Could QR Codes be the New Comment Card?

By Cihan Cobanoglu, Ph.D., CHTP | December 19, 2011

It’s my usual breakfast: toasted sesame bagel with cream cheese and a medium coffee, cream and sugar. Every morning, I stop in my local Dunkin’ Donuts and place the same order through the drive-thru while en route to work. I don’t recall how many times the order was filled incorrectly before I decided to fill out the customer feedback survey that’s referenced on the receipt.

To complete the online survey, customers are directed to a website, (www.telldunkin.com), where they’re prompted to enter the six-digit store number from their receipt, and then complete the survey. I do not know the response rate for this survey; however, I imagine that, as is the case with many feedback tools that require the customer to be proactive to participate, customers with extreme experiences (be they positive or negative) are the most compelled to complete the survey. While there’s certain value in recording and properly responding to the extremes, there’s also value in having insight into more moderate feedback, such as the occasionally misfulfilled food order.

Quick-service restaurant operators know that speed and accuracy are paramount; capturing  guest feedback on these variables, however, is also a well-known challenge. I often stress the single-digit profit margins and high failure rates that challenge restaurants (6 out of 10 fail within the first three years).  In this tough business market, it is so important to monitor the pulse of consumers and deliver what suits their expectations.

QR, the new comment card

Restaurants employ a variety of approaches to capture feedback, from the paper-based “comment cards” to tableside wireless devices that solicit feedback as a part of settling the bill. The take-rate for paper-based surveys is usually less than 1 percent. Other restaurants encourage guests to visit a website and complete an online survey. This is a better tool than the paper-based survey, but it requires the guest to take the proactive step of logging onto a computer (or perhaps a mobile browser) and entering in a website and store number; in this case the time-elapse between receiving the service and completing the satisfaction survey is critical to both the take-rate and the depth of content in the response. Some restaurants add an incentive, while others are using a fully electronic comment card at the table, such as the tool offered by Long Range Systems (www.pager.net).  This solution has the added benefit of alerting the restaurant manager in the event a negative comment is logged.

One technology that can increase the survey response rate significantly is the use of Quick Response (QR) codes on guest receipts. The technology exists today to integrate a custom QR code onto the guest receipt after a purchase. With so many American consumers carrying smart phones or other wireless devices such as an iPad, the empowered customer can scan the QR code on the receipt and be brought directly to the survey website. This technique requires the least amount of initiative from the guest. They aren’t required to open a browser, type the address of the survey website, and then enter a special code that will identify the transaction or the store. If this effort is combined with an incentive, the impact on response rates could be significantly higher.

QR codes are now being used in restaurants to provide access to menu item videos, calorie information, messages from the chef, and coupons. Their use will increase with the increase in smartphone adoption among consumers.

Back to my episode with Dunkin’ Donuts: after filling out three dissatisfied customer comment forms, the general manager called me and apologized for the inconvenience. Since then, my order is always right and they greet me by name. As a matter of fact, I do not even need to tell them what my order, as they recognize me from my voice and accent. This small testimonial reinforces that restaurants are powered by people, who when given the right tools, can greatly improve guest satisfaction and loyalty.


The key in this scenario is to similarly empower guests with an easy way to provide feedback, so that a restaurant can take corrective action immediately or know that they’re on track and continue to provide great service.


Cihan Cobanoglu, Ph.D., CHTP is Dean of the School of Hotel & Restaurant Management, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. Share your questions and comments with Dr. Cobanoglu online at htmagazine.com or e-mail him directly at cihan@cihan.org.  


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