Directing Customer Feedback

By Tema Frank CEO, Frank Reactions | December 13, 2015

One of the formative experiences in my life happened when I was 18. I became active in student politics on my university campus not because I was political, but because my first year classes were boring and I wasn't athletic, so it was a way to meet people. Pretty soon I was a student rep on the University Senate, where the two other student reps and I were the only members younger than about 50. One day all Senators were invited to a formal dinner event hosted by the President. The "adult" senators were invited to bring their spouses, but the students were invited solo. The other student reps were up in arms and prepared to launch a demonstration over this discrimination. I said, "Why don't we just ask the President if we can bring a date? Odds are he doesn't even know." When I asked him, his reply was a startled, "Of course you can bring a guest!" My assumption had been correct. Problem solved, through simple feedback.

Three decades on it still amazes me how often people make assumptions rather than asking for or offering feedback. Most people – and most companies -- want to do the right thing. But often they don't realize when they are doing the wrong thing.

Hotels are doing a much better job than ever before in soliciting customer feedback. Many now have comment cards in the rooms, and sometimes also at the front desk and in the restaurants. Some e-mail post-stay surveys. The question is, how does your hotel handle it once you get the feedback? Do you have a systematic process for following up on it, both with your staff and with the guests who provided it? Surprisingly few companies do follow up consistently.

Think through all the ways feedback can come in to your organization and what processes are in place to deal with it. The feedback can be solicited (for example, answering surveys) or unsolicited (e.g. a comment made to a staff member). You need ways to capture and act on both types of feedback.

The most common type of solicited feedback in hotels is the comment card left in a room for the guest to complete. Do you have a way of making the card stand out? Do you offer any kind of incentive or reward for taking the time to complete it? Sometimes the incentive can be as simple as a personal note from the housekeeper saying how much she'd value the guest's feedback.

Next, what happens when those cards are filled in? Is it obvious to the guests what they are supposed to do with them? Leave them in the room? In that case, are they sealable so that if there's a complaint about the room staff, the guest won't feel awkward about leaving it? If housekeeping staff are supposed to collect them, do they know what do with them? Is there any incentive for staff to hand them in? Conversely, if the comments are visible, are staff going to worry that turning in a negative comment card will result in them or their colleagues getting punished? If so, you can bet your bathrobe you won't see all those comment cards.
Whether it is to housekeeping staff or front desk collection boxes that comment forms go, how often are those sources checked? Daily? Weekly? Remember that if there is a customer problem, the sooner you can investigate and get back to the customer the less damage will be done. Ideally, staff should be encouraged to pass on feedback immediately or at least at the end of every shift, and forms should be checked for and responded to daily.

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