Why restaurants should stop using long-form surveys

By Austin Verner

Does your restaurant use surveys to solicit feedback from your guests? Surveys can be an effective tool in connecting with your customers, identifying opportunities for improvement, and building on practices that are working for your business – if you’re doing it correctly.

According to reports, 20 per cent of your customers account for 80 per cent of your sales, so staying in touch with your guests is important for your business, however, you are missing the mark if you are still using long-form surveys.

Think about it this way: if you wouldn’t want to complete a survey with more than ten questions, why would you expect your guests to take one? The last thing you want to do is turn your guests off by asking too many questions or by taking up too much of their time.

Here are the two main reasons that long-form surveys are no longer an effective tool for restaurants:

Leading the witness

Often long-form surveys are filled with multiple-choice questions, but the way those questions are framed means you are actually curating the answers. So, customer feedback may already be skewed, before the survey even gets completed.

This is especially true when you are asking them about something they may not even have experienced, like asking a takeout customer about the washrooms. In this case, the feedback you’re receiving may not even be relevant.

Take rate

In the past, people have been turned off by surveys because they have been notoriously long, so you may not even be reaching most of your customers.

As well, there is usually an incentive attached to taking a survey, which could mean you are attracting feedback for the wrong reasons, and that could make it more difficult to accurately assess or trust the information you receive.

Keep it simple

With a different approach, restaurants can reach their guests, hear what they have to say, and understand their feedback. This requires asking just two questions.

The first one is simply, “how was your experience?”. Allow guests to rate their experience from one to five stars. This allows you to get an idea of how your guests felt about their experience and you can curate the rest of the journey they take based on how they answer that question.

If they said it was a five-star experience, ask these guests if they would be willing to share their experience online.

Word of mouth is still the most powerful marketing tool and getting more guests to share rave reviews online is the way to get more exposure and attract new guests to your restaurant.

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

Now, what if they say their experience was less than five-star? You need to get a little more information by asking “where did we miss the mark?” or “how could we improve?”.

Basically, using your survey to ask the same questions you would a customer who was standing right in front of you, is the way to best learn about your guests’ experiences. Rather than asking many more – sometimes not even relevant – questions, you need to get to the heart of the matter with your survey.

Soliciting customer insight can be a really useful way to identify areas of improvement, connect with your guests, and highlight things your restaurant is doing well. Saving your guests time by keeping your survey short will encourage them to participate in making your restaurant perform at its best.

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].