Welcome to my musings: A recount of service disasters and service wins as observed my lovely Silent Customers and the many folks I talk to who are as passionate about great hospitality as I am.
There will be no naming and shaming but I will share what customers are saying they would like to see more of, what underwhelms them and what they perceive to be great value.
I will also write down my own thoughts, musings and opinions and hope that you will share yours with me too via, Facebook, at the end of each post.
25th Aug 2017
How sophisticated is your customer journey?
Contrary to common belief, mystery dining is not a tool to beat people with... read more
21st April 2017
Marketing stuff: Not much uptake? Try this....
There are very good reasons for why customers do not react to marketing that's on menus... read more
19th April 2017
Steak: Is it actually any better from our local butcher or are we just being food snobs?
Now, don't get me wrong, I love shopping in my local butchers and farmers markets, but.....read more
8th Feb 2017
Cauliflower Cheese; A standard part of a Sunday roast or a side-order?
Cauliflower Cheese, for me, is an absolute MUST for a Sunday roast.......read more
7th Feb 2017
Is it acceptable for restaurants to take pre orders for large tables?
Tables of twelve and more, you would think would be welcomes by restaurateurs but you could be wrong...read more
23rd June 2016
Complaining: Are you a 'kind complainer' or a 'vitriolic complainer'?
As well as mystery dining and learning solutions we run a complaint mediation service. Recently we had one of the most lovely complaint letters I have ever read... read more
22nd June 2016
Cappuccino: Why are we so bad at this in the UK?
I cannot fathom why, when there are more coffee shops than humans on our high street these days, we still fail to grasp the concept and ability to make a decent cappuccino in the UK... Read on
6th April 2016
Marketing: Why only 33% of customers see posters.
Marketing is always the lowest scored section in our Silent Customers reviews. See how one solution can cover all bases....read on
5th April 2016
Do we treat smaller restaurant chains differently?
I have been working with a company who have grown from 4 sites to fourteen in the last few years....read more
3rd April 2016
Check-backs: Are you a fight or flight customer?
Check-backs are always an interesting point for discussion in our Engagement Workshop. The point of a check back is....read more
8th December 2015
Are your managers lecturers or teachers?
At The Silent Customers our focus is on enabling teams to learn about customer psychology.....read more
7th December 2015
Why is Okay NOT Okay?!
I'm often asked why our reviews score down when a Silent Customers says their expectations were met but not exceeded. Read more..
21st October 2015
Are you 'coaching' your teams or simply just hurting their feelings?
Our reviewers are very careful to ensure our Silent Customers deliver feedback as kindly as possible... read more
10th April 2015
Trip Advisor: keeping it REAL
In 2011 only 14% of diners, we asked, looked at Trip Advisor. In our recent survey this went up to 40% so should restaurant owners start panicking?... read more
9th April 2015
2015 customer survey results
We asked customers the same questions in 2011 and 2015. To see the results click here.
20th January 2015
Why patronising your customers will leave egg on your face
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...read more
19th January 2015
Water biscuits: Why?
Last week a heated debate arose among the temporary inhabitants of our ski chalet when I suggested that cheese was better off enjoyed without the logistical need of a water biscuit....read more
9th January 2015
What comes first: service or systems?
Is this the chicken and egg question of the restaurant world?... Read more
8th January 2015
What happened to tablecloths in restaurants?
Once upon a time setting a table was akin to making a bed.... read more
16th December 2014
Check backs: Investigation or interrogation?
‘Checks-backs’ are one of our service benchmarking questions. The reason for check-backs are simply to give the server an opportunity to correct any issues before too much of the dish is consumed....but Read more
10th October 2014
Business coaching: Where do YOU need to be?
I've been lucky to have worked with some very effective coaches in my adult life. Some have been my employers and some have been professional coaches... Read more
30th September 2014
Receptionists: Advocates or Saboteurs?
