Mystery Dining & Guest Feedback

Janet's Blog: 3rd January 2013

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How I used customer feedback in 2012

Whilst there is a common belief that complaints are a gift we also need to understand that the way feedback is delivered influences how people react to it. Although it is unrealistic to expect customers to be our cheer leaders when we drop the ball, jeering expletives from the side-lines is not going to motivate anyone. Trip Advisor can be the football ground of feedback!
A couple of years ago mystery dining was more about benchmarking with closed questions which offered “yes” or “no” answers but recently it is the narrative feedback that restaurateurs and hoteliers have found more informative and useful. However, alongside narrative feedback creeps in subjectivity and emotive responses but as dining out is all about 'the experience' it’s important that the customer is able to convey their feelings in some way as this is the driver of advocacy…or not! This said, coaching silent customers to keep out any tone of annoyance is imperative if they are to influence change.
Earlier in the year, I received some feedback from one of my clients that compelled me to re-assess how every question was written using the understanding that the structure of a question pre-supposes the answer. So for example I found that the question: If this was your restaurant what would you do differently? led the silent customers to focus closely on what was missing but when I re-worded it to read: What would you do to enhance the customer experience? it led the Silent Customer to focus on what was already good and could be improved on. The differences in the questions were subtle but the outcome powerful as the recipient of the feedback was more inclined to accept the suggested improvements.
Customer expectation changes as quickly as technology does today. I find it both fascinating and incredible just how quickly we all expect business’s to adapt to our speedy evolution of endless needs. It’s no surprise that I am constantly changing and adapting my clients’ questionnaires to keep up with and accommodate the new trends and customer requirements.
Businesses that don’t use feedback as a way to maintain loyalty and promote new business must just survive on luck. The Silent Customer has been very fortunate in the new clients 2012 has brought us but 2013 will be about even more listening in order to continue to provide our flexible, pro-active and forward thinking service over and above the ability of our much larger competitors.