Mystery Dining & Guest Feedback

Janet's Blog: 30th August

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How important is it to ask for customer feedback?

In a recent customer research survey we asked 500 diners how important they thought asking for feedback was:  70% of customers we asked said that asking for feedback is 'Very important'  23% said it was 'Quite important'  3% said they were 'Not sure' and 4% said it is 'Not important'. 

Yet many independent pubs and restaurants do not ask for feedback leaving Trip Advisor to pick up the slack, allowing customers to publicly vent their frustrations. These are the most commonly heard reasons for not asking for customer feedback:    

“90% of my customers have great service” Our data says it’s 58%! If it’s not measured then 90% is just an optimistic assumption and the reason restaurateurs think its 90% is often because of the next assumption:

“My customers always tell me if something is wrong” Our data says only 50% do! This is also a well know national statistic that relates to all industries.  As customers we do not like to tell the business at the time that we had a disappointing experience. This is usually because we want to avoid confrontation and/or we don’t want to hurt the owners feelings. However, we will go and tell a whole bunch of other people!  This is what is known as the silent customer syndrome and why I have adopted it as my company name. 

“Encouraging feedback will demotivate my managers” This is a common belief and, in part, it is true!  If feedback isn’t actively encouraged and made easy to deliver anonymously  then the only feedback that will come in will be from highly emotive customers either praising the business to high heaven or, and more usual, berating the business and damming it to hell! This highly emotive and extreme feedback often ends up on Trip Advisor and only serves to set an unrealistic expectation or scare off new customers.

We find that most of our survey feedback offers suggestions rather than angry criticism and in the main they are on the positive side. They also enable customers to feedback on small irritations that are often overlooked as being trivial or unimportant to the restaurateur. It's only when they come up time and time again that they don’t seem so irrelevant anymore! It’s the attention to detail that delivers the difference between an average, underwhelming experience and a great experience that generates recommendations.

The last question in our surveys asks what motivated the customer to give their feedback and here are some examples of the comments:    

"I always try to give my opinion if I can, especially if a pub/restaurant is doing a good job, and they make it so easy to give feedback as this website; the money off voucher is a nice sweetener also. Keep up the good work!"

"It’s nice to see an establishment trying to be above the average and it should be recognised"

"I have known and enjoyed this pub for many years. I would like to help it return to its former glory!"

"I think restaurants should be given good feedback as well as constructive criticism, if any should be needed"

"It’s easy to be critical but we all need feedback to improve"

"The staff told us about the survey and we wanted to compliment them on their service"