Today, quality customer surveys are few and far between. Although restaurant brands understand the importance of collecting information around guest experiences, most are relying too heavily on mystery diner shoppers or comment cards to gather feedback, which are not personal or intuitive in nature.
When it comes to delivering a best-in-class customer experience, the opinions of your guests matter. Collecting direct and indirect feedback, analyzing the feedback to gain valuable insights, and then putting those insights into action is the solution to creating an incredible experience that sets you apart from the competition.
While there are various ways of capturing customer sentiment, we’ll be focusing on how expertly crafted surveys can help you gather direct feedback so you can stay on top of your customer experience.
Collecting Direct Feedback via Surveys
As we recently highlighted in “The Ultimate Guide to Direct vs Indirect Restaurant Feedback,” direct feedback is the first line of defense against customer attrition. By asking guests what they think about their restaurant experiences, brands can unveil blind spots across customer interactions. These could be issues related to service, atmosphere, food quality, or value that will impact your guest’s intent to return.
Branded surveys can help you not only identify these blind spots but also stay ahead of negative customer reviews. According to Salesforce, “62% of customers say they share their bad experiences with others.” For that reason, it is essential you get to the bottom of any customer experience concerns before they are laid bare for the world to see.
Additionally, frequently asking for feedback is an essential part of any restaurant’s customer experience strategy (the way you operationalize feedback can have a powerful impact on your bottom line). Surveys offer a convenient, cost-effective way to collect valuable feedback and increase customer loyalty. It’s simple: when guests feel their opinions are being heard and their needs are being taken into consideration, they are more likely to become repeat customers. And acquiring new customers can cost up to five times as much as keeping current ones!
Survey Best Practices
Here is how you can create beautiful surveys that your customers will actually enjoy completing. After all, enjoyable surveys mean higher survey response rates and more actionable feedback.
- Set Clear Objectives
Clearly define the purpose of your survey and what you want to achieve. Having clear objectives helps you to focus your survey and avoid asking irrelevant questions that can dilute the results or increase survey length.
So unless the purpose of your survey is to create more work for respondents, avoid asking questions like “What restaurant location did you visit?” or “What time of day did you visit?” You want to keep the survey focused on guests’ actual experiences.
- Choose the Correct Survey Type
There are various types of surveys and forms:
- Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys to gauge the likelihood of customers referring your brand to others. NPS can be used as a benchmarking tool to compare a company’s performance to industry standards or competitors and can aid restaurants in directing their customer experience initiatives and generating more revenue from referrals and upsells.
- Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) surveys to assess the level of satisfaction among customers regarding a particular product, service, or interaction.
- Customer Effort Score (CES) surveys to determine the level of effort required by customers to accomplish a task or resolve an issue with a brand.
- Product/Service Development surveys to gain a deeper understanding of a target audience’s needs and preferences to inform a business’ development strategy and increase the chances of success in the market.
- Consider Personalizing Your Surveys
Research by McKinsey showed that 76% of customers believe personalized messages are crucial in enhancing their consideration of a brand, and 78% believe such communication made them more willing to repurchase.
By leveraging your existing customer data, you can create personalized surveys that ask the right questions of the right customers at the right time.
Personalized surveys are more likely to be completed by customers, as they feel that their opinions are valued and that the survey is relevant to their experiences.
- Keep It Short
Remember, your customers have better things to do than answer your survey. If you want respondents to stay until the end, make the survey process short, sweet, and slick.
According to a study by HubSpot, if your survey lasts longer than three minutes, you risk losing almost 15% of the participants who begin it. By the time the survey reaches the nine-minute mark, over 40% of the respondents may drop out. The top four reasons people said they quit before finishing a survey included “Too many questions,” “Weren’t motivated to answer questions about the survey topic(s),” “Unsure what impact the survey responses would have,” and “Questions required them to think too deeply.”
You get the gist—keep your surveys concise and to the point.
- Ask One Question at a Time
If you want reliable feedback, keep respondents focused. Instead of overwhelming them with a torrent of questions all at once, ask one question at a time, similar to a conversation. This helps minimize distractions and ensures a natural flow to your survey that is easy to follow.
- Use Closed-Ended Questions & Limit Open-Ended Ones
Closed-ended questions are questions that provide a predefined set of response options typically presented in the form of multiple choice, rating scales, or “yes” or “no” answers.
These questions provide researchers with a structured and efficient way to collect quantitative data and analyze it more effectively.
Moreover, whereas open-ended questions take more time for respondents to answer, since they have to write or type out their responses, a predefined set of responses can cut your survey time in half.
