Profitt Report: How to react in a bad customer service situation

How you react in a bad customer service situaiton can make all the difference in getting what you paid for. Photo credit: MGN

We’ve all been there: your food was cold at a restaurant or your hotel room wasn’t properly cleaned. Bad customer service happens, but how you handle it could make all the difference.

If your first reaction is get angry, that’s understandable. The New York Times quoted a consumer psychologist saying, feeling disrespected taps into a primitive part of our brains that is tied to survival, and not being overlooked. However, the first step to getting what you want in a bad service situation is to keep this in check.

If you run into bad customer service, there are a few tools you can use. First, instead of quietly fuming, speak up.

“Always encourage people to say something about it because what it does, is make it better,” said Karianne Martus, Flint Farmers’ Market manager.

We checked in with the Michigan State University School of Hospitality for advice on how to approach a bad service situation.

“The thing we tell students at the school of hospitality business is, complaints are actually golden nuggets,” said Dr. Jeff Beck, an associate professor at MSU.

He said most businesses want your feedback and they want to fix it. Dealing with the bad service in quiet rage hurts you and doesn’t give the business a chance to redeem themselves.

Next, while you’re speaking up, do so tactfully.

“Use a little humor or a little bit of honey if you will, so really try to coach that server or coach that manager because the truth is, if you tell them before you leave, they can respond and they can resolve,” Beck said.

Beck suggests taking the attitude of “hey, I’m trying to help you by alerting you to a problem” instead of taking the problem personally.

Last, be specific about what they can do to fix the problem. Want a discount on your meal? A free dessert? Ask for it.

“If you don't get the kind of response you're looking for, call for somebody else,” he said.

Beck said to use this only if the person you’re speaking with isn’t cooperating. Then, it’s time for a manager to intervene.

“Sometimes it's better to go to someone that hasn't heard about and doesn’t know what's happening and give a new take on it, it gives them an opportunity to look at it with new eyes,” Martus said.

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