customer experience

How to better understand customer experience (and why it matters)

By Austin Verner

Customers are the lifeblood of any business, and that means delivering an exceptional customer experience is a must to keep your guests coming back.

A study conducted by Thanx found that revenue was highly-concentrated among a small number of customers, with the top 25 per cent contributing 64 per cent of revenue. This is staying somewhat true to the “80/20” rule that suggests 80 per cent of business comes from 20 per cent of your customers. Another study done by Havard Business school showed that increasing customer retention rates by five per cent increases profits by 25 per cent to 95 per cent.

Listening to your guests and understanding their experiences will help you improve the day-to-day operations of your business. You can treat each one of your guests as a “secret shopper”; some guests might be repeat customers and be willing to give you open and candid feedback to help you improve going forward, but the reality is that most guests who have a poor experience will just not come back.

When you don’t have a guest feedback strategy in place, your restaurant turns into a leaky bucket. You spend all of these marketing dollars bringing them in, but you are not able to understand why they won’t come back.

Let’s dive into some ways to better understand your guests’ customer experience.

Online reviews

Online reviews are a great way to understand what all of your guests are saying in one place. From all the different platforms such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, Trip Advisor, and OpenTable, you’ll be able to have a bird’s-eye view of what people are saying and how they felt.

Guests are more prone to using these sites to leave feedback given the centrality of these websites to their lives and the sites being easy to use. On top of that, these sites also allow you to build rapport with your guests and engage in dialogue with them. You’ll be able to connect with your guests on a one-on-one basis and address any concerns they may have – depending on severity, maybe offer them a coupon to come back!

RELATED: Why you should solicit more online reviews (and how to do it)

Although online review sites don’t give you the best way to have a conversation with your guests, it gives you the best holistic view of what people are saying after they leave your doors. Being able to see all of your reviews on sites such as Google, Facebook, and OpenTable allows you to pick up on common areas that are being mentioned. By taking a quick scan through your public platforms, you will be able to go back to your team with items that may need to be addressed.

From there, you can review certain aspects of your business to see where an adjustment can be made.

The table touch

This is the most personable and instantaneous way to understand how your guests are feeling. 

Every time you walk by the table and stop and ask “how is everything?”, it gives you the opportunity to take feedback in the moment and resolve any issues. But, in most cases, the answer is always the same: “everything is good!” This is because most people hate confrontation and would rather brush off any issues than have to deal with them.

So, how do you get this instant feedback that provides real value to your operations?

Here are three quick ways to encourage more insightful feedback:

  1. Ask direct questions: Ask about specific items – “May I ask for your feedback on the pineapple pizza?”
  2. Own the food you are serving: Replace “the” with “our” – this shows that you take pride in what you serve and are invested in genuine feedback
  3. Avoid open-ended questions: Don’t ask the question in a way that allows them to give a one-word answer; rather, present it in a way that forces them to elaborate –  i.e “I would appreciate your feedback on…”

By simply changing the way you ask certain questions, you can get a true understanding of how your guest felt. If anything negative does arise, make sure your team is trained properly on how they should handle it and if they are allowed to offer discounts or concessions to try and win the guest back!

Customer experience tools

Traditionally, customer experience tools were mainly used by the big players in the restaurant space. Companies such as Tim Hortons, Domino’s, and Popeyes used these tools to understand what was happening at the location level to be able to make decisions at the corporate level. 

These companies have thousands of locations across the continent and even the globe, which makes these tools a must to help better understand what’s going on at the ground level.

Now, these tools are widely available to the broader market, allowing you to survey your guests in real time and pick up on key customer trends and sentiments to make operational decisions like the big players – without needing a data scientist. You can see here how Righteous Slice, a one-location pizza shop implemented a guest feedback strategy, received 775 pieces of feedback and achieved a 4.7 on Google!

You’re not able to be in your restaurant 24/7 but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the level of insight you need to know what’s happening on the ground level and ensure operations are running smoothly.

Austin Verner is the Canadian Account Manager for Ovation, an omnichannel guest feedback solution for restaurants that gets more 5-star reviews and retains dissatisfied customers. Reach him at [email protected].