Customer Experience News & Trends

Lawsuit shows how NOT to handle customer complaints

Customers can be irrational, over-demanding and downright out of line. But that’s never cause to give employees carte blanche when dealing with customer complaints.

Training, oversight and good hiring of customer-facing employees can keep your organization out of the legal hot water Texas Roadhouse recently faced.

Here’s what happened:

A customer didn’t like his steak, so he sent it back to the kitchen, demanding a better one. The cook took offense and stuck some of his hair in the new piece of meat, which was boxed for the customer to take home.

When the customer cut into his steak the next day he found the offending hair, gagged — and called a lawyer.

In his suit, the customer claimed the restaurant didn’t properly hire, supervise or train its employee, who caused the harm.

Although the court ruled that the restaurant wasn’t liable, it had to deal with an expensive and lengthy trial (it ended up at appeals court before being resolved) and a slap to its reputation.

How to avoid anything like this

You can’t supervise employees at all times. And you certainly wouldn’t ever expect any of them to ever do something so profane to a customer. But you still want to take steps to make sure all interactions remain professional.

When hiring, ask candidates to share an experience when they had to deal with a negative customer and what they did to handle it. Listen for cues that they did what was in the best interest of customers.

When training, emphasize that all procedures, processes and best practices are in place for the good of customers and the company. Give employees options for backup help and stress relief when they have to work with tough customers.

When supervising, show employees alternative ways to handle a variety of tough situations. Give them time to vent their frustrations and share similar experiences you’ve had and how you dealt with them.

Source: Hansen v. Texas Roadhouse, Inc.

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