QSRs and hotels have embraced the notion of customer feedback. We’re inundated by surveys, comment cards, and “tell us how we did” prompts.

The interesting thing is that all of these methods of gathering feedback produce structured data that can be (unintentionally or not) manipulated by the business. For example;

  • “Please tell us how good your food was” – Manipulative because it positions the food as being “good”
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  • “What other restaurants would you compare us to? Please choose” – The comparison restaurants may or may not be similar in concept or food and beverage offerings.  The business is forcing the survey respondent to  limit their answer to a pre-selected set of answers.  This type of question (multiple choice) is inherently manipulative for a survey response.
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  • “Rate your experience” – This question limits what a respondent can discuss.  They may have 20 great details they wish to share, but the one negative detail will cloud their overall perception and therefore skew their score.  This is the fundamental problem with the “stars” rating system used by so many review sites.

 

By limiting the methods of response, cleverly wording questions, or simply using different types of questions, a business can “force” the responses of their customers.  Not all of this type of manipulation is bad however.  A business may have a known problem area they wish to address and can use a survey to ask specific questions about it.  They may wish to use the information to measure or track their employee performance and use quantitative scales to do so.  These are tried and tested uses of surveys that can help a business optimize their operations.

Approaches like these are valuable tools, but the one key element they struggle with is the ability to uncover what’s actually on their customer’s minds.  You may be asking about your service when your customers are really more interested in telling you about your food and beverages.  In order to best understand what a customer really wants you to know, we need to open up our options of receiving and understanding feedback.

Think about it from this example.  Which of the two methods of feedback is more valuable?  Consider that they are both commenting about the same topic, “service”, and that it is the same customer providing both methods of feedback.

  • A traditional survey response rating “service” as a 1 out of a possible 10 points.
  • A Facebook comment from that same customer that says “The service was fine, but the waiter spilled a water glass on my shoe!  At least they apologized about it, but c’mon!”

 

The Facebook comment explains why the customer was unhappy with thee service, but it also informs you the service the customer received appeared to be okay. These types of nuances simply cannot be ascertained from a traditional survey question and can be a critical to your evaluation of a disgruntled customer.

Over the past month alone, we have gathered and analyzed over a million customer comments posted on sites like Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Twitter for our clients.  An amazing amount of feedback that continues to see double digit growth month over month.  These are unprompted, top-of-mind comments directly from customers who ate at your restaurant, stayed at your hotel, or shopped at your store.   Just gathering and reading this feedback alone is valuable, but we take it one step further and analyze it down to individual insights that can be used to optimize your operations.

While traditional surveys have been the benchmark for guest satisfaction for many years, the smart businesses are starting to realize that using unprompted customer feedback gathered from Social Media sources can be at least, if not more valuable to their business.

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