5 Methods of Capturing Customer Feedback for Restaurants and Retailers

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Every type of business requires customer feedback, but unlike with online enterprises, restaurants and retailers don’t usually have access to a customer’s number or email address in order to collect it. Customers visit a store or restaurant, make a purchase or have a meal then leave. As an owner of this type of business, you can request in person if customers were satisfied with their in-store experience, whether they enjoyed their food or if they’re pleased with their haircut.

The problem lies in the fact that many customers will be hesitant to give honest feedback straight to your face, particularly in instances where they were discontent with their experience. Many people will do their utmost to avoid such confrontations. In addition to this factor, if you have a multi-unit business you simply cannot be present everywhere at once in order to ask. In this instance you are dependent on the second-hand feedback from in-store staff or servers.

So how do you go about capturing customer feedback in a store or restaurant? This post outlines five methods of capturing feedback in brick and mortar businesses when you’re not there to do it in person.

#1 Web-Based Survey

Overview

Online surveys are one of the most common methods of capturing customer feedback for both eCommerce and brick and mortar businesses. For those with physical stores, consumers are typically invited to take part via in-store signage or their receipt. Shoppers enter the displayed web address into their browser or scan a QR code using their phone to access the survey and provide their feedback. As is the case with most of the methods covered in this article, the shopper is typically provided with incentives to complete the survey.

Benefits

1. It’s simple and cost-effective to set up

There is a multitude of online tools which allow you to create simple surveys quickly and easily. If you are not seeking a complex solution, there are even some free options available such as SurveyMonkey.



2. Easy to Promote

It’s straightforward to promote QR codes and URLs using signage, receipts, and links within web sites and email. In order to increase engagement rates, it’s advisable to offer some sort of incentive to participants such as entry into a prize draw.

3. Flexibility

Most online tools allow you to update the questions as and when you wish, though some services are less flexible. The more advanced tools will also allow you to get more detailed feedback using dynamic questions (e.g. Surveys will have different questions depending on the answer to the previous question)

Drawbacks

1. Very low engagement rates

Some restaurants and retailers have reported survey engagement rates as low as 0.5% for till receipt-based surveys. This can partly be explained by the below points. However, besides that, requiring people to manually type a web address into their smartphone is too time consuming. In the digital age where people’s attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter it can be very difficult to get people to engage, particularly in a setting such as a store or restaurant. QR codes did a lot to address this problem, however the fact that up until recently all smartphone users required a QR scanning app means that the popularity of these codes is not where it should be. (Apple’s recent decision to solve this problem by implementing the QR scanning feature into iOS 11 devices, should see an upsurge in the popularity of QR codes again.)

2. It provides a poor user experience

The problem lies not so much in the weakness of the solution but in poor execution. Consumers are often reluctant to complete online surveys. This is usually attributed to negative experiences in the past. We have all participated in surveys that are excessively long and filled with dull questions in exchange for a paltry prize or discount. It’s simply not a fair exchange of time for most people. I would recommend increasing the incentives considerably or making the survey as short and interesting as possible. In fact, it’s best practice to do both in a restaurant or store setting.

3. It’s difficult to follow up

In relation to the above point. If a customer is going out of their way to complete a questionnaire and provide their opinion, they might expect to hear back from the business. But requesting visitors cell phone numbers or email addresses can make the consumer think of spammy marketing and annoying calls.

#2 Survey Kiosks & Tablets

Overview

Survey Kiosks are basically the same as online questionnaires with one key differentiator. The business provides the device, usually a touchscreen tablet on a stand with suitable signage. Visitors simply press the screen and start replying to your survey questions in real-time.

Benefits

1. It’s easy to promote and seamless

Survey kiosks, if placed in predominant locations in your store or restaurant, can be difficult for visitors to miss. There is also no onus on them to enter a web address or scan a QR code. Customers simply press a button on the screen to start the questionnaire, which means its much simpler for businesses to request people to engage.
There is currently no data available on engagement levels for these devices, but one would assume the numbers would be higher than with online surveys. However, much of the engagement can probably be attributed to curious kids trying them out.

