Filed under: Case Study, Clients, Email Marketing, News, Restaurants, Running a better business, Survey Feedback, Surveys, Technology, Uncategorized | Tags: affordable technology, better business, customer satisfaction, drive sales, guest satisfaction, ideas into action, loyalty programs, measurement and analytics, mobile data collection, mobile surveys, real time data, ROI, top ways
Recently we stumbled upon a great info graphic about the “10 Ways to Increase Sales in 2012” and we had the most unsurprising reaction- Oh, that’s so simple and interesting! Of course, that’s what info graphics are supposed to be- simple, straight-to-the-point, and interesting. While this top ten list certainly sparks interest, we wanted to contribute our thoughts on how to put these sales drivers into high gear this year! Using our clients as inspiration, and our Survey On The Spot tool as the platform, we’ve identified some ideas that any business could benefit from integrating into day-to-day operations and big-picture strategy.
#1 Use Analytics and Metrics
Analytics and metrics have never been more important to businesses as retailers continue to try to gather usable insights from their business efforts. However, it can be a challenge for “brick and mortar” businesses to follow along in implementing analytics and tracking tactics that are relevant to gauging their success in attracting and retaining customers. There is a way to use software, however, to get the same level of analytics in the place where you need it most – at the point of sale. This realization is what prompted us to consider mobile technology as a way to provide brick-and-mortar locations with a level of analytics and metrics to fuel their business decisions that hasn’t been readily available. We’ve created a way that consumers can share their voice with you about their experience with your business in real-time. Customers can provide feedback on the service they received, the training session they just attended or the new food dish they just tried…all before they leave their seat. This data is then automatically converted to metrics that can be tracked over time.
#9 Manage Your Reputation
“Unhappy customers are more likely to leave negative reviews online and complain to their networks both online and offline. Be sure to respond to unhappy customers and try to fix the issue so more customers will be satisfied.” We wish we had written those wise words ourselves! At the heart of successfully managing one’s reputation is finding a way to get the customer’s opinion before anyone else- including the customer next to them or their entire social network. Make sure you come up in conversation in a positive way by ensuring you have a process in place to deal with feedback immediately rather than doing “damage” control after the fact. We know how important this can be- if you provide top quality service 99% of the time, don’t let the 1% slip through the cracks. It’s not easy, but it’s never been easier. We have clients who use mobile guest satisfaction surveys- if a customer provides negative feedback an alert is sent to management to notify them of the issue. Management can then try to resolve the problem before the customer leaves. The feedback can also be used to drive positive change- the quality of service achieved affects the employee’s performance evaluations and eventually their yearly bonus or promotion.
#6 Build Relationships with Customers
When we take our business hats off at the end of the day, and go back to being consumers, it’s easier to remember how much simple “good business” practices can positively influence our decisions to be a ‘regular’ or just a drifting one-time consumer. Customers respond positively when companies personally engage them and understand what they want. Customers will be more likely to choose your business over another if you are receptive to their needs. When customer relationships are a priority, businesses can achieve 43% more sales per employee and 260% more revenue. These results aren’t surprising, but just having the facts doesn’t always give you a way to get from a to b. When it comes to engagement, asking for feedback is central. Opening a conversation with customers to give you their feedback allows them to have a “say in the matter”. You can also ask for their feedback while offering an incentive, like signing up for your email club to receive special offers, or something special on their birthday.
#5 Invest in Mobile Tactics
Mobile tactics aren’t limited to building your own smartphone app or mobile ordering platform. Mobile tactics can be used to enable you to more effectively run and build your business on a day-to-day basis. You can invest in collecting mobile feedback, letting customers join your loyalty rewards program on their phones, etc. Mobile technology can also be used to monitor and manage regular business procedures like opening and closing checklists, food safety and sanitation audits or to gather employee engagement and training feedback.
