28th October 2012
One of our lovely clients recently noticed that they were getting a lot of informal feedback from their patrons about the menu being a bit confusing: “How small is a small plate?” “Should they be shared?” “How many people can share one dish?”
So what did they do about this feedback? They listened! They revamped their marketing collateral and their menus! And not just because they felt like it, but because their customers told them to! So important is this, that I’ve used multiple exclamation marks. You see, you’re here to please your customer. However annoying it might be, your customer always knows best (almost always anyway), and the easiest way to please your customer is to listen to what they have to say – and act on it.
Listening and responding should form a key part of your marketing strategy. But there’s an art to listening. As Ernest Hemingway said, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” But just how do you listen? If you are constantly striving to improve your offering (and you should be), make sure you have enough ways getting the customer feedback you need – and enough ways of responding.
It sounds simple but if you’re not asking your customers for feedback you might not get it, and the feedback you do get is less likely to be constructive. If you own a restaurant make sure your waiters are asking customers whether they enjoyed their meal – this isn’t just good for feedback, it’s good customer service. If you manage a hotel, make sure you and the reception desk are asking guests if there is anything else they require. If they are constantly asking for a hairdryer, perhaps it’s time to put one in the rooms?
Particularly the bigger ones like Tripadvisor. You can set up Google Alerts to make sure you are aware when people are talking about your venue, giving you more opportunity to respond.
For example, put a TripAdvisor widget on your website, and a link in stay follow-up emails. Take note of the feedback you receive on these sites and if there is a trend, look to act on it. Make sure you respond on and off the review site too, to both positive and negative feedback.
Think carefully about your follow up email – you want to thank your guest for staying, encourage them to provide feedback by public and private channels, and make it as easy as possible for them to do this. If you don’t have a bespoke survey set up (although software like Survey Monkey can make this really easy) make use of sites like TripAdvisor to collect feedback.
For example leave feedback cards on the tables in your restaurant, or in the rooms of your hotel. Make sure you have a guestbook in the reception area (although not on the reception desk as this may discourage people to leave feedback). Don’t be afraid of negative feedback – it can only help you improve. Responding to the negative feedback will also establish that you really do listen to your guests.
Provide incentives for customers to provide feedback. Make it part of a competition – “tell us what you think to be in with a chance to win dinner for two!”
Monitor Twitter and Facebook for feedback and make sure you respond (there’s a theme developing here….). You can also actively solicit customer feedback on these channels, for example by asking your followers questions. You can do this through ‘ask a question’ applications, or by simply posting on your wall e.g. “What do you think of our new menu?” “We love our Lasagna Vegetariana. What’s your favourite vegetarian dish?” “We’re thinking of introducing music into our bar area. Is this a good idea or a bad idea?”
Testing is another method of soliciting feedback – a method which the big boys like Google are constantly using. When you land on the Google homepage you are unlikely to be seeing the ‘proper’ version of the page; more likely you are seeing a slightly alternative version that Google is testing out on unsuspecting users. There’s no reason you can’t do this with your website too. If you’re launching or revamping your site, why not have two versions of the home page ready to go at launch? The one with the most conversions will be the one you eventually roll out across all users. Rather than formally asking for feedback on your website, the users’ actions will provide you with the feedback you need.
Lastly (in this list anyway), you can of course put out a formal survey if you have a large enough database, but this would definitely be the more costly option. With so many lower cost opportunities outlined above though, here are no excuses.
Whatever method you use, – and here’s the key – make sure you respond to the feedback you receive. And by responding, I don’t mean saying ‘Thank you for your feedback, we have noted your response and will be acting accordingly.” I mean taking action! And then telling your customers about the action you’ve taken.
Because that’s the thing. Listening to your customers is a conversation, not a one-way speech. You’re not really listening if you don’t respond.