Top 10 Customer Complaints of 2012: #9 Interior Needs Some Work

Welcome back to our series on the top ten complaints about restaurants in 2012. If you missed the start of our countdown, check out #10 – Too Noisy.

Next up on our countdown:

# 9 – Decor needs updating




We were genuinely surprised that this type of complaint ranked so high (higher than noise). Turns out people notice those outdated chairs or bad paint job more than you might think.
Looking deeper into this type of feedback we find two types of messages. The first type, address cosmetic issues that diners would prefer were fixed but are not a direct hindrance to their experience. Still, they are general negative signals to customers that you don’t care enough about the business. This could result with the customer thinking that the products being sold or served are not receiving enough care either.
The second, and more common type, mention issues that directly harm the customer experience. In these situations, it may be more challenging to recover the customer, but it isn’t impossible. Additionally the quicker you fix these issues, the more likely you are not to lose additional customers as a result.
For example, comments such as “the place could use a makeover” or “how about updating the paint job?” suggest a general dissatisfaction with the décor. Definitely worth fixing but not as badly as this comment about “wobbly tables that caused my coffee to spill” or as “your roof leaked right into my granola. FAIL”. These types of problems can ruin the entire experience for your customer.
So what can you do? 
Well it’s pretty simple. With all the day to day hard work that goes into running a business, it’s easy to not notice the little things and to delay touching up here and there. The problem is, customers do notice and one day you may wake up and find yourself in a rundown dilapidated business, all alone. Keeping your place clean, updated, and inviting shows customers you care about your business and sends a tacit message that you also care about the products you sell to them. 
Make sure to have a maintenance schedule. Once in a set period of time inspect the property for any wear and tear. Check the tables, chairs, bathrooms, faucets, and other fixtures regularly. Set aside a part of your budget for restoration every month. 
Fix things as soon as possible. Keep a can of paint and paint brush handy to touch up surfaces as soon as they get scratched.  Keep some insulation tape for leaky faucets (but don’t let that linger, fix the cause of the problem asap). If the toilet seat gets cracked or the chair upholstery rips, bite the bullet and replace them. The cost is not terrible and it’s worth it. 
An important note here about wobbly tables: when a customer complains about these, it’s often the case that the staff (or even the customer themselves) try to fix the problem with some folded paper or a wad of napkins. While this is a good short-term fix, do NOT let this linger for long. Such makeshift solutions don’t last in the long run so the problem will recur shortly. And, they signal to customers that you don’t really care enough to fix the problem. It’s so easy to fix too; often it’s just a matter of repositioning or of removing something stuck underneath. Worst case, make or buy a wedge; even a door wedge works. Check out how to fix a shaky table.
Once in a blue moon, give your business a makeover. It doesn’t have to a full renovation. You can do a lot with a small budget and a couple days of hard work. A thorough cleaning, a paint job and some new art give patrons a sense of freshness and newness that makes your business exciting again. 
Get customers to tell you when something is wrong. OwnerListens (http://ownerlistens.com) is perfect for this. Think of each customer as a potential benevolent inspector. Customers are the ones using your facility every single day, they notice problems before you can find them, thus, giving you a chance to fix things quickly. Customers also really appreciate it when you fix things they complained about and let them know about it through the app. It makes them feel heard and cared for. In the end, they are much more likely to come back. 
Tell us about your experience:

Consumers – have suggestion for how your favorite local businesses can improve decor? Tell the owner with the OwnerListens app and we will make sure the owner receives your message!

Business Owners – Have a technique or solution for common issues such as wobbly tables? Tell us here in the comments!

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