2. It provides real-time feedback

Most of the other methods discussed here are most likely to be completed when a visitor has left your store or restaurant, rather than when they’re still on the premises. Kiosks catch shoppers while they are still on-site, and the customer feedback should therefore provide better insights.

3. Capture feedback from shoppers who didn’t purchase

In terms of capturing the visitor who walks onto your premises and leaves without buying anything, survey kiosks are a great tool. Finding out more about the people who visited but decided to leave without making a purchase can be invaluable to a business such as a restaurant or supermarket.

Drawbacks

1. Expensive to implement

There is a significant cost involved in setting up kiosks at every location across a multi-unit business. Not only are there the costs of purchasing or leasing tablets and stands, there is also the associated installation and software overheads involved. Most kiosk operations will use in-built software which also entails a monthly subscription per unit which will add additional recurring costs.

2. You can only capture feedback on the premises

This can be viewed as a positive or negative depending on the situation. For example, some shoppers only become aware of a poor experience after they have left the store. You are also likely to miss out on certain types of customers such as those looking after kids and those who are too busy to stop and engage with a kiosk.

3. Difficult to follow up

The purpose of customer feedback initiatives is to turn consumers into promoters of your brand. Just like with online surveys, you need to request a customer’s details and contacting these participants later can actually add to their dissatisfaction even further.

#3 HappyOrNot machines and similar products

Overview

You have probably seen these devices recently in the airport and your local supermarket. They usually have four happy faces on them ranging from green to red, happy to not very happy. The visitor is asked to press the button which they feel most closely reflects how they are feeling about a question on the sign above.

Benefits

1. High engagement rate

In terms of total feedback collected these machines are currently unmatched by any other method currently on the market.

2. They are very useful for basic customer feedback

These types of devices tend to fare best in areas with a high volume of foot traffic where it is necessary to understand the flow of people e.g. airports and checkout queues in supermarkets. Nobody likes long queues, so its highly likely that if they have been left stuck in one for a long period of time, the chances of them hitting the red button when they leave are quite high. These devices tend to have a dashboard that lets you see hourly customer feedback data. So they can be quite useful in cases where a business needs to identify periods where increasing the number of in-store staff might be most worthwhile.



Drawbacks

1. Poor data quality

The first thing that comes to mind when people talk about these devices is that a lot of the interactions tend to be children playing around with them. And while there are in-built fail-safe triggers to prevent multiple taps in a short period, kids impact the engagement rate and skew the overall results.
More concerning than the above though, is the fact that there is no qualitative data to add insights to the quantitative data. There is only the option to ask one question with these devices, so if you receive a lot of negative responses at a certain time, you have no way of knowing the exact reasons for this and subsequently making the necessary changes to prevent it happening again. The “why” is extremely important especially in a setting such as a restaurant or store.

2. Prohibitive set up and high running costs

Depending on the country, the cost of these machines can vary and is not normally available to the public, however they represent a sizeable investment for any business. The total price includes a considerable installation fee for each unit as well as an ongoing monthly charge for each device. With increased competition entering the market the price should start to fall in the future.

3. Impossible to follow up

With devices such as this there is no way to capture the contact details of visitors.

#4 Messaging Apps

Overview

People have become accustomed to using messaging apps as the main method of communication with their friends and family. They are easy to use and are a platform that millennials are comfortable engaging with. Recently it has become possible to collect feedback using these messaging platforms (Full disclosure:ServiceDock is a leading provider of such solutions). Using QR codes these apps make it easy for customers to engage with in physical locations and they are also easily integrated with web sites and email.

Benefits

1. Increased response rates

Engagement rates for surveys are much higher using messaging apps. (e.g. Through Facebook Messenger a shopper can easily scan a QR code or search for the business name within the app before pressing a button to begin the questionnaire.)

Unlike with a traditional survey where the participant is typically asked to provide details such as an email address or phone number, connecting with a store on Messenger doesn’t open the possibility of other businesses using those details to contact you. Facebook places great importance in providing the best user experience and they actively police for spam and give businesses the tools to manage customer contacts seamlessly.

