Suzi Shopper: Customer Feedback: Encourage, Respond, Act

Suzi Shopper: Thoughts on business from a consumer’s perspective

Let me tell you about a recent restaurant experience. We were at a place that serves pub fare—wings, burgers, sandwiches, and such. We sat down and ordered, famished. The cook came out to confirm our order, which is a bit unusual, but thoughtful, and we knew our order would be correct. It was correct, but the food was ho-hum. As I said, we were famished, so we ate it, anyway. Later, when the server came around to ask how everything was, we lied and said, “fine.”

About a month before, at a chain restaurant (did I mention there aren’t many options where I live?), the experience was different. One meal was good, while the other was sub-par. When the manager came around and noticed the half-eaten meal, he asked what was wrong with it. He got an honest reply and then took action, crediting the meal from our check. Not what we expected, but it was appreciated.

This got me thinking about why we were honest in one instance, but not in the other. When the manager at the chain restaurant took action and credited the meal, it felt a little uncomfortable. Of course, we made sure to tip our server based on the bill including the credited meal. However, he did do the right thing by acknowledging that there was an issue and taking action, and we appreciated that. However, by going ahead and eating the sub-par food despite its sub-par-ness so there wasn’t any “evidence” that our palettes were not satisfied, coupled with the thoughtfulness of the staff, we were, I think, compelled to be dishonest in our feedback. Unfortunately, I think at that point we had already decided we wouldn’t go back to that restaurant. So, a customer was lost and they don’t even know it…and worse, they weren’t given an opportunity to make it right. Could they have done anything to make it right? We’ll never know because we didn’t give them the chance.

Whether it’s a positive or negative experience, some customers are quite vocal when it comes to providing feedback. Some will not tell you, the restaurateur or retailer, but will gladly share their experience with their friends, family—and more and more often the entire world through social media. Some won’t take the time to do either. And we all know that people are more likely to be vocal about a negative experience than a positive one.

Feedback is one of your most powerful sources of data. Are you getting it? How do you solicit HONEST feedback from your customers? Do you consistently acknowledge both positive and negative feedback and somehow reward or at least thank your customers for giving it? What do you do to take action?