#3 Loyalty Programs
Loyalty programs encourage repeat business by rewarding sales with discounts, freebies, and other incentives. The average US household is enrolled in 18 loyalty programs and customers who are part of a loyalty program will spend more. The first step to having a loyalty reward program is being able to get the right email addresses to send rewards to. For restaurants especially, it can be hard to get the word out about your rewards program on your own. Many of our customers use surveys like ours to get feedback, and at the end of the survey, collect email addresses from customers who’d like to opt-in to receive loyalty club rewards, be entered in sweepstakes promotions, or receive special offers on their birthday. For example, one of our clients used a QR code on the packaging of a new product once it hit shelves to get feedback on the product from customers, and once they completed the survey, they were entered into a sweepstakes to win $250 in store gift cards.
Sales growth is directly linked to the quality of the product and service you provide your client. In today’s economic environment, this is even truer than ever before. Using mobile technology can help you better monitor, manage and build your business by insuring that you have your pulse on your customer’s experience and creating opportunities to build a stronger relationship. Solutions, like ours, can be affordable and can save you time, money, paper, and lost customers. Many of our clients use our service for as little as $2/day. So, what’s stopping you from driving your sales this year?
Filed under: Clients, News, Restaurants, Running a better business, Survey Feedback, Surveys, Technology | Tags: better business, customer service surveys, economy, entrepreneurship, interchange zero, low costs, new businesses, start-up
For those of you unfamiliar, interchange zero (IZ) is a term supporters use when talking about eliminating the interchange costs associated with the use of credit cards. Interchange fees are those pesky percentages card companies charge merchants when they accept credit card transactions. The belief among many like Seth Priebatsch, creator of The LevelUp, is that by reducing or removing those fees, ‘Friction’ that money can better be used to build commerce and drive revenue to benefit all parties involved. I realize one sentence doesn’t do it justice, but redirecting $50 bllion of current non-value-added expenses toward driving consumer and enterprise value is an extremely powerful idea – especially in light of the current state of the economy.
A logical and possibly larger extension of this idea is the opportunity around what I call Obligation Zero (OZ), the ‘Friction’ that results from contract terms. This topic came up as we recently launched our start-up, On The Spot Systems. One of the first things we needed to figure out (after identifying that we had an excellent concept) was a go-to-market strategy. When we thought about what type of company we wanted to be, we instantly defaulted to our vision of the kinds of companies with which WE would want to do business (One of the simple pleasures of starting your own business!) We immediately concluded that “No Contracts Required” was a good place to start. My business partner and I firmly believe that if we aren’t delivering the promise we made to you as our client, we don’t deserve to keep your business. Period. More importantly, we found that this approach keeps us always pushing forward, always looking for the next unique tool or innovation, always looking out for our clients’ best interest. Essentially, it keeps us hungry.
I speak from experience: When a client isn’t obligated to continue to pay us because of a guaranteed contract, we ensure that we are ultra competitive. We continually press innovation into our clients’ hands, continue to improve the efficiency of our business to deliver lower cost solutions while maintaining or growing our margins. We believe that ultimately we will capture a larger share of the market as a result of this approach to doing business and that we will maintain a reputation for ensuring our clients always get the best we can deliver.
The flip side of OZ is the impact of obligating your clients to pay for unrealized value. What is the cost to business and the economy of this approach? The net result is negative economic value as businesses are forced to accept sub-optimal performance and products or services they no longer want or need. My guess is that this could result in billions of dollars of sub-optimal performance across the business landscape. Consider this industry example: Based on a recent GSM/Wireless Intelligence study, global revenues for mobile service will reach $1.1 trillion (with a ‘T’) this year. If 1% of that revenue came from customers that had better service options available – but couldn’t switch carriers – and if by switching they could save on average 10%, it represents $1.1 Billion dollars of economic impact… For that single category of business alone! Think about all of the contract obligations, personal and business, in existence, and do the math. It represents a colossal number…and doesn’t include any of the non-cash benefits, like better, faster service.
