Make Viral Guest Feedback Count

By Steve Brooks, Director of Mission Control - Marketing/Information Technology, Tumbleweed Southwest G | May 05, 2009

Many restaurants have websites with feedback tools that attempt to engage their customers, but advertising this message thru marketing and advertising is critical to connecting with them in the current dynamic climate. The restaurant industry continues to add feedback viral mechanisms such as Twitter and Facebook to help connect with guests more effectively. However, when operators simply wait to receive feedback and then react with e-mails or phone calls, they miss out on the opportunity to really find out what their guests are saying. By aggressively seeking guest feed back, and then tying that valuable information to data warehousing solution, operators are presented with the opportunity to really take guest satisfaction to the next level.

Guest feedback
At Tumbleweed Southwest Grill, management developed a website that would allow guests to tell the restaurant exactly how they measure up on the guest satisfaction scale. TellTumbleweed.com has been incorporated into all aspects of Tumbleweed's marketing and advertising, including television commercials. It is not just a feedback mechanism. In addition to the website, guests can contact the restaurant through its Facebook TW fan club, Twitter, 1-800 number, and more.

The proprietary feedback routing and tracking technology behind the website, and the staff working with it, send e-mail responses within a day to guests, and those who provide contact information are contacted by telephone.

All comments are reviewed by COO Mike Higgins; all store-level complaints are directed to the appropriate Area Director and every comment, positive and negative, is flagged and tracked using keywords for analysis. The database to track guest feedback was set up by Current Marketing and allows Tumbleweed's guest relations manager to enter all of the pertinent information. Having a guest relations manager dedicated to reviewing all comments is critical to solving guest issues before they choose a competitor. Before the Internet was the tool of choice a guest might tell 10-15 people about a negative experience. Now they can speak to millions!

The database currently contains guest name, address, phone number, location, date and time of visit, manager, server, the issue, and a comment section. Every opinion, suggestion, complaint, and comment of appreciation is tracked, accessible and ready for reporting to Tumbleweed's executive team, directors and area directors. A keyword like "recook" can be searched for history by date, time and store.

Turning data into business intelligence
That's great information, but tying this information to a data warehouse can take guest satisfaction to the next level. Tumbleweed collaborated with Mirus Restaurant Solutions to take its data and use it as business intelligence in its data warehouse. Management can now write reports on unit performance and add its data regarding guest counts, sales, menu mix, and staffing. Basically anything in Tumbleweed's back office and order entry, to the smallest detail, can be added to guest feedback reports. Mirus tools allow management to send out an alert on any case over its time threshold. Databases for guest feedback may have similar information, but alerts take the data to the next level. The alerts can also be used to identify repeat positive or negative issues with servers, managers and other staff and can be sent as e-mails or as text alerts.

The B.I. tool also allows the stores, area directors and the rest of the Support Center to see a dashboard with reports and graphs on how each store compares in different satisfaction categories like food quality, service, atmosphere and value.

The current dashboard for TellTumbleweed includes a unit trend graph of guest issues by facility, food quality, service and positive feedback, guest feedback by percentage of all guest issues, a pie chart of guest issues by area director, and a feedback bar graph of facility, food quality and service issues. These measurements are also used in Tumbleweed's WOW award that goes to the store with the highest guest satisfaction.

So while all restaurant companies aim for guest satisfaction, the key is to not only gather the data and act on it, but also use the data to alert you of open cases and help measure individual stores, servers and issues. The feedback that is gathered, reported, graphed and analyzed will help keep every guest, and of course improve operations for future visits. The return on investment is that you can improve guest and sales trends with this collaborative tool and make better decisions for your guests regarding your staff, food, and facility.

Steve Brooks is the director of mission control for Tumbleweed Southwest Grill, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. Tumbleweed has 62 units, including 44 domestic, 13 international, and 5 cafe locations. Brooks was a restaurant manager and area director before directing the MIS department now known as "Mission Control."
 

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