Giving guests the opportunity to express their thoughts in their own words does come with its perks. It allows for more detailed and nuanced responses which can lead to a deeper understanding of customers’ attitudes, opinions, and experiences. However, be prepared for some highly creative answers like “the chicken tasted like a ray of sunshine,” which may leave you with a headache trying to make sense of all the data.
So if you want to include open-ended questions, limit it to one or two. Most importantly, consider how you will analyze these responses to understand what guests are talking about at scale. An AI-powered Natural Language Processor tool that uses machine learning algorithms to process and analyze natural language data can help you quickly and effectively assess feedback that may otherwise take any multi-unit restaurant brand eons to comb through.
- Ensure Rating Scales Are Consistent
A rating scale is a survey question format that asks respondents to rate or rank something on a numerical scale. The scale typically ranges from 1 to 5, where respondents can select a number that represents their level of agreement, satisfaction, or other relevant response.
Keeping scales consistent is crucial for obtaining accurate survey results. If a scale question uses a range of 1 to 5, where 1 indicates “Strongly Disagree” and 5 indicates “Strongly Agree,” suddenly changing the meaning of the numbers in another question, such as making 1 represent “Strongly Agree,” could create confusion among respondents and introduce potential bias into the outcomes.
- Avoid Leading & Biased Questions
The purpose of a survey is to collect accurate and reliable data that reflects the views, opinions, and experiences of the survey respondents. Unbiased questions help to ensure that the data collected is objective and free from any form of influence or bias that may affect the results.
For instance, the question “Do you agree that our restaurant has the best food in town?” suggests a particular answer and is phrased in a leading manner that may influence respondents to answer in a way that is not representative of their true views or experiences.
So keep questions neutral and focused on the specific information you want to gather.
- Consider Providing Incentives
Rewarding guests for taking the time to provide their feedback by offering incentives—such as coupons, discounts, or giveaways—may be an effective way to encourage participation. This is especially true when trying to reach the more stubborn customers or encourage participation in lengthy surveys.
If you decide to offer an incentive, make sure that the incentive is valuable enough to motivate customers to participate but not so valuable that it creates an unfair bias. For example, an encouraging incentive might be getting a discount on the next meal. One that could create bias might be if you offered a completely free meal; this could skew your results, and guests might feel obligated to leave a positive sentiment just to take advantage of the offer.
- Pick the Right Delivery Method
You can choose to deliver your surveys to customers via QR code, email, or kiosks. Or you can choose to print them on your receipts or packaging. But meeting your customers where they are is essential in ensuring their participation in your surveys. The average time spent daily on a mobile phone is expected to reach around 4 hours and 39 minutes by 2024, according to Statista—an important metric to consider when you decide whether or not to make your survey mobile-friendly.
- Choose Your Timing Wisely
The timing of the survey should be close to the customer’s experience with your restaurant to ensure that the feedback is based on a fresh and recent experience. Sending the survey too long after the experience can lead to inaccurate or incomplete feedback.
Research revealed that weekdays are the best time to send customer surveys since people are generally more focused and engaged with work-related activities during these days.
- Test Your Survey
The last thing you want to do after painstakingly creating the perfect survey is send it out to guests riddled with errors. Testing your survey can help identify issues such as ambiguous questions, confusing answer options, or technical errors that may prevent respondents from completing the survey.
More importantly, you need to ensure your efforts in getting customers to participate in your survey pay off. For feedback to be effectively turned into actionable insights, submissions must feed into the right customer relationship management system (CRM) or customer data platform (CDP). Once you’ve tested the survey journey, your team will want to have the proper response plan in place before going live with any new feedback initiative so you can effectively “close the loop” on every interaction.
- Thank Your Respondents
Feedback is a gift. A thank you message is a simple way to show appreciation to your guests for taking the time to complete the survey. It acknowledges the effort they put in and shows that their responses are valued.
This not only serves as a courteous gesture toward your customers but also gives you the chance to highlight what makes your brand unique with a sign-off that complements your tagline or motto.
Moreover, you can use this opportunity to establish next steps or add a call to action, such as “Join Our Rewards Program.”
Surveys are an efficient and cost-effective means of gathering insights about your customers. To maximize their value, it is essential to ask focused, straightforward questions, ensure that your surveys are brief and easy to follow, and utilize the data you acquire to take meaningful action.
If you’re wondering how to leverage your guest feedback and other data sources to enhance your customer experience and stand out in today’s highly saturated market, download our guide “What Makes Restaurants Best-in-Class in Customer Experience?”