Best way to get customer feedback?

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Bei
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Best way to get customer feedback? - Tue, 11/6/12 6:34 PM
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Hi, all,
 
I am curious about what's your best method of getting direct customer feedback? Comment cards, online surveys, phone surveys, etc. What do you use and what seems to be the most effective? Face-to-face communication, while important to any restaurant,  should not count here since it's not really quantifiable or trackable.
 
Full disclosure: I am thinking about writing software for feedback gathering and management. Thought this would be a great place to get some inside knowledge. And yes, I have been talking to local restaurant owners and managers with great responses, but I'd like to reach out to a wider audience. Thank you in advance!


Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Wed, 11/7/12 8:41 AM
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Face-to-face communication, while important to any restaurant,  should not count here since it's not really quantifiable or trackable. 
I guess if I was writing software I would like this ignored too.
As far as I'm concerned the true test is clean plates and the expression on the customers face. You don't get that from paper,soft ware or food critics. You get it directly.

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Wed, 11/7/12 8:45 AM
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A little like saying you can't trace word of mouth advertising other than your place is full or empty.

Curb Hopper
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Wed, 11/7/12 9:06 AM
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The only way I have ever known to get the truth is to observe tables each and every night and first person interaction. Comment cards and the like do not tell the truth.

Bei
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Wed, 11/7/12 11:29 AM
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I appreciate your comments.
 
This is interesting because when I interview restaurant owners and managers in person (I have interviewed over 70 local restaurants in the past month), the consensus seems to be that face-to-face communication is important, but the customers are sometimes too nice to give honest feedback. Anonymity uncovers some problems that one would never get from a direct face-to-face communication. Another issue comes from the limitation of your time. It's unrealistic for you, the owner or manager, to always be there and ask every single customer for their feedback. The real issue, however, comes from the accountability and tracking. Verbal communication, while very personal, is hard to track or quantify, unless one writes it down or types it into a computer.
 
I am not denying the importance of face-to-face human interaction, it's obviously very important to any restaurant or business in general, but I do not feel this could be replaced by any software, nor am I intending to do so. Please do not be alarmed, as this is not a discussion about how important face-to-face communication is, rather I am quite curious about the effectiveness of any trackable customer feedback method you are implementing. Your feedback (no pun intended) is greatly appreciated :)
<message edited by Bei on Wed, 11/7/12 11:32 AM>

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Wed, 11/7/12 12:17 PM
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Sure, if someone asks me if everything is ok I say yes, I don't want to be bothered telling them their food or service is crap.They need to be smart enough to figure that out themselves. If they watch their customers body language and plates they'll know. If it's garbage I just won't go back. If they give me a survey it goes in the nearest bin. I can't believe how many business owners out there can't figure this out. Thin the herd. If I can't find the time to figure out what my customers think it's curtains for me.

Bei
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Wed, 11/7/12 2:58 PM
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Ice Cream Man, so as a customer you would hate to take a survey right? Because it's time consuming?  I'm assuming you are a restaurant owner? Have you tried any feedback method other than face-to-face communication, body language reading, and gut instincts? 

Hepcat
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Wed, 11/7/12 3:14 PM
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Ice Cream Man
If it's garbage I just won't go back.

Ideally though you'd want to get an inkling that something is wrong before it reaches that point and your business really starts to sag.
 

 
 

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Wed, 11/7/12 3:25 PM
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Because they are annoying.
When I go into a business I assume they will have their act together if not surveys probably won't help.
I don't advertise or do surveys. My customers advertise for me and give me all the feedback I need. I also don't do specials, coupons or discounts unless it's charity.
What I do is research. That's something that is really lacking.
Home Depot does surveys and still suck at service.

Bei
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Wed, 11/7/12 4:00 PM
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Survey is merely a tool. In the end it's up to the person that's using the tool to derive any use from it. A laptop could be used as a paper weight, but it could also send a rover to Mars. 
 
It sounds like you run a very successful restaurant, and you have happy and loyal customers. Congratulations! You mentioned that you do research. Can I ask what type of research you do and how you do it? I have not personally run a restaurant (my family does though), but I did own a service oriented business before, and I learned to appreciate the power of metrics. In the right hand, the right data and metrics could help eliminate waste, save time and money, and ultimately make the customers happy. That is a software solution I am looking to create.
<message edited by Bei on Wed, 11/7/12 4:16 PM>

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Wed, 11/7/12 9:43 PM
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You are doing research now, so am I.
What Type, every type I can find.
You don't really want me to list all the places I go to do research do you.
This is the #1 place on the web but there are many more.
My competitors.
All wholesalers.
Just to name a few, most research is free it just takes time. 

