front-line employees liable even can experience this as an unconscious ‘toxicity’, something that has a long lasting negative effect on employees’ feelings, the work environment and their relationships with customers and other employees (Stein, 2007, see also research on consequences of customer misbehaviour by Harris and Reynolds, 2003). In fact, these observations drive the research interest of coping strategies at frontline level and as such makes the issue critical for service marketing.

We argue that the literature is largely occupied by 9 phenomena such as what types of specific tactics that are used, what attitudes that are involved, what kind of recovery actions could be identified and what the implications for employees or organizational procedures are. However, although recognized as important, knowledge on the formation of tactics when dealing with customer misbehaviour seems to be limited. Further, we accounts for current conceptions as well as the debate concerning the concept of implicit (or tacit) knowledge in relation to practical judgement and show how this theory may be drawn on in order to address the limitations of previous research.

Employees’ coping strategies

Reynolds and Harris (2006) demonstrate 15 coping tactics that restaurant personnel use before, during, and after acts of dysfunctional customer behaviour. Tactics used include: (before) mentally preparing for work, changing one’s clothing, and observing customers from afar; (during) ignoring or pay off customers, using emotional labor such as faking sincerity and politeness, change personal speech patterns, or exploit the service scape by removing ashtrays or glasses; (after) temporary seclusion from others, talking to associate, or gaining revenge by, for example, sneezing deliberately on a customer’s food before serving it.

Within this area of research, we also find research focus on attitudes towards negative critical incidents (e.g. Lewis and Spyrakopoulos, 2001) as well as recapture actions and implications for organizational process (e.g. Lewis and Clacher, 2001). This stream of research commonly illustrates different actions used by employees to protect or shield themselves from agony or excessive demands, rather than focusing the kind of knowledge resources and practical judgement that informs such action.

Implicit knowledge and practical judgement

The applicability of the construct implicit knowledge is seen in the fact that the actions employees use in service encounters, to cope with emotionally charged dysfunctional behavior, include a number of skills, know-how, capabilities, and experiences—a wide range of more fuzzy knowledge resources. The literature, gives reasons to put analytical efforts also to these fuzzy knowledge resources beyond the more salient phenomena such as reflective thinking, decision-making, interpretations, i.e. what people perform. In regard to our purpose, it is evident that we can elaborate our comprehension of employees dealing with customer misbehaviour by examining their ongoing practices and paying regard to instances of both implicit knowledge structures and practical judgement procedures, both discussed in this section.

Implicit knowledge. Much current thinking in relation to crisis management, learning from failure and practice-based studies, reveals the significant role of implicit knowledge—a specific mode of knowing—in explaining actions such as in service encounters. Implicit knowledge is traditionally discussed in terms of tacit knowledge (Nonaka et al., 2000; Polyani, 1967), and more recently in terms of processual knowledge 12 (Kakihara and Sørensen, 2002), or knowledge-how (Gourley, 2006), necessary for practical judgement. This disconception is originally based on the idea of dividing knowledge into explicit and tacit, first introduced by Polanyi (1958), where ‘tacit knowledge’ is believed to escape representations and measurement but still matters when undertaking specific missions and activities. It is thought of as something mute and voiceless that we cannot partially explain. In this paper we coin this tacitness as ‘implicit’ due to our supposition that it is within reach of human investigation, possible to articulate and communicate, and not a mysterious residual. We argue that including implicit knowledge is a fruitful step to take for more in-depth analyses of employees dealing with customer misbehaviour. However, this proposal is open to certain objections discussed in the following.