Every business has ‘receptionists’. If you run a restaurant your receptionists are your waiters. If you run a pub they are your bar staff. If you run a team of people it may be wise to look at your ‘receptionists’ and ask yourself who are your advocates and who might be your saboteurs!? Read more
11th July 2014
Optional gratuities automatically added to restaurant bills:
Are we becoming more accepting?
I was told that 'TIPS' came from: ‘To Insure Prompt Service’
and were paid up front to bank clerks to guarantee that, if you were in a
hurry, you would be served ahead of others… whether that is true or not is debatable
but it does sound plausible. Read more
10th July 2014
To touch or not to touch?
When I was running a customer service workshop recently I was asked by a delegate if it was ok to touch a customer. Now clearly he didn’t mean in a ‘current news scandal’ kinda way, but it was a question that, whilst I knew exactly what he meant, posed some debate among the group. Read more
16th April 2014
Salt & Pepper on tables: Yes or No?
A Silent Customer recently noted that they thought salt and pepper on the tables was becoming antiquated. Read more
10th April 2014
Criticism is a gift: Is it?
Criticism is a gift...I hear this so often and it drives me mad....Read more
1st January 2014
Are your customers missing the blindingly obvious?
Silent Customers focus on delivering subjective narrative because it reflects a true and honest customer experience but as a consequence (and probably why many other mystery shopping companies don't do it) it sometimes upsets tenants and managers who find it hard to believe what the Silent Customers are saying. Read more
18th December 2013
What does social media + disgruntled Chef = ?
This. Read more
10th October 2013
Should business meetings be less formal these days?
My other half and I recently acquired a puppy. Whilst he has been a joy to behold his separation anxiety has been less than music to the ears of our poor neighbours so, when my partner had to take business trip to Hong Kong and I needed to attend a meeting, I had to consider whether it would be ‘professional’ to take Bob the puppy with me. Read More
5th September 2013
Should you leave an angry or sarcastic response on Trip Advisor when a customer leaves negative feedback?
The answer is ‘Yes’ if you want to come across as supercilious and arrogant. ‘Yes’ if you want the person who has complained to rub their hands in glee at your faux pas and a super big ‘yes’ if you want to scare off potential new customers and sabotage your own business. Read more
29th July 2013
Wooden boards & Slates: Is it time to bring back plates?
I can’t remember the first time I had a burger served to me on a bread board but it seems a very long time ago.
Since then, myself and our Silent Customers have had a variety of food stuffs presented on blocks of wood, slates and, of late, I have noticed, an influx of rather bizarre faux slate platters made out of plastic. Read more
25th July 2013
Are you a sulky teenager or a screaming toddler when it comes to disappointment?
I know I am the former. Read more
26th April 2013
Are pubs that don’t cater for women sabotaging their own business?
As I am in fact a women, in writing this blog you might think that my opinion will be biased. You could be right, but it's not because I want every pub to look like a trendy wine bar. NOOOOOO… far from it! Read more
19th April 2013
What is 'traditional' Pub décor supposed to look like anyway?
There is no disputing that pubs that have had a professional makeover do better than those whose interiors resemble the pub in Shameless. Read more
27th March 2013
Is being forced to eat a burger with a knife and fork a sin?
A silent customer recently expressed a slight displeasure at receiving a round burger that was stacked very elegantly and held together with a skewer. Her ‘beef’ with it [excuse the pun] was that it collapsed into its separate elements as soon as the skewer was taken out rendering it impossible to pick up and take a bite out of it. Read more
20th February 2013
When were you last blown away by a great customer experience?
I am rarely impressed by my dining / service experiences but last weekend I wanted to weep with joy after a Saturday night out at a little Brakspear pub in Goring in Oxfordshire. Read more
7th February 2013
The cost of the lost: How much are you worth?
I worked out roughly how much I have spent in my local pub over the last 10 years and it came to £18,000 just me!!
