In our increasingly data-driven world, businesses have plenty of numbers they can use to measure the success of products, systems and locations. However, there’s one huge measure of success that remains underutilized: Guest feedback.
Metrics and analytics can provide a good picture of what works and what doesn’t, but so can that tweet from a frequent guest. Effectively harnessing guest feedback can make a huge difference as you’re ironing out problems and developing the next great step forward for your brand.
If you haven’t developed a system for seeking out and analyzing guest feedback, it’s time to roll up your sleeves. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you listen to guests to improve your business:
1. Guests Communicate Differently
Some guests are vocal and generous with feedback. These guests want to help you improve, and that’s great. Pay attention to this feedback and identify any trends or themes that emerge.
Furthermore, start a dialogue with these guests. If you can, make sure someone responds to their thoughts and makes them feel heard.
Other guests are less vocal. If they’re frustrated with your product or your service, you might be the last to find out. They’ll walk away, and you’ll lose their business – or worse, they’ll take to Twitter, Facebook or Yelp after a “last straw” experience and become a vocal critic of your brand.
Make it easy for guests to share feedback. This helps vocal guests feel heard and keeps silent guests from slinking into the shadows. Provide feedback forms at your locations and create accessible online surveys. Once you learn more about how your guest base communicates, you can work on optimizing your feedback options.
2. Social Media Can Make or Break You
Social media is the best way to gauge guest sentiment in real time. Smoothie King is investing in a social media listening tool to better harness guest feedback across platforms, but there’s a variety of approaches that can help your business utilize feedback on social media:
- Monitor brand mentions: When guests talk about your brand on social media, you should be listening and responding when appropriate. You can even take it a step further and monitor mentions of your competitors. Pay attention to what your competitors are doing—and make sure you do it better. Social media can be a powerful asset for effectively differentiating your brand.
- Refine guest personas: Be a fly on the wall to get pure voice-of-guest feedback, or ask targeted questions to fill in the blanks surrounding your guests’ demographics, values, pain points and interests. The more vivid you make your personas, the better you can tailor your products and marketing.
- Tweak content: Your guests’ conversations on social media can guide your content strategy. If you get a better idea of what problems your guests face and what makes them tick, your content will feel made-to-order, and you’ll see improvements in engagement.
- Conduct surveys, polls and focus groups: Social media surveys are an easy way to collect guest feedback. Segment your audience by geography or age to make your feedback more specific. With a focus group, let participants know why they were selected – it makes them feel valued and invested.
3. Franchisees are Keys to Meaningful Change
When it comes time to implement feedback, franchisees will be on the front lines, so they have to get the necessary support.
For example, if someone reviews guest feedback and identifies “faster service” as a system-wide goal, franchisees must have the equipment, technology and training resources needed to turn that goal into reality.
Franchise-office support should extend to both the high-performing and low-performing franchises, because there are important things to learn from each. If a location consistently receives great guest feedback, share its best practices with the entire organization. If a location consistently receives negative guest feedback, examine that location and use it to create targeted initiatives.
Franchisee groups are another excellent way to keep your finger on the pulse of your brand. At Smoothie King, our Franchise Advisory Council works with our corporate team to identify areas for improvement. Recognize these groups for the valuable resource they are, and make sure your franchise-office leaders are plugged in.
4. There’s a Right Way to Implement Change
Lastly, develop a healthy relationship with change. For franchisors, this means not rushing it. Remember that effective change takes time, and test any changes before implementing them on a large scale. Help franchisees buy in by explaining not only why the change is beneficial, but why it will work. Most importantly, don’t cut corners in your eagerness to roll something out.
For franchisees, this means going along with smart changes. Everyone should be wary of change that isn’t data or feedback driven. However, if an initiative is backed by feedback or data, it’s best to get on board.
If you want to keep up with the savviest brands, take active steps to listen to your guests. Then, use that feedback to guide your decisions. Your guests want you to listen. If you don’t, someone else will.