Curb Hopper
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Thu, 11/8/12 1:01 AM
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A restaurant is a creation from the passion and experience someone or a small group of people possess. It is not meant to be a re-creation. The successful owner shows the customer/guest what they are capable of doing. The guest/customer does not tell the business owner what to do or how to do it. Surveys and the like are garbage.

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Thu, 11/8/12 9:43 AM
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The guest/customer does not tell the business owner what to do or how to do it. 
That's a fine line isn't it.
Ever go to a place where the menu is ten pages long, as soon as someone says you should have this or do it this way the owner jumps right on it. They watch Triple D, next thing you know they have a ten pound burger. We have to listen to our customers and read their minds but we still have to stay focused.

Bei
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Thu, 11/8/12 11:42 AM
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I think I can draw that analogy in the software world as well. I've talked to many restaurant owners and everyone has a feature that they want. Does that mean I need to add all of the features in the software? Probably not. It will become unusable. It's better to stay focused and deliver a useful and valuable experience. Steve Jobs put it quite well, "Customers don't know what they want!"
 
I appreciate your feedback guys. Any restaurant owner stands on the other side of this fence and think surveys and other methods of getting data and feedback are useful?

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Thu, 11/8/12 12:51 PM
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Steve Jobs put it quite well, "Customers don't know what they want!" 
In most cases, if it's good they'll take what you have.
The ones you have to watch out for are the ones that want something special and you only see them once a year.
Most small businesses need to stay focused on their best sellers and customers. 

Tsboss
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Thu, 11/8/12 1:47 PM
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Simple way.. Make a facebook page and have them write what they think.. Its quick and easy for the customers and free for you!!  plus you get results fast!  Everyone almost has a face book page  and can access it anywhere and anytime. and for everyone who makes a post you can have a drawing for a free product.. will excite people and entice them to make a comment.. .
<message edited by Tsboss on Thu, 11/8/12 1:58 PM>

bartl
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Fri, 11/9/12 11:18 AM
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I've been considering a sign: "If you enjoyed yourself, tell Yelp. If you didn't, tell us!"
 
Bart

Bei
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Fri, 11/9/12 12:03 PM
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bartl


I've been considering a sign: "If you enjoyed yourself, tell Yelp. If you didn't, tell us!"

Bart

Ha, that's pretty funny.
 
My software idea actually is in the same vein. After the survey is taken, if the ratings and comments are positive then it would direct the customer to share their feedback with the public (Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, etc), but if the ratings and comments are negative then it would direct them to you, the owner. Two birds (feedback & marketing) with one stone!
 
Ice Cream Man, Tsboss, bartl. I'd like to offer you my software for trial. Ice Cream Man is against the idea of surveys, but I hope this solution could change your mind about the merit of data. Tsboss uses Facebook, so I'm assuming you are more inclined toward technology, and I think you will enjoy using the solution. bartl you don't have to print that sign any more, as I will give you a streamlined tool to hopefully achieve that. I am looking for 5 early testers from different internet communities, and you guys have been the most responsive and helpful, so I'm willing to offer 3 seats to the roadfood community. I can tell you more details in private message, but I want to make sure you are interested. Just let me know :)
<message edited by Bei on Fri, 11/9/12 12:05 PM>

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Fri, 11/9/12 12:14 PM
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but I want to make sure you are interested
 
I could say that's silly but I won't.
The reason we're all here is because we're interested.
Interested in everything, we may not use it but if we didn't check out every scrap we may miss something good.

Foodbme
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sat, 11/10/12 2:31 AM
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Many fast food places put info on your reciept to go on-line and fill out a survey and then you're entered in a drawing. I do it just to get in the drawing. Jack in the Box's is the best one - $10 K

Dr of BBQ
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sat, 11/10/12 8:56 AM
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Ice Cream Man
The reason we're all here is because we're interested. Interested in everything, we may not use it but if we didn't check out every scrap we may miss something good.

 
Right on Target!

Bei
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sat, 11/10/12 12:25 PM
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Dr of BBQ


Ice Cream Man
The reason we're all here is because we're interested. Interested in everything, we may not use it but if we didn't check out every scrap we may miss something good.


Right on Target!

That's a great attitude! I'm at the right place then :) Please let me know if anybody else is interested. I will put you on our wait list and you will have priority access once we can accomodate more early testers.

Bei
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sat, 11/10/12 12:27 PM
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Ice Cream Man


but I want to make sure you are interested

I could say that's silly but I won't.
The reason we're all here is because we're interested.
Interested in everything, we may not use it but if we didn't check out every scrap we may miss something good.

