Debate About Customer Contact and Feedback Systems

Debate About Customer Contact/Feedback Systems

Social Web, Email, Paper Comment Cards, Tableside and Blogs

Technology is completely changing the game for service industries. You would not be reading this post two years ago if it weren’t for the atomic explosion of the social web.

I believe paper comment cards are dead. They have zero value today. For reasons enumerated by several sources here in FohBoh and my own observations, I declare the paper comment card an archeological relic of an earlier age. If you are still using paper comment cards, you’re a dinosaur.

I also believe there is limited functionality communicating with customers via email. Do you really think a customer is going to provide their email address to you – just so you can send them advertising and marketing? My email inbox is flooded with relevant content: Clients, Peers, LinkedIn discussions, about twenty different Smart Briefs, Peter Shankman’s Help A Reporter Out (HARO) and my favorite blogs that I want to see; not to mention the tweets I want to save. I don’t have time to open your advertising and marketing junk (especially if I opened it once before and that is what it was).

Blogs that are written well, contain intriguing imagery or video with compelling content, are informative of the life of your business (meaning your people, your passions, where you source your materials, or what fun-filled special event is happening) are going to interest me. I’ll probably follow you – either by RSS feed or asking you to directly email me with it. I know it’s a blog. I know that you’ve put time into it. It’s succinct, relevant and visually compelling.

But I’m here today to argue something tried and true. Visiting tables. You know this works. Just as you know that if the POS system fails, you can always write chits.

I wonder how many operators keep old-school blank ticket pads in the office for that emergency?

There’s no more effective customer contact and customer feedback system than the owner or manager spending time on the floor visiting tables. Chatting up regulars and greeting new faces is the simplest, easiest and most direct personal contact an operator can implement to build relationships and get feedback, discover customer concerns and let the customer know how much you appreciate their business. It’s at this point that gaining effective feedback happens, whether that is verbal communication or using digitally based survey collection/reward systems.

Now Immagonna give you a twist, before I give the microphone back to ya.

The social web, with it’s different networks like Facebook, Twitter, Urbanspoon etc., is virtual tableside. Customers find it much easier to “friend you” through social networks than they do to give you their email. They find it much easier to post comments on restaurant search sites, than they do to (risk their security) provide you their email. And you get to draw them into conversations. Just as there is a virtual front door to your restaurant – there’s a virtual tableside chat waiting for you.

If you want examples of this, go follow Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill on Twitter (@Rick_Bayless) or Ron Zimmerman of the Herb Garden ($190 pp dinners) on Twitter (@Herbguy). They’ve been doing it for a year. The customer feedback they receive is astounding.

Over on Facebook, search out the Boston restaurant Myers & Chang – they do it as does Caminito Argentinean Steakhouse in NorthamptonMA (owned by a socialmedia rockstar).

These case studies prove that restaurants across the dining option spectrum use social media to engage existing and new potential customers by visiting tableside – virtually – and on the floor.

Do you disagree with any portion of this post? I’d love to hear it and debate you…

An interesting find:

A few days ago I received a tweet sharing a 20 minute video by the Executive Editor of WIRED magazine, Kevin Kelly, titled “The Next 5,000 Days On The Web”. Did you know that the web is only 5,000 days old now? That’s only thirteen years. We’ve only had email for less than fourteen years. We’ve only had Facebook since 2004. We’ve only had Twitter since 2006.

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