If only we could offer a mind-reading service! However, there are many ways to find out what customers are thinking, and more about what they want.
The Right Questions
Effective surveys get right to the heart of what you want to know. Should the list of sandwich options be larger, or smaller? Ask. Looking for feedback on your takeaway staff? Ask. Wondering if the décor seems tired? Ask. Last but not least, most experts advise adding an open-ended question at the finish. Examples: What could we do better? Would you recommend us—Why or why not?
The goal is to learn things you can’t find out any other way. (Which dish sells best? Your data metrics should already tell you.)
Online, On Target
If you collect email addresses, sending a survey to customers can be just that simple. Put the survey questions right in the message, or include a link
to a service such as SurveyMonkey. Facebook, Twitter—whatever social media platform you use, you could occasionally ask one question relevant to your business right there. Face-book also offers the capability of a regular survey; options are continuing to evolve (www.facebook.com/simple.surveys). Canada’s own Humpty’s chain prominently asks for “Feedback” on their website: That’s more appealing than a “Contact Us” button.
The classic “survey with the check” still has its place. Make it postcard size or half a sheet of paper—in other words, make it visually “short.”
A bright-colour paper helps invite customers to answer your questions. So does having servers say something like: “Here’s a couple of things we’d really appreciate your input on.” And some people prefer to address issues in this manner. As one TripAdvisor customer stated, as part of her complaint about service: “I asked the hostess for a comment card, and she just looked at me and said ‘we don’t have comment cards.’”
Social media, intimidating as it can be, is often a window into the strengths and weaknesses of your operation. Especially if you respond calmly and helpfully to any complaints. For most third-party social media platforms, there’s an option to offer an olive branch and take specifics to a more private discussion. So, for example, you can direct the conversation on Yelp, with daily monitoring and carefully worded responses.
Set the Tone
Is yours a fun, hip kind of place? Let the survey reflect that. “We love taxidermy and red-vinyl booths—what’s your opinion on our décor?” Multiple-choice answer possibilities can reflect your personality, too: “Not for me; Needs freshening; OK; Quite comfortable; Please decorate my home.” Then the open-ended question, “Do you have any ideas for us?” Even if your style is more formal, surveys can still be interesting or enjoyable.
Here’s an excellent discussion of restaurant surveys, at
Thank You, Thank You
The best surveys offer gratitude—not necessarily in the form of discounts, offers or “points.” A message of appreciation via email or snail mail can be effective. Or, offer special treatment—like a patio or windowside table for a respondent’s next visit, if possible. Surveys in the form of a contest may also reap desired knowledge. The prize can be nominal. Safeway offers an example of a more elaborate pairing of survey and contest, with a bigger prize ($100 gift card) and longer term (about 1 year).