 
It looks like I cannot private message you within 15 days of registration. Can you please email me at hi[at] survly[dot]com and I will disclose more details there.

edwmax
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sat, 11/10/12 12:34 PM
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I see the title and think:  'serve bad food and you will get feed back'    ... but it is repeat satisfied customers that you need to track.

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sat, 11/10/12 12:53 PM
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Bei


Ice Cream Man


but I want to make sure you are interested

I could say that's silly but I won't.
The reason we're all here is because we're interested.
Interested in everything, we may not use it but if we didn't check out every scrap we may miss something good.


It looks like I cannot private message you within 15 days of registration. Can you please email me at hi[at] survly[dot]com and I will disclose more details there.

No. You can wait and so can I.

Bei
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sat, 11/10/12 12:54 PM
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edwmax


I see the title and think:  'serve bad food and you will get feed back'    ... but it is repeat satisfied customers that you need to track.

Agreed. Repeat customers know what to expect so if there's anything off one day they are informed enough to tell you. But the question is what's the best way for them to tell you? Some people have no problem talking to you in person, some people cannot reach you, some people do not have the time to call or email you, and some people just don't want to tell it to your face. My idea is aimed to solve the latter three problems.

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sat, 11/10/12 1:19 PM
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Foodbme


Many fast food places put info on your reciept to go on-line and fill out a survey and then you're entered in a drawing. I do it just to get in the drawing. Jack in the Box's is the best one - $10 K

I don't even do those, I guess if you don't play you don't win but I get so pissed off if I don't win so I don't enter. I guess that's a personality fault but in business it works fine.
The other reason I don't do surveys, I have yet to see someone change because of a survey. Case in point, last year we stayed in a Comfort Inn in Covington Ohio Ft. something, I have never seen anything as disgusting in my life and I'm 64. So I went online, there are at least 2 years of complaint about this place, I was figuring if I told Comfort Inn they would come the next day and yank the sign down. But alas two years of surveys did nothing, big surprise. I could tell you about the Ford survey I did years ago I thought I would at least get a reply, today the same survey answers would probably bring the cops to my door. There hasn't been a Ford in my driveway for 25 years.
 

Bei
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sat, 11/10/12 8:38 PM
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Ice Cream Man


Foodbme


Many fast food places put info on your reciept to go on-line and fill out a survey and then you're entered in a drawing. I do it just to get in the drawing. Jack in the Box's is the best one - $10 K

I don't even do those, I guess if you don't play you don't win but I get so pissed off if I don't win so I don't enter. I guess that's a personality fault but in business it works fine.
The other reason I don't do surveys, I have yet to see someone change because of a survey. Case in point, last year we stayed in a Comfort Inn in Covington Ohio Ft. something, I have never seen anything as disgusting in my life and I'm 64. So I went online, there are at least 2 years of complaint about this place, I was figuring if I told Comfort Inn they would come the next day and yank the sign down. But alas two years of surveys did nothing, big surprise. I could tell you about the Ford survey I did years ago I thought I would at least get a reply, today the same survey answers would probably bring the cops to my door. There hasn't been a Ford in my driveway for 25 years.


Ice Cream Man, I share the same sentiments regarding traditional customer feedback surveys. I have the feeling that it would just be a waste of my time since it's not even recognized or acknowledged by the recipient. The funny thing is most people are opinionated and like to voice their feeling (isn't that why Facebook is so big?), but ineffective surveys and methods are turning people away from doing so in a business setting. I want to fix that. 
 
I just tested a very basic version of my software at a friend's restaurant, and yesterday he found out one of his booths was rocky (if a person in the next booth fidgets, this particular booth moves with it. It irritated the customer who left the feedback). My friend got in touch with the person who left the feedback and assured her that it's fixed. Another example is when my friend was not at the restaurant, he saw a negative feedback left by a customer. My friend checked the time stamp and found out who was the manager on shift and asked about the particular incident (there was some confusion with the menu). He reached out to the disgruntled customer and explained everything. I don't know if he's heard back from that customer yet, but it's just another example of the right tool being used by the right person that took meaningful action. Even in the limited scope, I already see my idea working so I want to test it out in different places with different demographics. I'm still waiting for that email, Ice Cream Man :)
<message edited by Bei on Sat, 11/10/12 8:41 PM>

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sat, 11/10/12 10:07 PM
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You'll be waiting until you can PM me, it's not that many days.

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sat, 11/10/12 10:09 PM
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But just think, if I like it you can attach this thread to it and say look if I can convince him it must be good. 

Dr of BBQ
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sat, 11/10/12 10:27 PM
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Are this guest that leave feedback forced to leave personal contact information?  I doubt they are and if they are I'd bet the number of participants would be reduced drastically.
 
And if not how did all this happen?: "My friend got in touch with the person who left the feedback and assured her that it's fixed. Another example is when my friend was not at the restaurant, he saw a negative feedback left by a customer. My friend checked the time stamp and found out who was the manager on duty" ?

Dr of BBQ
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sat, 11/10/12 10:45 PM
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Your software idea sucks think of a new one.
 
My customers (new) tell me they heard of me from someone local that raved about our food. That makes my day. I have the occasional  customer that complains about some small thing (changed menu) and I try to help them understand the reasoning, but to buy a system or pay a consultant no way.
 
I worked in Radio for 27 years and the companies I worked for always had a consultant.Which is (human Software) and I found they (the consultant) were always the people that couldn't get ratings in the real world.
 
And the truth be know there was more than one occasion that I told management that they had to fire the consultant or I was walking. I never walked!
 
If an owner or manager doesn't have enough sense to watch over his food business he should lose it.

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sat, 11/10/12 10:54 PM
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Maybe it's on the bill.
I didn't leave you a tip because my table is tipsy.
Doctor Jack  (LMAO) or maybe I was tipsy.

Bei
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sun, 11/11/12 2:49 AM
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This is a really really interesting phenomenon.
It has come to my attention that many veterans in the restaurant industry are quite conservative and are usually afraid or can't be bothered with change, especially if the change involves technology. This includes my mother, who has been in the industry almost all her life, and it's hard even for me, who has worked in technology all my life, to convince her sometimes.  When "outsiders" dare to think they can help you, you won't give them the time of day. That's why I would get comments such as "Your software idea sucks think of a new one" without me even disclosing what it is. I get it. You are jaded because of the amount of ****ty software out there that claim to "change your life" but are nothing more than a waste of time and cause of heart attacks.  As restaurant owners, I'm sure you've rolled your eyes when you visit another restaurant that has supbar food and horrible service that are so obvious to you. I feel the same way toward bad software, and I pour my heart into making my software excellent as you would with your food. More importantly, I am here to listen to your feedback and exchange ideas with you so I can refine my "software idea that sucks" to hopefully craft something great that you might just like.   Ice Cream Man put it quite well a few posts back. We are here to exchange ideas and help each other. Keep an open mind, and we really don't need that high horse.
<message edited by Bei on Sun, 11/11/12 2:53 AM>

Bei
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sun, 11/11/12 3:02 AM
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Ice Cream Man

You'll be waiting until you can PM me, it's not that many days.
 
But just think, if I like it you can attach this thread to it and say look if I can convince him it must be good.  

 
That's fine as long as I still have slots open for early testers in 12 or so days. I have 5 slots total to give out in different online communities as we cannot handle many more restaurants currently, so we are picking candidates carefully. You seem to be a great candidate because of your lack of trust to survey tools yet you keep an open mind about possibilities. I will be sure to let you know if I can accomodate you once I can PM.

Bei
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sun, 11/11/12 3:08 AM
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Dr of BBQ


Are this guest that leave feedback forced to leave personal contact information?  I doubt they are and if they are I'd bet the number of participants would be reduced drastically.

And if not how did all this happen?: "My friend got in touch with the person who left the feedback and assured her that it's fixed. Another example is when my friend was not at the restaurant, he saw a negative feedback left by a customer. My friend checked the time stamp and found out who was the manager on duty" ?

 
The personal contact info is optional in the current tests. We've noticed that people that have suggestions or a very negative experience tend to leave their contact info (in these 2 cases they left their emails). It would make more sense if you know how the software works. I might disclose more in the coming days.
<message edited by Bei on Sun, 11/11/12 3:21 AM>

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sun, 11/11/12 11:58 AM
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I think where were going astray here is you are on a site trying to tell people who are at the top of their game that a survey will tell them what they already know. I don't think your software will help me but I've been wrong before, who I think it will help is my competitors who are dropping like fly's. They've got the cart but no horse (I like that saying). They would pay for your software but unfortunately they are broke.

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sun, 11/11/12 12:01 PM
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And telling me if I don't jump now it may be to late doesn't help your credibility I wasn't born yesterday.

Bei
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Sun, 11/11/12 1:25 PM
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Ice Cream Man


I think where were going astray here is you are on a site trying to tell people who are at the top of their game that a survey will tell them what they already know. I don't think your software will help me but I've been wrong before, who I think it will help is my competitors who are dropping like fly's. They've got the cart but no horse (I like that saying). They would pay for your software but unfortunately they are broke.

What I have observed is that this tool helps people that are at the top of their game. My friend who is testing it out runs one of the most successful restaurants in the city, and he was able to utilize the tool to his advantage. On the other hand, I have talked to restaurants that are clearly not at their prime, and these owners generally make up excuses and are close minded about implementing a tool that might help them. 
 
As I explained, I am picking candidates very carefully now so it's not a waste of everybody's time, as the software is in a very nascent stage and cannot accommodate a lot of users. Rapid iteration is very important for a software in this stage, so I'm merely saying anything could happen in two weeks (including pulling the plug), and I said you are a great candidate and I will let you know if it could accommodate you then. It's not like you are paying me to do this, and I am patiently explaining myself to you so there isn't misunderstanding.

GT at Comment Box
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Thu, 11/22/12 11:45 AM
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Hepcat

Ice Cream Man
If it's garbage I just won't go back.

Ideally though you'd want to get an inkling that something is wrong before it reaches that point and your business really starts to sag.



 
Good point Hepcat. Lots of restaurant owners do want to get an inkling that something is wrong so that they can correct the problem and improve. What we hear a lot here at Comment Box HQ is that owners and managers would prefer that if a patron is going to make negative comments, they would rather get those comments sent to them directly instead of the comments being posted on Yelp, UrbanSpoon, Trip Advisor etc. The comments remain 'in-house' and are anonymous (if the customer chooses) so patrons are more likely to be honest knowing their identity is not revealed. 
GT 
 
(Here's my disclosure -- I just joined this forum today and I look forward to joining the conversation about customer comments, feedback, etc so I can continue to learn more and so we can improve our free customer comment software (It is called Comment Box - virtualcommentbox.com). It is 'live' and businesses are successfully using it now and we learn quite a lot from talking to them, but I find forums like this a great place to get very honest, direct (Ice Cream Man :-) ), real-world feedback on what works for people)

GT at Comment Box
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Thu, 11/22/12 11:47 AM
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PS - I love that as a new user that I am a "Junior Burger" lol
 

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Thu, 11/22/12 1:06 PM
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I'm not denying that there is a market for your product if you won't deny that good owners don't need to waste their time and annoy their customers with surveys.
If you give poor owners enough tools some of them may wake up and survive.
I don't send food back or complain to owners, what's the sense, do you think if his roast beef is like shoe leather he will fix it ?
The reason it's that way is he bought it because, it was cheap or he doesn't know how to cook it. If he doesn't think it's bad he'll just say I don't know good food when I taste it. Next year when I go by he'll be gone. 

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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Thu, 11/22/12 3:36 PM
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Ice Cream Man
 
I guess it all depends on what one considers a "good owner" to be, but sure, some may choose to not spend time reviewing customer feedback. Their restaurant, their rules. 
 
In terms of 'is there a market for our product?' I can answer unequivocally: yes. Restuarants (and more) have been using Comment Box and have found it to be beneficial to their business (and their customers).  Just to be clear -- this is GT from Comment Box, not 'Bei' who initially started this thread - two different people and two different products. We're in Toronto Canada and Bei is in Huntsville AL
 
Customers and owners alike have the option to ignore the opportunity to leave feedback. With Comment Box, one thing we kept a focus on was simplicity. Nobody likes filling in long surveys. My eyes are glazing over jut thinking about it.  In fact, you have pretty much lost someone if you ask anything more than two questions. We set things up so that owners have the option to ask users to rate up to two categories (say Food and Service) out of 5. Customers use their mobile phone / iPad etc and within a couple of taps they have left feedback. 2 questions. Done.  
 
Actually, they are not even questions -- they just rate Food and Service from 1 to 5 by tapping on the corresponding number.
 
They do that the option to leave more comments... but only if they want. Also at their option: they can leave their email address if they want to win a prize (but that is only switched on if the restaurant owner wants it on)
 
But yes -- you are right about some owners. They can get all the customer comments in the world and it is not going to make a lick of a difference. And like you say, they will be out of business within a year.
 
PS, your username is not a reference to the Van Halen song by the same name is it? If so, that is pretty cool.
 
 
 
 

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Best way to get customer feedback? - Thu, 11/22/12 4:23 PM
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Good owners exceed their customers expectations.
There are quite a few on here.
My username is what all the kids in town call me when they see me away from my store. Kind of makes me laugh.