This ease of use, as well as the user’s familiarity and comfort using messaging apps, results in much higher engagement rates than other methods can provide. The mobile element is perfect for a business such as a restaurant or a store where customers might be in a hurry to leave. The customer can use their own device also, so the restaurant or store owner doesn’t have to worry about the costs and upkeep associated with rolling out kiosks and tablets.

2. Seamless follow up with consumers

Once a consumer has started a conversation with your business using one of these messaging platforms, it is very easy to communicate. Unlike the web where the two parties have to be online simultaneously, messaging apps allow asynchronous communication. What this means is that busy staff or servers can respond during quiet periods and the customer can also reply when it suits them, while there is even the possibility of communication in real-time.

3. The messaging user Interface promotes innovative survey design

The technology available within Facebook Messenger allows you to create innovative types of surveys. Not only are the surveys more user-friendly as only one question is served up at a time, but messengers in-built AI allows for dynamic surveys that are unique to each participant depending on their answers to the first few questions. There is even the ability to set up Gender specific surveys(The messenger API allows for this).

Drawbacks

1. Not everyone uses Messaging Apps

Depending on the demographics of your target market, messaging platforms may or may not be a great channel to use. Facebook messenger has a massive user base in the United States, but the level of usage varies across the different generations as the below graph demonstrates.

Facebook Messenger Demographics
Percentage of U.S. internet users who use Facebook Messenger as of January 2018, by age group. Source: Statista

2. They are not suitable for long surveys

Asking more than a dozen questions using Facebook Messenger based questionnaire’s will quickly get tiresome for consumers. Unlike with online surveys where people can quickly click boxes for multiple questions without spending much time thinking about responses, survey’s via messaging platforms provide one question at a time. The consideration given to that one question is increased, but asking too many different questions will likely lead to decreased engagement.

#5 Comment Cards

Overview

Even though we are in the digital age many types of business across the globe still use comment cards, particularly hotels and restaurants. For smaller businesses they still have a lot to offer.

Benefits

1. Very easy to set up

Create some questions, print them off and distribute to your customers.

2. Easy to digest in small quantities

If you are the owner of a small, low volume business then reading some user feedback at the end of every day is a simple method for digesting customer feedback.



Drawbacks

1. Doesn’t work for larger enterprises

While there are certainly ways of capturing paper-based insights and compiling it into digital data, it is simply not an efficient method of managing customer feedback in high volume scenarios such as a busy restaurant or large store.
2. Lack of an analytical dashboard
One of the main reasons you collect customer feedback is so you can identify trends and benchmark performance later. Even for small low volume businesses, doing this can prove very difficult. All the other solutions mentioned would include these features as a core product offering.
3. Following up can be problematic
As is always the case, following up via phone or email can be challenging. The amount of resources that would need to be dedicated to a paper-based Feedback system exacerbates this problem even further. In addition, the time lag between collecting this feedback and any additional follow up required can create a whole host of other problems.

Making a decision
When deciding which of these channels to use, or what combination of methods to implement, you should consider the following:

  • What amount of Customer feedback do I require?
  • What are the demographics of my visitors and what method of engagement would they prefer?
  • What touchpoints are available to us as a business and what type would work best in our setting?
  • Should we prioritize quantitative or qualitative customer feedback data?
  • Is it important to ask follow up questions in order to close the feedback loop?
  • When you know the answers to the above questions, you will be better positioned to narrow down the providers of customer feedback management services to the ones most suited to your business. Then it just becomes a question of cost and the features offered by each solution:

  • What budget can be allocated to customer feedback?
  • Does feedback need to be outlet-specific?
  • Do we need specific feedback for each location?
  • Is benchmarking each location a priority?
  • Who will respond to customers and how will they do that?
  • Who will take responsibility for replying to customers and how will it be managed?
  • Whatever method or platform (if any) you choose to purchase, done correctly customer experience management should pay for itself many times over with the value of the feedback collected.

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