This played out in the real world recently. After successfully piloting our Survey On The Spot product, one of our hospitality clients decided to move forward with a system-wide rollout. They encountered one major problem: Their current supplier refused to let them out of their contract, essentially forcing the client to continue using what they perceived to be a sub-optimal product for the remainder of the contract (about a year). Rather than looking in the mirror at what they had failed to deliver – they just fell back onto the contract. The client called us, exasperated, so we put our money where our mouths are… We offered the client our product at no cost for the first year, thereby demonstrating our commitment to our clients (and a healthy belief in our Survey On The Spot product) by walking-the-walk. It’s still too early to tell how this story will end, but we are committed to this OZ approach to business, and people are taking notice.
We recognize that eliminating all contracts is easier said than done, but we do believe that reducing the situations in which contracts only serve to arbitrarily lock in a revenue stream is good for business. This is at the heart of the opportunity and impact. If companies are motivated to be as efficient as possible to benefit their clients, how much capital would flow into the economy to fuel growth? A lot. If contract-obligating companies always tried to find a way to innovate to improve the efficiency of their clients, what would be the lift in economic productivity?
It’s hard to know, but “Obligation Zero“ is a good place to start.
Understanding Trends in your Restaurant Locations
What use is a customer survey if it is too difficult to organize and display the data for accurate analysis? Survey On The Spot features streamlined reporting tools that allow you to view your survey data in a simple and user-friendly format, giving you the control to customize the report displays so they are most useful to your unique needs. You also have the option of viewing data online or exported to Excel or PDF files, allowing for further data customization.
In our real-time reporting system, users can view individual survey submissions or aggregate data for a broader strategic overview. Managers can easily gauge how well restaurants are performing on a specific day or over a longer period of time for a more in-depth analysis. Reports can also be used to track customer response to new menu items or the performance of individual team members.
We have a reporting feature that allows businesses with multiple locations to track guest satisfaction performance at each location. Survey data for each location can be viewed individually, comparatively, or in total. With this tool, business owners have a detailed view of their business’s guest satisfaction success, as they are able to analyze the overall results as well as the performance of each separate location. Not only can users see in which particular areas they excel or fall behind overall, but they can pinpoint which individual locations stand out in the rankings, thereby easily identifying areas for improvement.
For example, imagine a chain of restaurants has an overall positive customer satisfaction score in speed of service. Upon further examination of the data by comparing the individual results of each location in Survey On The Spot’s Company Score Report, however, the business owner sees that Location #2 is doing exceptionally well in this area while Location #5 is lagging far behind. With this knowledge, the business owner can now take the appropriate steps to improve customer satisfaction by asking, what is Location #2 doing to streamline service and increase speed that Location #5 is not? Through analysis of individual survey responses at each location, the business owner can pinpoint particular things customers liked and did not like and can identify specific ways to maximize efficiency at Location #5.
The above scenario can be applied to all aspects of customer satisfaction at restaurants, including food quality, environment, quality of service, cleanliness, success of specific menu items, and more. By paying close attention to each of these important aspects of your restaurant, tracking success in each area at all locations, and comparing data across locations, you can make focused improvements with the big picture in mind, ultimately increasing customer satisfaction and the overall success of your business.
One of the most important features of a restaurant actually has little to do with the menu, and may often go overlooked to the detriment of the business’s success. Restaurant patrons notice the restrooms, and their opinion of the facilities affects their perception of the restaurant as a whole.
A recent Harris Interactive poll found that 88% of people feel that a dirty bathroom reflects poorly on the cleanliness of the overall establishment, and 29% of these people said they would not return to a restaurant with a filthy bathroom. Even if the kitchen and dining areas are spotless, customers will question the overall management and hygiene of a restaurant if its restrooms are subpar. A dirty, neglected bathroom can sour an otherwise tasty meal, ruining the overall dining experience. With at least 29% of your customers at stake, restroom upkeep is a must.
Restrooms should be comfortable and hospitable to patrons. After a mid-meal bathroom break, your patrons should return to their seat and their meal with a positive feeling. First and foremost, it is vital that the facilities are as clean and orderly as possible, with all materials well-stocked and hardware fully functioning. Don’t settle for the bare necessities, however; add a special touch by offering free toiletries, mints, perfume, or fresh hand towels. Put in the extra effort to show your customers that you really care about their comfort.
