Mystery Dining & Guest Feedback

Janets blog 20th January 2015

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Why patronising your customers will leave you with egg on your face

Contrary to belief I actually don’t spend my whole life giving feedback to every service led business that I encounter in my personal life. I would be working 24/7 if that was the case.

That said, in the last six months, I sent emails to two companies where I have felt that my hard earned money has not been well spent with them and both times the response has infuriated me.

When a customer complains, a company can use this feedback as an opportunity to:

1) Win the customer round so that they continue to buy their stuff

2) Use the feedback to put right what has gone wrong

What it is not beneficial, for either party, is to send a generic /slightly patronising response that hasn’t really absorbed the point of why the customer has sent the correspondence in the first place and/or tell the customer that they are wrong.

One of the companies I gave feedback to was a large highstreet retail chain.  I outlined the reasons for why I wouldn't continue to shop with them, in their current guise, and they wrote back explaining about their expertise in merchandising and to hope that I would continue to enjoy shopping with them! 

Now, bearing in mind this company is publically suffering from low retail sales, the reasons for which are blindingly obvious to most people, I found it extraordinary that someone in their employ could have the gall to tell me that I didn’t know what I was talking about.  At the end of the day, my purchases were not fit for purpose and the overall shopping experience was both depressing and stressful, yet this seemed completely irrelevant in their response. They also said that they didn’t use mystery shoppers anymore because they preferred to get online feedback now at their till points, as 'we feel this is the best way to hear important feedback from actual customers who visit the store on a daily basis'. This made me laugh as it won’t help them get the feedback from their target demographic when they have already gone and anyway, who buys clothes on a daily basis?!

Had they apologised for my wasted one and a half hours in their store, the time it took to get there and back, the cost of the parking and the money spent on several items that didn’t do what they claimed, had they have acknowledged their current trading challenges and assured me that they were acting on feedback to win back customers,  I would have taken pity on them and been publically applauding their turnaround success, but, as it was, I was furious and I will never shop there again.

Since then, friends have given me their recommendations of other retail establishments to go to next time I want to make a similar purchase. The recommendations are based on product, service and overall shopping experience.

I recall, maybe ten years ago, when my bank charged me an outrageous fee when I went overdrawn 16 pence. The customer service assistant was extremely supercilious in his manner and refused to withdraw the charge. I told him that one day there would be independent banks and that, in the future, banks wouldn’t be able to rip customers off. He laughed and said that would never happen. I told him to remember our conversation.

The point is that customers make or break businesses and have the ultimate power. Owners would do well to think of their true value before they patronise them with supercilious or throwaway responses.