Two Ears and One Mouth
Back in the mid-2000s when I was at Coors UK, soon to be Molson Coors, I wrote a column in the quarterly internal newspaper – Cheers. The purpose was to provide bite sized insights and perspectives on what was going on in the UK beer market. As was my want, I usually included a quote or two to help lighten the tone. One of my favourites and the inspiration for the title of this article was by the Greek philosopher Epictetus, who said “We have two ears and one mouth, so we can listen twice as much as we speak”.
Regardless of what part of the hospitality sector you work in, this philosophy is as important now as it has ever been. In fact one could argue that gathering feedback on what your guests think of you and their experience is no longer a nice to have but a key part of running your business.
So why is it so important and what can operators do to make sure they get the right sort of feedback on what they deliver?
Why you should care…
Research suggests that on average 9 out of ten people will stop visiting an eatery after just one bad experience. With about the same percentage again willing to reverse this decision if they have the opportunity to speak to someone about it. Central to this is therefore giving customers the right mechanisms to enable this to happen. Remember not everyone will feel comfortable about complaining to their server in the moment.
And this isn’t just about giving your guests a platform to complain. It is also a great way of finding out about the things which are working well, including your staff. Many outlets tap into feedback on their staff as a way of rewarding them in ‘Employee of the Month’ schemes. Of course it can equally be used to help identify training needs and so correct behaviours.
Requesting, receiving and then acting on your customers feedback is an excellent way to build a strong positive relationship with your guests. It is also likely to encourage more repeat visits. It can also be a good way of spotting emerging trends in the market. Keeping the same offer year in year out may work for some outlets but for lots of others tweaking or even changing what they provide can make the difference between staying in or going out of business.
How do you measure…
It may sound flippant to say you need to know about everything however there is a case to say this is probably true. As an operator the question you probably need to ask, is do you need feedback on a wide range of things at quite a top level or would it be better to choose a few specific areas and try and get more detail.
Depending on what method(s) you choose to gather feedback, one approach is to ask a simple question or for a rating score and then provide a space for customers to add more granularity. Whether this works may depend on what type of customers you have and how comfortable they are with it. If you don’t feel this is working then you may need to change it. For example open ended questions can be a great way to understand the detail but they can also be difficult to group together as everyone will use slightly different language.
If you do decide to use a rating system then I tend to suggest 1 to 10 rather than 1 to 5, as I think it provides more scope for the customer.
More than one way…
Once you have decided that you want/need to gather feedback from your customers I would recommend you don’t just rely on way method. Instead it’s probably worth concentrating on 2 or 3 main ways to gather your information. Any more than this and you might find it quite difficult to build up a coherent picture of what is going on.
One approach is to simply invite your guests to provide an online review via an established website such as TripAdvisor or OpenTable. This route is quite easy to adopt and has no set-up costs as it is already there. However it does have drawbacks. Evidence suggests that customers have a tendency to use sites like this to vent anger and frustration rather than offer praise or support. It is also an open platform which means less favourable feedback is in the public domain, which might not be helpful. In recent years it has also become known that these sites contain quite a few fake reviews. So not always the best source of genuine feedback. If you do engage with these types of sites you also need to have a clear policy on how, when or if you respond to reviews. I know some operators simply choose to ignore them.
Asking guests to complete a satisfaction survey, either in outlet or later online is also very popular. It has the advantage of being outlet specific and therefore in many ways should be more actionable. They key is it should be quite straightforward to complete otherwise it is unlikely to be done. If you decide on this approach it may also be worth considering offering some type of incentive. Being entered into a free monthly draw for vouchers tends to go down quite well. It also has the advantage of providing you with guests contact details which can then be used to send out things like promotional offers or newsletters.
Often the most insightful approach is to get face to face feedback in outlet at the end of your guest’s experience. This doesn’t mean just having your server or another member of the team ask “is everything ok”, it needs to follow a similar set of question to those you might use with an online survey. An added advantage here is that you will be able to probe a bit deeper if a particular issue warrants it. As with the online survey, offering an appropriate incentive is quite important here.
Don’t waste what you learn…
It shouldn’t need to be said, but there is no point in asking for feedback and then not doing anything with it. Not only is this a missed opportunity to move your business forward, it can also have a negative impact on how your customers and your staff see you.