In research, the notion of tacit knowledge has been found to be a profound philosophical question and the concept has no clear-cut definitions. A widespread view of tacit knowledge within organizational settings is the knowledge-based view of the firm displayed in the knowledge management literature. It holds that tacit knowledge can be managed as an organizational resource and has been shown to be important for the success of individuals (Nestor-Baker, 1999; Wagner and Sternberg, 1985), as well as being important for the work of organizations (Baumard, 1999; Hall, 1993; Lubit, 2001; Prahalad and Hamel, 1990). The field of knowledge management has produced a number of studies of how tacit knowledge is created (Nonaka and Takeushi, 1995; Von Krogh, Ichijo and Nonaka, 2000), disseminated (Davenport and Prusak, 1998; Dixon, 2000), and used (Boisot, 1998; Choo, 1998; Pfeffer and Sutton, 1999; Seely-Brown and Duguid, 2000). In knowledge management discourse, tacit knowledge is said to be ‘embedded’ in 13 ‘repositories’ (e.g. individuals, roles and structures, organizational practices, culture, and the physical structure of the workplace) or ‘reservoirs’ (e.g. organization members, tools, and tasks, and combinations of these three elements) (Argote and Ingram, 2000: 152– 153), or ‘materialized’ into ‘knowledge object[s]’ such as documents (Garavelli et al., 2002: 270). Furthermore, tacit knowledge is deeply rooted in each individual’s actions and experiences, as well as in the ideals, values, and emotions they embrace. Subscribing to the view that knowledge is not like other resources, numerous writers argue (with a sigh of resignation) that there is one component of knowledge that we cannot fully codify and represent; that there always is something indeterminate, fluid, and ambiguous in knowledge—which is thought of as the tacit component (Baumard, 1999; Lam, 2000). Although, some doubt if it can be managed like other forms of resources (Grant, 1996; Teece, 1998) it is claimed to be central for individual action even if research efforts on this is limited.

Practical judgement. Drawing on Baumard (1999) who claims that there are two sides to tacit knowledge: (1) ‘a cognitive dimension, e.g. paradigms, mental models, representations’, and (2) ‘a technical dimension, e.g. know-how, expertise applied to a specific context’ (Baumard, 1999: 59), it seems to be suitable to disconnect the concept of implicit knowledge from practical judgement. Implicit knowledge is always enacted in a practical dimension of doing, performing, assessing in different situations. In line with this, Insch et al. (2008) propose a multidimensional model of the underlying dimensions of tacit knowledge, adding to Baumards (1999) cognitive and technical skills dimensions, a third dimension that incorporates Wagner’s (1987) concept of a social dimension of tacit knowledge, e.g. knowledge of self, tasks, and other people. Hager (2000) makes a related point when arguing that much of what gets classified as tacit knowledge actually appears to be the professional exercise of judgement, problem solving in novel 16 circumstances—agents could give an account of their reasons and may often have to do so (in Perraton and Tarrant, 2007). As Styhre (2004) points out, knowledge is the totality of a human being’s capacities and skills and must be examined as such, not through his or her abilities to express, represent, or codify these capacities. In brief, knowledge must be examined as knowledge and not as a text or a symbolic system. This is also demonstrated in Beckett’s (2008) conceptual analysis of holistic competence, where the term judgement-in-context is central, referring to sensitivity to specifics in the immediate workplace context and the employees’ actions in making judgements regarding how to proceed. Judgements are practical in the sense of being appropriate to the context in which they are embedded. Hence, to unearth the formation of employees’ coping strategies we need to address implicit knowledge structures as well as practical judgement made in the interaction.

Current understanding of complaint satisfaction is limited (Kim et al., 2003) as research has focused predominantly on the customer’s attitude toward complaining (Richins, 1982), attribution of blame (Folkes, 1984), and the likelihood of a successful solution (Singh, 1990). Further, research has focused on the complaining customer rather than employee characteristics (McAlister and Erffmeyer, 2003). Consequently, little is known as to how customers evaluate the recovery process (Holloway and Beatty, 2003). However, recent work by Wirtz and Mattila (2004) found that satisfaction is the main variable in service recovery, acting as a mediator variable and explaining the relationship between post-recovery behaviors and service recovery dimensions.

Categorization of customers may help employees to reduce complexity and better organize, interpret, and evaluate customer interaction (Sharma and Levy, 1995; Szymanski, 1988). For example, observable characteristics such as demographic may be used to change the complaint handling process to customers’ expectations and needs. While research studies have identified differences between female and male customers information processing and decision-making styles (e.g. Iacobucci and Ostrom, 1993; Meyers-Levy and Maheswaran, 1991), listening activities in retail interactions (e.g. McKechnie et al., 2007), and service quality insight (e.g. Spathis et al., 2004), only few researchers have investigated whether female and male customers differ in their complaining behavior (e.g. Keng et al., 1995; Solnick and Hemenway, 1992). In a service recovery context, McColl-Kennedy et al. (2003) found that male and female customers had significantly different preferences in terms of how companies should handle service recovery. Their research showed women as being more involved than men, wanting more deliberation during the service recovery process, and accommodate those service providers with befitting social skills during recovery encounters. They wanted to provide input, present their point of view, and be included in conclusions. While women were especially interested in how the company controls the service recovery process, male customers were more concerned with the result of a service Handling Customer Complaints. Further, Hess et al. (2003) found that female customers have higher service recovery expectations than male customers.