You might also consider going the extra mile to make your restroom facilities memorable – in a good way. Bathrooms don’t need to be boring; a little creativity can go a long way to create a lasting impression. Interesting and memorable décor will add a talking point that can help set your restaurant apart from competitors and create buzz. Decorate the restrooms with a theme to match the mood of the restaurant, whether it is beautiful and elegant or quirky and unusual.
Regardless of how you choose to arrange or decorate your restaurant’s restrooms, keep in mind your patrons’ opinions. Their perception of your facilities matters: it will affect their overall opinion of your restaurant and, in turn, the success of your business. Be aware of how well (or poorly) customers perceive the facilities, and respond accordingly.
Filed under: Restaurants | Tags: instant surveys, mobile surveys, survey app
When was the last time you heard a friend or colleague complain about service at a business? How often do you find yourself listing off what you disliked about your last hotel stay or lunch meeting? What many businesses don’t realize is that an unhappy customer is more than just one bad experience. Statistics show that 91% of dissatisfied customers will never again purchase goods or services from your business.
According to studies, news travels fast and far. The average unhappy customer will tell between 8 and 16 people about his or her negative experience at your business. Your existing customers may forgive a little bad news about your business, but don’t expect to attract new customers with complaints flying around town. Even the smallest customer can impact your bottom line when he or she starts talking.
Sharing negative experiences is quick and painless in the online age, where language travels beyond your personal social circle. From message boards to review sites, Twitter accounts to facebook pages, anyone with an Internet connection and an opinion can bring your business to its knees before millions of readers. While unhappy customers are likely to tell their story to friends and family, they may never mention it to you unless there is an easy way to do it. This puts an added burden on you to maintain the highest level of service and also to continue to encourage customer feedback.
So think about it. If your average customer visits your business once a month and spends $40, you lose $480/year in revenue. If you have a loyal customer base where you keep customers for several years – say 5 years on average, this has now cost you $2400 in revenue. And finally, if they tell 10 friends who never have a chance to become loyal customers, it has cost you and additional $24,000 in revenue. That’s a lot to pay for a single bad experience that you might have been able to avoid.
The Bottom Line: Each customer you lose or fail to attract will take a toll on your business’s success. Each unhappy customer may mean a domino effect of failed potential new customers. With each person who hears a bad review, you risk losing one sale – or more. With businesses spending considerable money on advertising and marketing, it would be a waste to allow negative word-of-mouth to undercut all paid efforts.
There are dozens of ways to lose business – don’t allow dissatisfaction to be a cause for lost customers, both existing and potential.
Filed under: Email Marketing, Restaurants, Running a better business | Tags: customer service surveys, email list building, Email Marketing, mobile surveys
What’s more valuable than being able to reach your customers at any hour of the day? Sharing the right information in the most effective manner. Your business has ample opportunity to contact customers thanks to the prevalence of email marketing, but misuse of this tool can be fatal for your customers’ interest in your product.
Before you send out your next marketing email, be sure to read these tips on optimizing your email marketing to boost your business’ sales.
Give your clients what they want. While you might think new restaurant flatware or a recently replaced carpet is interesting stuff, your customers want to know about what’s in it for them. Customers want to hear about events, discounts, promotions and specials.
Be personal and relevant. When you collect email addresses, ask for other information as well. You will delight your customers with birthday greetings and rewards. The email promotions you send should be available at the locations most convenient to the client. Don’t pester your customers with promotions they likely won’t be able to use! Similarly, keep your promotions timely. Send seasonal specials as the season kicks off, when your customers have the time of year in mind.