Publicans and restaurateurs spend lots of time and money trying to find new customers yet the irony is that if they could SEE the cost of the lost they would spend more time and money training their staff instead.
Most restaurateurs and pubs do not have a clue how much any of their regular customers have spent or are likely to spend with them because unlike a veterinary practice, an opticians or Tesco’s they simply don’t have the systems in place to know anything about their customers never mind what the are worth to the business.
There are so many affordable systems available to measure customer loyalty and the cost of upset customers and yet very few see the value of it. However if they could see that the loss associated with an average pub customer is £24,500.00 they might think differently. Read more
3rd January 2013
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. Read more
2nd January 2013
Would you ignore your friend if they were two feet in front of you?
My best friend and I decided to patronise a pub recently taken over by new tenants. We had arrived early in the evening and as we were the only customers we decided to have a pre-dinner drink in the bar. During this time we asked to see the function room and made small talk with a team member about the décor. Soon afterwards the chef and the tenant walked in to begin their shift but even though we were the only customers in the pub, just a few feet away, neither acknowledged us with a smile nor said good evening. Read more
11th December 2012
When is a burger not a burger?
When it’s a burger cut in half and served in a whole burger bun!. Read more
17th November 2012
Should we report disparaging posts on Trip Advisor as 'inappropriate’?
I was off to one of my favourite local restaurants on Saturay night and prior to going noticed that they had a link to Trip Advisor from their Facebook page.
I was horrified to see what a local person had written: Read more....
8th November 2012
Just how S.A.F.E is your pub or restaurant?
Four elements are required to create a secure and loyal customer environment:
• Service (pro-active, efficient, friendly and knowledgeable)
• Ambience (warm lighting, contemporary décor, sympathetic acoustics and ambient temperature)
• Food (balanced flavours, quality ingredients, cooked with care and presented with consideration)
• Ergonomics (fluidity of movement and space)
2nd November 2012
Why do less than 50% of pubs offer second drinks at the table?
One question our Silent Customers are always asked is whether they were offered a second drink? This question is often met with varying degrees of head scratching from both tenants and silent customers alike; “But it’s not that kind of pub” I hear them cry. Read more and cast you vote...
18th October 2012
Waiters who verbally list specials at your table: Customer engagement or Mensa test?
Recently, a Silent Customer expressed her annoyance when a waiter hastily regurgitated the list of specials rather than offer them to her on a menu or a specials board. The result was that she could only recall the first menu item and only the main ingredient of it. ....Read more and cast your vote
16th October 2012
When is a pie not a pie?
When it's a casserole? ..... Read more and cast your vote
28th September 2012
On-line public review sites: To reply or not to reply?
We all know that public review sites like Trip Advisor do nothing to discourage subjective ranting, but given that they are here to stay, what is the best way to respond to a customer who has left disparaging comments?... Read more and cast your vote
19th September 2012
Is the customer always right?
I spent many years terrified of customer complaint letters coming via head office. The best one (and I wished I had kept it) was written with similar hilarity value to the famous virgin complaint letter sent to Richard Branson about his in-flight meals. The list of errors that myself and my team had performed was nothing to be proud of but the poor customer had made it seem so farcical that once I had dried the tears of laughter away – I had to phone him just to thank him for his hilarious delivery of our short comings! I almost forgot to apologise. Read more and have your vote
3rd September 2012
Are our expectations of formal dining just too high?
Casual dining is on the increase with many of us preferring to eat out a couple of times a week in cheaper establishments rather than blowing a day’s wages on posh nosh and an eye wateringly priced bottle of burgundy. But is this purely driven from the burdening guilt of recession fever or is it that formal dining just does not meet our expectations anymore? Read more and have your vote
30th August 2012
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' .... read more
21st August 2012
Should vegetables be included in the price of a pub main-course?
Waiters often forget to mention that the main course the customer ordered doesn’t automatically come with green veg. It is something that comes up time and time again on both our Silent Customer audits and via our online customer feedback.... Read more and have your vote: