Modern point of sale has opened up a whole new world of data analysis to small businesses, but for real insights you still need to go straight to your customers. This is especially true in hospitality, where there’s so much more to the experience than whether or not the meal was good.
Analytics can shine a light on sales trends that are useful to know, and act on, like your top selling dish or average turnaround per table. First-hand customer feedback, however, can help you better understand the real-world impact of those trends and why they’re even happening.
Data can’t described the individual’s experience
Of course, getting direct feedback isn’t easy. Most customers, when asked how everything was, will respond positively – but how many are just being polite? Not everyone who has a negative experience is going to leave hyperbolic rants on a review site.
In fact, businesses tend to hear from only 4 per cent of dissatisfied customers, unfortunately the rest just keep their mouths shut and never return.
The right data and reporting can show you a list of people who never returned, but to find out why you’re going to have ask them yourself – in a way that encourages honesty over politeness.
It can feel like a tricky balancing act, weighing the desire for feedback against not wanting to bother your customers, but we’ve got a few suggestions to help keep you on an even footing.
Email is still one of the best ways to reach your customers
According to Adestra, consumers prefer email as a way of staying in touch with the brands they’re connected with. In fact, some 95 per cent of professionals use email, making it one of the best forms of communication you can use to reach your customers.
Customers who have willingly given you their email addresses are people who already have an affinity for your restaurant, have opted-in to your email list, and your regulars who have dined at your venue often enough are probably in the best position to give you some very valuable feedback.
Besides, this is an audience that’s already into your restaurant, so their general feedback is going to be positive. Asking people who like you what they like about you isn’t an effective strategy.
Stick to questions that are more direct:
- What’s your least favorite dish on the menu?
- What’s one thing you’d like to see added to the menu?
- What’s one thing you’d change about our restaurant?
With questions like this, you’re asking your existing customers to name some things they aren’t getting. You can use an online service like SurveyMonkey, or you can just ask people to send their responses directly via email.
Offer a coupon or other incentive for participating, and you’ll get some valuable feedback for future improvements.
Bring a tablet to the table
At the end of the meal, your servers always ask how everything was. That’s all well and good to for them to get a general sense of your customers’ meals, but more pointed questions will get you more valuable answers.
Unfortunately, the wait staff doesn’t have time to ask a bunch of questions and record the answers. But don’t worry: there’s an app for that. Dozens of them actually.
When the bill is all settled, you can leave a tablet on the table running an app designed to get a more thorough accounting of the guest experience.
You can use an all-in-one device like the cleverly named Restaurant Survey Tablet, or download a feedback app like the one made by Zonka. What’s great about leaving a device tableside is the privacy a customer gets when she’s responding to the survey.
Also, what’s great about leaving a device tableside is the privacy a customer gets when she’s responding to the survey.
This is a good time to go the standard ratings route: one to five stars on the larger elements of the meal, like the quality of the service, or the cleanliness of the bathrooms. These kinds of details speak to the day-to-day operation of your restaurant, and they’re the kinds of things that are critical for owners to hear.
There may be areas where you need improvement which are more readily uncovered when people can rate them on a scale.
It’s a good idea always to keep your customer surveys short. Remember, you’re looking for quick feedback on the experience they just had, and you don’t want to monopolise their time right as they’re heading out the door.
Collect their thoughts after they’ve left
If you’re not into the idea of handing a survey off to your customers after they’ve finished their meal, it’s still a good idea to get to them when the memory is still fresh. Collect Feedback is an app that can integrate with your Kounta point of sale – whenever a customer makes a purchase, you can trigger Collect to send them an email asking how it all went.
What’s great about Collect’s approach is its sheer simplicity. The email asks one question: How was your experience? Customers can then tap on a happy or sad face, right from the email.
This brings them to the Collect Feedback website, where their response is registered and they’re asked follow up questions. This part is optional, but again it’s so simple it takes almost no time to respond.
Customers simply check the box on the areas where they think you did a good job (the food, the service, etc.), and are given a small box to type a message if they want.
This kind of immediate feedback gives owners the chance to address things that need to be addressed, directly with the customer.
In cases where someone had a very unpleasant experience, they’ll be all too happy to let you know — this helps you to address those problems before they have the chance to take their displeasure to social media or review sites.
You probably already have plenty of feedback
Services like Yelp and TripAdvisor can have their downside. Giving people unfiltered access to a platform where they can say nearly any old thing about their experiences poses some obvious problems. Add to that the fact restaurant owners now have yet another thing they need to worry about: making sure their reviews stay positive, and responding to the negative ones.
Sure, there can be a feeling that it’s all one big chore to deal with, but nestled within that headache is the fact that you’ve got access to a lot of customer feedback – and you didn’t even have to ask for it. For every person that leaves a lengthy manifesto, there are 10 or so others that are leaving valuable insights into what you’re doing right and wrong.
While you’re at it, there’s no harm is encouraging your guests to leave reviews online for you by making your business’ review page known on your menus or other customer-facing material in your venue, or placing a sticker at your shopfront to let people know you’re listed on a site like Yelp or TripAdvisor.
Customer feedback can grow your business
There’s no shortage of ways to find out what your customers think – and are already saying – about you, and there are many ways you can stay on top of it.
Whether you’re emailing, Yelping, or Collecting, learning how you’re perceived by people can you insights that even the deepest analytics can’t.
When you’re aware of what people appreciate about you, and where they think you can improve, that only bolsters the data insights you can get out of your point of sale. Consider these the main ingredients in your recipe for growth.