An effective restaurant seeks out its clientele's opinions, both good and bad. Customer comments can help define the areas of a restaurant that need improvement, as well as point out the things a restaurant does well. As a restaurant owner or manager, consider bringing in a customer comment card system as a means of obtaining customer feedback. It can help you see through the eyes of your guests, and the information you can gain from that perspective is key to making your operation even more successful.
Build Better Customer Relationships
First and foremost, the customer comment cards are valid feedback tools. Providing customers with the opportunity to comment shows that you value opinions and wish to improve the product and service your restaurant provides. Essentially, it shows you care about the customers. By taking the initiative to learn about what customers think of your operation, you can begin to build better relationships with your customers. Although you cannot please everyone, you can use their comments it as tools to build a better business.
Gain Marketing Information
Not only do your customer comment cards capture information that can help your restaurant improve its service and products, but they also have the ability to help gather marketing data as well. Although it is optional, customers will often leave their email address or other contact information on the comment card, allowing you to expand your database of information. You may even be able to email customers monthly newsletters or printable coupons. The more you know about your customers, the better you are able to serve them.
Provide Emotional Outlets
There are several ways for a restaurant, or any business as a matter of fact, to obtain feedback from its guests. Some businesses swear by the need to perform verbal solicitations for customer information, and others will only send questionnaires via mail or email. These are all important ways of gathering information. However, the customer comment card can provide a more immediate and even anonymous form of offering feedback. The act of writing down comments on paper absorbs a lot of emotional impact, and just having a place to record their experiences can prevent unhappy customers from complaining about the restaurant to their friends or an even more public forum.
When implementing any customer feedback system, take the time to plan out a strategy. Be sure to ask questions that will provide beneficial information to your restaurant, and construct the card in a way that makes is accessible to guests. Learn more with the guidelines below:
Use professional printing services. If you want your comment cards to be taken seriously, make sure they look professional. Unless you have a way of printing several hundred (or even several thousand) sharp-looking customer comment cards on your own, professional printers are the way to go.
Be simple and concise. Use clear and to-the-point wording in everything you write on the card. Questions should be straightforward and easy to answer. The entire card should take no longer than a minute or two to fill out.
Place the cards in a prime location. Unless you put your customer comment cards in a place where they will see them and use them, they are useless to you. Try placing a stack of customer comment cards on the table, or use a cardholder to display it. Servers might also deliver a customer comment card for each table with the final check.
Let guests know how to return cards. Make sure there is a drop box or other location available for customers to return these cards. Servers might let customers know where to drop the cards on their way out, or offer to take them from the guests after they are finished dining.
Provide incentives to return cards. Giving the customer an incentive to fill out the card is a good way to ensure that the customer actually fills it out and returns it. Providing a 10 percent discount or a free item often give the impetus needed for customers to hand the cards in. It may even help to give the customer the chance to return their comments by mail. Consider making post-card versions of your customer comment cards so that customers can mail them back to your restaurant.
Acknowledge your customer's time. When a customer fills out a comment card with useful information, and provides his or her mailing address or email address, you might consider writing a personal note of thanks to acknowledge the customer's comments. This is especially important for customers with negative comments. They want to know that their response is taken to heart. Writing a personal response is time-consuming, but a memorable gesture is often an effective way to win the customer back.
Consider creating a manager's log. This is a notebook or binder kept in the back of the house as a means of recording customer feedback after a conversation is finished. This can help keep management aware of the verbal comments restaurant staff receive from customers. When a customer complains of a problem, however, restaurant employees should rectify the situation immediately and make note of the issue in the manager's log after the problem is repaired. » More on Caring for Upset Customers
Customer comment card systems should be implemented in tandem with verbal conversations between restaurant workers and customers during and after the dining experience. A manager or a responsible server should be on the floor asking diners questions. "How did you find your meal this evening?" might be all it takes to open the door of communication. Anything your guest says is valuable information, so advise restaurant staff and other managers to listen with genuine interest and to acknowledge both positive and negative feedback.
Download a printable Customer Comment Card (pdf)