Make an impression. Email boxes fill up quickly with company promotions. Make your email marketing stand out! Use a stimulating headline to ensure your message doesn’t go straight to the recycle bin. Highlight the purpose of the email, be it a sale, a promotion, or a new product, right in the headline. Of course, getting a customer to open the email isn’t the end of the battle. A well-written paragraph or two may adequately share your message, but only if the client bothers to read it. Consider adding design elements like photography and art to share your message efficiently and effectively. Of course, keep it short! Customers care about what’s in it for them.
Don’t be a pest. No one wants to hear from you daily. The more emails you send, the more your customers will find themselves deleting your messages as ‘spam.’ Determine what works best for your business, but set a regular interval. Maybe you have a weekly special that is worthy of highlighting; in that case, a weekly email may be perfect. Setting a seasonal menu? Bi-monthly emails will let your customers know what to expect as the menu changes. Try to be consistent with your frequency so customers know when to expect to hear from you. There aren’t any consistent published guidelines regarding email frequency, however one good rule of thumb is to base it on how frequently your customer makes a buying decision in your type of industry. It is important to keep an eye on your unsubscribe list. If your rate of unsubscribes goes up, you may be emailing too frequently.
Diversify and integrate. Email is effective, but many clients are proficient in and active on social media channels. Encourage customers to sign up for your Facebook page or to be a Twitter follower. This allows customers to become more connected to your brand and your business. Speak mobile fluently. With mobile device and smartphone use growing by the day, it becomes more necessary that your emails translate fully to mobile screens. This includes your text, images, and links.
Let them forward. Never forget to include an ‘share’ link in every email. This allows your customers to share their love of your product with friends. Word of mouth in the digital age extends to email forwarding!
Segmented Lists segmenting addresses based on interests or demographics can help your emails be more relevant, especially when promoting events or specials.
Filed under: Restaurants, Running a better business, Survey Feedback | Tags: customer experience, customer feedback, customer service surveys, feedback follow up, guest-services
No matter how hard you work at making your business run well, there will be customer complaints. Some customers will keep their complaints to themselves. Others, though, will express their concerns to you through your Guest Satisfaction Surveys. If your customers are willing to be honest with you and share their issues with your business, they likely expect two things: problem resolution and personal follow-up.
Today, let’s focus on the latter. Many customer surveys ask for contact information for businesses to get in touch with guests after guests lodge complaints. Failing to follow up with a dissatisfied guest may result in a lost customer and a bad reputation. Handling customer complaints is best done with simple courtesy:
1. Listen: Read their comments fully and closely. If speaking in person, do not interrupt. They have something to tell you, you need to hear it.
2. Say Thank You: Always, always, always say thank you! Follow up with any customer complaints. Respond to them in whatever medium they provide you contact information; the more direct the better. If they give their phone number, call them. Let them know you care.
3. Apologize: If you care about your customers’ experience, you need to apologize. Do not rest on rationalizations and excuses; apologize for your customers’ subpar experience with your company. Make the apology sincere.
4. Show Respect: Consider the customers’ feelings and opinions when seeking a resolution. Work together to find the answer. Ask what the customer would like to have happen – the customer may expect less than you think.
5. Send a Note: Follow up with your customer and thank them for their input. Let them know how you made appropriate changes. Customers will often respond positively to your focus on making them part of the solution.
Your customers will appreciate your good manners and strong follow-up. Moreover, they will share that good experience with others. Just as an unhappy customer can keep potential customers away, a satisfied customer will relate that experience with others. Prompt, sincere follow-up is critical to address guest issues.
Filed under: Restaurants, Running a better business | Tags: customer experience, customer feedback, negative customer feedback, Training employees
As the old saying goes, the customer is always right. It may make perfect sense to you as a business owner, but how can you explain that concept to your employees when sharing negative feedback? Further, how can you translate that into an appropriate response by your employees?
First, being able to obtain candid, prompt feedback from your clients is only as valuable as your ability to respond. Of course, expressing clients’ complaints with staff can be the hardest task. Failing to share the feedback will hamper change but addressing the issue can offend your staff members. Tact and respect are the keys to bringing sensitive issues to the table. When addressing customers’ complaints with your staff:
- Consider: about whom or what was the complaint lodged? Your customer could be upset with one employee or disappointed with a product or service handled by several members of your team. Meet with solo offenders individually, but don’t be afraid to gather a full group to address larger scale issues.
