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How to best measure customer service

3 comments21-Mar-2011
Last updated on 19-Dec-2011 at 14:07 GMT

Jules Murray, of sales and customer service consultants Spider on the Wall tells BigHospitality how restaurants, pubs and hotels can measure customer service in the most cost-effective and beneficial way.

Problem: Our in-house survey questionnaires provide us with basic customer feedback information but guests tend only to tick the relevant boxes as to their satisfaction level – they rarely or go into any depth. What can we do to measure customer service in a cost-effective manner?

Solution: When it comes to consumer contentment, never mistake silence as satisfaction.

According to research from TARP Worldwide report and BPIR, 96 per cent of dissatisfied customers do not complain, but in the words of Bill Gates, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning."

In order to deliver exceptional service, we have to create the means for customers to complain to us. And remember that repeat customers generally spend more money and refer more customers to your establishment than one-off visitors, so it’s worth acting on complaints and turning a dissatisfied customer into a brand ambassador.

Customer service feedback surveys are the most easy and inexpensive route to understanding what drives customer loyalty, however, going about it incorrectly can actually drive down customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, draw invalid or incorrect conclusions and end up a plain waste time and money.

Mystery diners

Professional external mystery shoppers provide an excellent opportunity for your staff to gaze into a mirror and see their customer service flaws in a way that doesn’t put your business at risk.

Pick your company carefully however – large organisations serving thousands of companies will be using a tick-box approach which tells you nothing more than your own in-house silent customer. Also they may be undertaken by a college student who has the ability to complete an on-line questionnaire and the desire for £10 beer money, but lacks any real-life experience of customer service!

A comprehensive narrative report which tells the customer story from initial enquiry through to any post-visit contact is of the greatest investment. Choose a company where the mystery shopper has a background in customer service and who has actually worked in the hospitality industry themselves.

Stipulate any specific areas of focus and state what exactly is your objective for undertaking the mystery shopper investment.

Impact of individuals

Statistical research tells us that the biggest, single reason a business loses customers is down to the indifference of one employee, so be sure to request that individual staff members are named in the report.

Also remember that just as a rude employee can turn your customers away, a staff member who can establish a connection with your guests will encourage their custom.

So invest in your people. Nowadays it’s no longer enough to employ staff with the greatest technical experience or the highest degree, they also need to have social awareness and interpersonal skills.

Some of the most valuable aspects of jobs are the most essentially human tasks: sensing, judging, creating, and building relationships. Your staff need to learn how to ‘read’ your customers; how to pre-empt what they may need next; how to interact with a customer in a way that makes them feel special,

If more staff training is required, a good mystery shopping company should be able to assist you in delivering the right skills to address poor performance. They should also provide on-hand help with other aspects of their report, ensuring there is a constructive delivery with acknowledgment of responsibility and a wealth of motivational factors.

More tips and advice on customer service is available in BigHospitality's Service feature here.

Do you have a problem you'd like solving? Need advice on a particular area of your business? Our panel of industry experts are on hand to give you the help you need. Email your problem to news@bighospitality.co.uk with Ask the Experts in the subject line and we'll endeavour to get it answered.

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3 comments (Comments are now closed)

Choose the right company - good advice

I completely agree with Stephen's comment - however I also agree with this advice: "Pick your company carefully however – large organisations serving thousands of companies will be using a tick-box approach which tells you nothing more than your own in-house silent customer. Also they may be undertaken by a college student who has the ability to complete an on-line questionnaire and the desire for £10 beer money, but lacks any real-life experience of customer service! "

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Posted by Katie Lawton
05 April 2011 | 14h41

Mystery Diners - Getting it right

I welcome Jules Murray's article encouraging the use of mystery customers to assess your service. However, I take issue with Jule's advice to just use mystery customers who have experience in hospitality and customer service. Having managed mystery customer programmes for decades, the best mystery customers are those who reflect your customer base. If you are based in a university town and your customers are mostly students, then they may well be the best people to use - after all it is hard for a 'hospitality expert' to put themselves in their shoes. If you operate a five star hotel restaurant, clearly you will be looking for a different type of customer. But get real and potential customers, with the right profile, to assess your service regularly and they will tell you what really works and what doesn't. Then you can ensure you provide what your customers want. If you need a Consultant to advise on how to change your business - that is very different, then you will need that hospitality and customer service expertise.

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Posted by Stephen Harwood
24 March 2011 | 12h42

How can we best measure customer service?

Few! Thought we were going to get a lecture on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.

An interesting concept “measuring customer service” and “managing customer complaints”. With respect to measuring customer service it’s impossible to measure because the mood of the same customer changes on a daily basis. What is acceptable for that customer one day may be totally unacceptable the next due to different stress levels and the way their day is going. Customer service is a feeling and using all your senses. For example the other day I heard a customer shiver and mention to their friend that there was a chill in the bar area. I changed the heating level to a higher setting and then informed the lady I overheard. She’s probably convinced the place is bugged but went away impressed.

In the report it states that “96 per cent of dissatisfied customers do not complain” obviously this makes it so hard for us managers out there to manage them. I deliver training courses all over the UK and hear plenty of customer related stories. One complaint I was told about was that a customer complained about the soup he had been served was too rich and too thick. It was then explained that he had been eating the gravy! Luckily the person dealing with the complaint had been trained on how to manage their customers and the customer left happy rather than embarrassed.

My philosophy has always been to prevent the customer complaining in the first place. This can be achieved by constant staff development and constantly taking a good long look at the business to concentrate on improvements. And no I don’t live in cloud coo-coo land; I appreciate that a busy business can’t be 100% all the time. On our training courses we develop delegates to change their thinking towards the business “If you aim to improve 100 aspects of your business by 1% you’ll be more successful than those spending their time on improving one area of their business by 100%”. We also prove to delegates that it works using our own experience of developing our own businesses/managed houses.

As for mystery customers, they are a waste of money unless they have managed a similar business they are visiting. We do a lot of visits for pub, restaurants and hotels because of our experience. If we were asked to rate the layout and location of the jeans in a fashion shop, for example, we wouldn’t have a clue. Ask us about the hygiene standards behind the bar and we can answer fully as we deliver courses in the subject.

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Posted by pub-sales-uk.com
22 March 2011 | 11h52

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