How you control customer questions will settle whether they return to your restaurant in the future. Complaints are inevitable in the restaurant domain. They range from food and service problems to your customers’ individual temperaments. Whatever the problem, it’s important to solve the dispute in a professional way. Here are some tips to support you handle customer disputes at your restaurant.

Listen Carefully

It’s important to listen and let the customer completely finish talking before jumping into the conversation. Don’t get defensive. Remember that the customer is not attacking you personally. He/she just wants a solution to the problem.

Listening is the most important step when dealing with customer query. Your customer will probably feel better just by release the problem to you.

It frequently helps to repeat the customer’s words to make sure you fully understand and proving you have listened well. Even if you can’t mend the argument, it still projects good will to listen.

Stay Calm

You may not feel your customer is right, but since you work in the service business, and customers are your livelihood, handle them with respect. It may be difficult especially if they are criticizing you. Stay calm and control yourself no matter how irritating the customer and unreasonable (or reasonable) the issue.

Watch Your Body Language

You may sound genuine, but your body could be telling a completely different story. The way you stand or sit and look at your customer speaks louder than words.

A few guidelines to show you value their belief and their business is to maintain eye contact to your customer while they are stating their complaints. Don’t cross your arms over your chest, because you’re implying that you are closing the argument or you are not interested on what they are saying. Don’t roll your eyes, it is a sign that you are annoyed with them. Keep an “open” body position, you are indicating that you are open to what they are suggesting or to what they are complaining. Nod and smile when you are listening, it projects that you are sincerely listening to them.

Find Out What the Customer Wants

While you are listening carefully, try to find out what might make your customer feel better. Show that you are concern and be caring. Feel free to ask questions for more information. This helps you understand the customer’s point of view.

Your customer may not know what they really want, but it never hurts to ask. Try asking this question: “What is an acceptable solution to you?”

`You may not be able to give solution that they wanted, but at least you’ll know what it is. You can then suggest a solution of your own and try to come up with a set of opinions that is acceptable to your customers. Be your customer’s partner in solving the problem. Is their meat undercooked? Offer to cook something fresh. Was the service incredibly slow? Offer a discount or coupon.


Imagine being in your customer’s shoes. How would you feel? Your goal is to solve the problem; try not to argue and create a bigger disagreement. Your empathy goes a long way towards showing your customer you are ready to solve the problem.

It seems different from what you expect, but if you can effectively deal with your customer’s dispute, you just might turn him/her into a lifelong customer and promoter of your restaurant.

Apologize, Don’t Blame

If your customer knows you’re truly sorry, you’ll immediately diffuse some of the anger. Don’t blame the customer or your staff. The words, “I’m sorry,” will suffice.

Try saying their problem again in your apology to show that you understand and are working hard on solving the problem. For example: “I understand you aren’t happy about the wait, ma’am, but we are working as fast as we can to seat you. We really appreciate your patience and willingness to wait. May we get you a drink until your table is ready?”

Own the Mistake

It’s not hard to do take ownership of the argument, especially if you aren’t to blame for the customer’s problem. But, it is important to own it.

Be honest and open and let them know when the problem will be solved. This helps reduce the tension and solve the dispute.

Solve the Problem Quickly

Make sure that you solve the problem quickly and in person. If possible, don’t give them off to someone else. You’ll add to their frustration especially since you, or they, will have to explain the problem to another person.

Employees are obliged to handle customer complaints because it is the best and most cost effective way to solve a problem.

But, what happens when the customer escalates and gets loud and unruly? It’s probably time to call in the manager. Sometimes the presence of an authority figure can help diffuse the situation.

Consider a Freebie

Could you have prevented the problem? If so, then one of the best solutions is an apology and offer of compensation. Give freebies that don’t cost a lot and might help you maintain your customer’s business by giving them free drinks, free desserts, discount (or free comp) on their meal, gift certificate for a future visit or anything that will please the customer.

Say Goodbye to Formalities

Your customers don’t want to hear about your rules or your mission statement. They want you to listen and treat them as individuals. You might have to sometimes “bend the rules” to solve a customer complaint. In the end this will cost you less than if your customer leaves and starts telling negative stories about your restaurant.

Remember that it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. Train your staff and give them the tools to solve customer complains faster and effectively to eliminate bad feelings about your restaurant. Learn from the complaints and try to avoid similar situations in the future.

Thanks for your opinion!
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