- Check with your front line of defense: your employees. Do they recognize the problem being raised by the customer? Were they aware of the issue?
- Listen to your employees’ responses. After all, you hired them because you believe they are skilled at what they do! Their opinions count. Do they think the complaints are reasonable? Your employees’ response is vital. While a good employee is concerned about customer appreciation, they may be able to offer a fuller picture of the customer’s experience.
If your employee agrees with the customer’s complaint, it’s time to discuss strategies to make a change. What does the employee recommend? What do you recommend? Are there examples of similar problem resolution strategies in your company? In your industry? Ask your employee what staff can do differently in the future to prevent this from happening again.
If your employee doesn’t recognize the validity of the complaint, consider who is right – platitudes aside – your employee or your customer? If you believe your employee is right, stand up for him or her with the customer. If you stand by the customer, explain why to your employee. In a one-on-one setting, make it clear what you see about the employee’s performance that is an issue. Again, consider potential solutions to work with your employee to resolve the situation so your employee knows you care about his or her contributions.
Remember to use tact and respect when working with your employees. From entry level to senior management, a business is only as strong as its staff. Making everyone feel like part of the team is crucial to having employees buy in to your mission and meet your company’s standard of service.
Filed under: Restaurants, Surveys | Tags: clean restrooms, cleanliness, customer feedback, customer service surveys, QSR Magazine
A recent survey by Cintas Corporation in QSR Magazine showed that customers do not simply expect clean restrooms, they require them: a survey polling 1,000 U.S. residents ages 18 and older found that 94 percent of U.S. adults would avoid patronizing a business at which they experienced a dirty restroom. A single unhappy customer doesn’t just take his business elsewhere: word of mouth (and Twitter) spreads quickly and can cost many future visits by existing and potential customers. As a result, an unclean restroom gone unnoticed could turn off multiple customers in one day. While some will inform a member of the staff, not all customers feel comfortable directly reporting uncleanliness in a restaurant, retail outlet, or business. Meanwhile, although clean restrooms are a priority for most businesses, it is difficult — if not impossible — to set aside staff for hyper-frequent bathroom checkups.
Think that just because you aren’t operating a restaurant, this doesn’t apply to your company? Not so. The same survey asked respondents what specific types of businesses they would avoid due to dirty restrooms. Leading the list and tied for first are restaurants and hotels: 79 percent of respondents would avoid these business because of the state of their facilities. Similarly, 77 percent of respondents would be turned off by unclean restrooms in healthcare facilities. Also on the list were supermarkets (50 percent of respondents), retail stores (45 percent of respondents), gas stations (45 percent of respondents), and even car dealerships (39 percent of respondents).
Of course, this doesn’t mean every business in America needs to hire an around-the-clock restroom attendant. Instead, make it more convenient and less awkward for customers to report cleanliness complaints or comments to management. Real-time satisfaction surveys can provide you with customer feedback about cleanliness and other service issues instantly. You might even consider a survey kiosk to get the most timely and accurate responses.
Faster than the old-fashioned pencil and comment card, internet-connected surveys can even send alerts to management to inform about particular cleanliness issues. Historically, you would have to wait til the end of a guest’s hotel stay or visit to your business site to be informed of their unhappiness. With immediate notification, you can be on the move to ameliorate the situation in an instant. If there is a larger issue, you can get respond promptly to customers to let them know you’re working to fix the situation.
Providing customers with an anonymous, instant opportunity to share their opinions, issues, and concerns about your restrooms and public areas sends the message that your business is concerned about their input. Furthermore, knowing their voices will be heard encourages the customers to provide that input.
While a survey won’t mop the floors, it can let you know when you may need to bring out the bucket. Responding promptly to customer complaints about cleanliness can be the difference between a one-time guest and a regular client.