The Importance of Collecting Real-time Customer Feedback (and how to capture it in stores and restaurants)

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Are you collecting customer feedback in the days or weeks after customers visit your business? If you are, have you considered what this is like from the customer’s viewpoint and how it affects their opinion? Have you considered the opportunities you are missing out on due to the delay in capturing feedback? Have you thought about how these delays can affect customer loyalty or engagement rates?

These are just some of the questions I discuss in this article. The significance of collecting real-time customer feedback should not be understated. This is particularly important if you want to affect the customer experience for each visitor. While this can be quite straightforward in an online setting, it is much more difficult in the context of a store or restaurant. At the end of this article, I will offer some suggestions for capturing feedback in these types of business.

1. The impact of survey timing on customer experience


The peak-end rule (Kahneman & Tversky, 1999) states that people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak and at its end, rather than based on the total sum or average of every moment of the experience.
The significance of this in a customer feedback context is that if a survey is sent to a customer at the end of their experience or later, any insights gained are significantly skewed. If the feeling of the customer at the peak/or end wasn’t positive and you send a questionnaire a few days later, your survey might just underline that memory for the visitor. This is not an outcome anyone responsible for customer experience wants.



If a questionnaire is completed immediately after their visit, the customer might have a completely different perception of their experience. They might be grateful that their opinion was sought, especially if there is an immediate follow-up. In a situation like this, a poor end to their experience might be replaced by a positive, which can alter the customer’s memory completely and in a good way.

2. The impact of survey timing on customer advocacy


Everyone knows the saying that bad news travels fast and normally people are more likely to talk about something when it’s fresh in their memory. What this means for your business is that customers who have had a bad experience are more likely to share their stories with friends and family in the days following their visit to your store or restaurant. If they’re going to write an online review, typically they will post it a day or two after the experience.

So, if as a business owner you find yourself sending surveys a few weeks after the customer interaction, then your business could already have been bad-mouthed by customers by the time they receive it. Not only will they have nothing constructive to say about your business, but they will also be warning any prospective customers to stay away. Real-time customer feedback allows you to prevent negative sentiment before it spreads on the web or by word of mouth.

3. The impact of survey timing on your ability to act


Fundamentally there are two reasons to capture feedback from customers:

i) To find out things you didn’t already know about your business

ii) To enable you to act on these insights from an informed standpoint

In a business such as a restaurant or store, both should be carried out on a macro and micro basis.
At a macro level, you should be gathering insights over a long period of time and acting on this information across the entire business. An example of this would be the implementation of a culture shift across the organization. As the emphasis in this situation is on monitoring the changes in metrics over a longer period, the timing of the survey is not as significant. Actions taken in this instance could include a change in the business mission statement or updates to the training manuals for restaurant staff.

At the micro-level, you should be focusing on individual customer interactions. A macro CX program initiative may go unseen by visitors to your store or restaurant because a single bad experience might be enough to make that customer never want to visit again. This is the main reason why the time you collect customer feedback is crucial in terms of specific customer interactions.

Collecting feedback and acting early creates two important micro-level opportunities:

a) You get the opportunity to right any wrongs with that customer, sometimes before they even leave your restaurant or store.

b) You can act on the problem, so it doesn’t affect any future customers.

So, as you can see the timing of a survey is not the only thing that’s important. Solutions that offer the ability to react to feedback in real-time are invaluable to a business such as a restaurant or a store. This is because these solutions allow you to solve an issue before it becomes something bigger and turn detractors into promoters. This can increase brand loyalty as customers appreciate that you care about their opinion and they will also be more likely to provide additional feedback further down the line.



How to Capture Real-Time Feedback in Stores and Restaurants


In my previous post, I discussed the various ways restaurants and retailers could capture feedback, but I didn’t discuss in detail the value of real-time feedback in these settings.

(a) In-Person Feedback


Collecting feedback in-person directly from customers is as real-time as you can get and any restaurant or store that doesn’t gather insights with questions such as “Did you enjoy your meal?” or “did we have what you were looking for?” is going to have a very difficult time indeed.
As straightforward as this seems, the value of these insights can’t be understated. That is if this information is recorded somewhere and the server or sales assistant is empowered to act on it. This is a common area where businesses in this space struggle. With in-person customer feedback, unless it is a major issue that management must be informed of, any insights gleamed are essentially lost in all the noise or dealt with on an ad-hoc basis. Brick and mortar businesses must have the processes in place to report these problems, so they are not repeated continuously over time.

The other issue that arises with this type of feedback is the unwillingness of customers to provide honest criticism face-to-face. While some will not feel any reluctance to share their opinions whether good or bad, many people will do anything to avoid a confrontation. How many times have you found yourself responding “everything is okay” when asked and then complained to friends or family later on about your experience? This is supported by Ruby Newell-Legner’s work which found that less than 5% of people who were unhappy with a product or service made any complaints.

(b) Tablets/Kiosks


While capturing customer feedback using methods such as tablets and kiosks is real-time in that the feedback is received on the spot. It is difficult to follow up on this type of customer feedback immediately without using other channels to communicate such as phone calls or email. In effect, that means insights and the follow-ups are disjointed. The consequence of this is that acting on the information before that customer leaves your store or restaurant becomes much more difficult.

(c) Messaging


Messaging is one of the few digital channels that is genuinely real-time and facilitates features such as notifications. This type of feedback can be SMS based or leverage one of the popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger messaging apps like Facebook Messenger. Because these channels are mobile-first channels and facilitate both the capture of feedback and the follow-up, they are the optimum solution for handling feedback in physical locations. In a restaurant, for example, you can capture the feedback while the customer is still at the table and respond before they have left the premises.

Messaging Apps are unparalleled in terms of providing a platform for facilitating real-time two-way communication and notifications. As these channels utilize customers cell phones, they are the perfect tool for facilitating the capture of customer feedback and any subsequent follow up required. If you’re a restaurant owner, the mobile element means that you can capture feedback while someone is still on the premises and take the necessary action before they have left their table.

While you might think SMS offers the same benefits its important to note that in most countries users are still charged fees for each message they send. This is particularly important in this context as large organizations would need to send a lot of messages to capture a statistically significant amount of data. In addition, customers are less likely to provide a response if they feel they will be charged each time.

Conclusion


The most successful stores and restaurants have always captured feedback to improve the customer experience. In the digital age, where social media and online reviews have given customers a platform to express their views on a product, service or brand, customer feedback management has become essential for any business that wants to survive and thrive. Essentially those in charge of improving the customer experience should be more focused on Macro CX. However, in order to affect that you need to ensure front-line staff is empowered to act on a micro-level.



To conclude, those responsible for customer experience should focus on the Macro level issues but in order to affect these, you need frontline workers to act on a micro-level. Whether this means getting them to promote an in-store survey or engage with customers when they give feedback, a real-time system will be more effective for customers and frontline staff. If your staff are engaged, they will seek to resolve visitor issues promptly. A real-time customer feedback system facilitates this perfectly and gives your CX program a huge advantage over businesses who are not using one.

It’s also worth noting that Millennials are now the most populous generation in America and they have grown up with different expectations than previous generations. According to Desk.com, a quarter of them expect to get a response in under 10 minutes when they contact a business via social media. While feedback might be slightly different, you can see why a real-time feedback management system is now a must-have rather than a nice to have.

Millennials are now the largest demographic in the United States and they have different expectations than the generations that have become before them. According to Desk.com, they have much shorter attention spans and over 25% expect to receive a response in less than 10 minutes when they contact a business through social media. While customer feedback might differ, you can clearly see its importance and why it is now a must-have for many businesses.

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