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Customers are always right - how to listen to them more closely

 Jos useampikin kyseisen ravintolan asiakkaista äänestää jaloilla, niin kokilla ei luultavasti olekaan kohta enää kiire.

We recently had lunch at a very well-known restaurant. We have been there as a work group several times and the service has worked great every time. Every time we have finished our meal, the waiter has come to collect our dishes and at the same time asked for our feedback on the food. Our answers have basically always been the same: "Thank you, the food was really good."

Has our opinion been the same every time? Not necessarily, but this is the most common way to respond verbally to a asked for feedback. Well, last time we were eating at that restaurant, the food was for some reason very slow. There were many people in the restaurant and the cooks had their full work to get the food done.

After the meal, when the waiter again asked for our satisfaction, our answer was the same as always - the food was just fine. However, due to the delay in service last time, we will probably go to another restaurant next time to eat. During the work day you don't want to spend much time on eating. If more than one customer of that restaurant votes with their feet, the cooks won't probably have time anymore.

If we had been offered the opportunity to give feedback honestly and anonymously, our dissatisfaction with the speed of food service would have been known. In addition, the restaurant would know that we were very satisfied with the quality of the food. However, speed weighed more in our balance than quality, so solutions to improve it should be found as soon as possible.

 

Video: How to take different answering styles into account in surveys - eliminating response bias

 

What is the best way to collect unbiased feedback at point of sales?

The starting point is that customers rarely actually tell their opinions, especially verbally directly to the employee. Of course, if there is something especially praiseworthy, someone brave expresses it. Also, dissatisfaction is not told openly by many. At least not by those who are a little bothered, but not so much that they would bother to complain about it. It is easier to not come back.

However, we understand that understanding the opinions of customers could help a restaurant like in my example to keep their customers, improve the customer experience and get more customers recommended by the current ones. The only requirement is that opinions must be collected and understood.

First of all, it would be wise to list the most important actions that affect customers, such as the menu, friendliness of service, speed, dining space, etc. After that, I would recommend choosing no more than five of the most important areas from which feedback is collected from customers on a regular basis.

It is important that the questions have been thought through to the last detail. The feedback could be asked with a tablet at the entrance or directly at the table. The survey should ask how well the chosen areas have been managed and how important the asked matters are to the customer. In this way, the most important strengths and development areas will be found out.

In addition, an opportunity for free feedback should be given, which is a good supporting type of question next to a 2 dimensional question that assesses both importance and fulfillment of given suggestions. Free feedback often helps to understand the reasons for the feedback received and it is nowadays easy to assess sentiments and adjectives in a free form text as well.

However, open text feedback should not be used as the main source of information. Neither is a mere satisfaction meter enough, because it does not help to understand why satisfaction or dissatisfaction arises. The feedback asked should be analyzed continuously - it is a process, not a project.

It would be good to look at how the previous week was successful and how the previous week was compared to, for example, the current year. In this way, we always stay on the pulse of satisfaction and the factors affecting it. The mere collected data does not help much yet. When customers start to be understood, taking the data into practice is the thing that takes us towards success.

 

How should the collected data be utilized?

There should be a clear model for utilizing the data. For example, one in which only one most important strength and only one most important development area are chosen each week. This is because when only one focus area is chosen, it will definitely be focused on. Moreover, typically a week is not a long enough time frame to address multiple development goals.

When development area has been selected, there should be a clear responsible person who takes care or at least supervises the actions needed. When everyone knows the strength and development area, the action plan tells how the strength is further strengthened and the development area is developed. The action plan can be verbal and very simple.

The most important thing is that the responsible person informs the staff, which takes the feedback into practice. Next week, the report is looked at again and it is seen that the development area has developed and the strength has become a real competitive advantage. With such a simple model, customers become immediately more satisfied and the staff more motivated. It is important that listening to customers becomes a habit and part of the culture. Equally important is that customers are given the opportunity to give their opinion anonymously immediately after the service situation.

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