Right now, nearly every industry is pursuing the same white whale: authentic customer feedback.
Since the goal of any venture is to meet a need, pain, or desire - whether that is the need to travel from one place to another, the desire to go skiing, or the pain of having to find a clean restroom - businesses must know whether or not they are effectively delivering on their promises.
That's why input from customers, guests, and users is universally understood as the key determinant in whether businesses can go from good to great, or subpar to superlative.
Indeed, just the act of asking for feedback has a powerful signaling effect that assures customers you value their voice and care about their experience.
How It's Done Now
Currently, different fields have different approaches to understanding customer satisfaction. While some brick and mortar venues like zoos and airports have comment boxes where guests and travelers can submit written feedback for later review, you may have also received an email from an airline asking you to rate your in-flight experience after a particularly bumpy ride, or from a promotions company after a concert asking how you enjoyed your night.
Institutions that solicit feedback through the methods mentioned above deserve acclaim, because they are signaling that they care. Nonetheless, they are leaving real value on the table.
The Problem with Post-Mortem Feedback
Asking for customer engagement "after-the-fact" both reduces consumer willingness to participate, and diminishes the utility of any responses received.
1) Most pressingly, soliciting input post-mortem eliminates the opportunity to improve in real-time.
For example, venues often try to solicit feedback on restroom quality. This makes sense, since restrooms are one of the most high-impact areas in buildings, and restroom cleanliness tangibly impacts the bottom line of all high-traffic venues, including restaurants, entertainment locations, retailers, and airports.
But having someone fill out and submit a comment card that the restroom is dirty or understocked does not help you respond before another 100 patrons have the same experience. It only lets you know, later when staff actually read the comments, that a customer had a poor experience.
And the gaps between A. when an event occurs, B. when feedback is submitted about it, and C. when corrective action takes place are incredibly costly, both in raw dollars and your business's reputation.
Whether it is in the restrooms, or another part of a facility or experience, real-time feedback enables a rapid value-add response that post-mortem surveys cannot achieve.
2. Folks offer valuable input less frequently when they are asked after the fact.
The real utility of feedback can hinge on the quantity received. The more feedback you have to access to the better, because like all data, a larger sample size enables valid trends to emerge while discounting inaccurate outliers. The problem is that asking for comments and criticism later introduces multiple barriers that prevent customers from responding.
Comment boxes challenge customers and guests to seek out a specific location where they can submit feedback, which is something that most folks do not take the time to do. Further, requiring customers to physically write down their feedback can be a deal-breaker for digital natives.
Post-mortem email surveys similarly require respondents to not only find the email within their overflowing inboxes, but then to also take time to submit a response.
These assessment mechanisms fundamentally miss the mark on communicating with customers through the channels they are already attuned to at the time they want to give feedback.
This is one of the driving forces behind how we designed QSend (text-message feedback) and QSelect (tablet-feedback), which make feedback accessible in real-time over channels that consumers are already using.
3. After-the-fact feedback is more difficult to act on and analyze.
It is imperative that soliciting, collating, and responding to feedback be straightforward and simple. When that process becomes convoluted, it both sucks up organizational resources and reduces the utility of the feedback you went to such painstaking lengths to collect.
After-the-fact feedback channels are labor intensive to operationalize. Receiving the criticism that was put in a comment box requires an employee to go and empty the box, sort through the comment cards, and distribute them to the right departments, all the while making sure that they do not lose the cards in the process. Crucially, no digital record is created that can both preserve the feedback and facilitate easy distribution to the relevant stakeholders.
Conversely, real-time feedback channels can be automated to improve efficiency in ways that post-engagement input cannot. When feedback is submitted through a Qstodian tablet or text, our system immediately logs the message on a web-based dashboard, which creates a permanent record of the comment. Real-time alerts can notify the right staff member whenever feedback comes in, so that they can take immediate corrective action if desired. And when it comes time to analyze feedback received over time to identify patterns and persistent issues, you can download and export your data into excel charts and graphs.
Once you and your team decide to start exploring the possibility of collecting real-time feedback, you will need to learn about what channel or channels you want to use. We have created some resources to help you identify what type of system will work best for your venue. Here, we break down the pros and cons of the award-winning Qstodian real-time feedback systems, QSelect and QSend.