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Comment Cards – Why They Are Not Much Better Than Nothing –
Here, Please Take the Sleeves Off My Vest!


By Ragsdale Hendrie, April 6, 2009

 Ah, Comment Cards – the mainstay of Customer Feedback for Hospitality and Retail!  My favorite is the Card you are to mail, if you have a stamp.  Or, those cards you leave with the Server, check-out counter or the Front Desk, which mention the performance of that particular Server or Associate.  I wonder where they go, if the commentary is negative.  Yup, I sure would pass along to Management a less than perfect commentary.  Let’s not forget those comments which state a pressing problem – poor service, condition of the bathrooms, meal preparation and the like.  Fortunately, we see those at some point in time, usually way after the fact, so the unsatisfactory Experience is etched in our Guest’s memory, although we might send a letter (a lost opportunity, too little, too late).  Comment Cards are not much better than nothing, just like the sleeves off your vest - Lip Service for many (of course, we care what our Guest says; just don’t make it too loud, too frequent or too honest.  I am trying to run a business here). Do not become obsolete in your prime.   You certainly can do better.

Start with the premise of Feedback.  This is the mechanism to report upon our performance – what we did well and what we need to improve upon.  We want to keep our survey questions short (due to the respondent’s attention span), simple (not tax the cranium) and relevant to our operation (so we have some benchmarks).  Most importantly, we want to match our chosen Feedback mechanism to our audience, in order to elicit the greatest response. 

Here comes a major disconnect, just like the businesses which felt they did not need a web site.  Your audience is connected and wired, and e-mail and texting are their every day communication vehicles. Think about it.  In your operations, you have moved to the 'paperless', using electronics for your Financials, your Daily Reports, and your Payrolls. Take the next step – get your message on the right mediums. 

Gathering “Feedback” requires a blend.  Every day, you take an inventory of your business, walking the property, speaking with staff and guests, reviewing status reports.  But, probably, you are too close to the business (the old trees and forest analogy). 

Mystery or Secret Shops are a good means to get a snapshot in time of your operation or particular aspects of your business.  These are unannounced, incognito evaluations of your SOP’s (what you want your Customer or Guest to experience).  You now have this “thumb nail sketch”.  If the Shops are done frequently enough, you start to see trends, training opportunities, Standards which need some tweaking, etc. Plus, it keeps your staff on their toes and wearing name tags, if required.

For a more comprehensive evaluation of your business, you might consider the services of a Hospitality Assessment or Quality Assurance company.  These Professionals provide an in-depth review of your entire operation, considering Industry Norms and Standards for product, service and condition of the facilities.  Their reports provide a map for continuous improvement. 

Ultimately, the bottom line is what your Customers and Guest think.  You can ask them directly, if you have the time, and they are prepared to respond honestly.  You can await their Comment Cards. You can scan all those internet portals for unsolicited reviews of your business, respond where you can, but, ultimately, “suck it up”, as your Consumer has spoken to that vast global audience of critics and potential business.

Or, you can proactively solicit Feedback which is immediate, actionable, and credible through technological solutions.  And, here are two key words:  immediate and actionable.  What we learn months or even a week after the fact has absolutely no credibility; hence, you want to know about their Experience right away and share it with your Management (their   Performance report).  Immediacy means you can take action right away and address an issue, and, perhaps, save or enhance the Experience.  Technology can prompt Feedback on-line, through POS, and other means.  To survive and prosper, this is where you need to be.  Raise your game!

It is time to move to the next plateau, the next frontier, and use “Guest Feedback” technology for the following reasons:

  • Comment Cards simply do not provide a meaningful response about the Guest Experience, because not everyone participates (usually only the disgruntled and the gruntled) and you have a critical time gap.  Comment Cards are superficial;
  • Technology reaches a broader, more representative and diverse audience, quickly, because the majority of your Guests are technology savvy in some fashion. The responses are timely, and they validate your relationship with the Guest and allow you to better manage the experience;
  • With a request for an e-mail address at registration or point-of-sale, you begin to build a significant data base, which serves as a super marketing opportunity for your business, from Guest preferences to special announcements and deals;
  • Just because the Guest may be satisfied with one visit does not mean they will rebook or revisit. But, now you have another opportunity — to build loyalty. It is easier to retain an existing Guest than recruit a new one.

There is no better time to better manage the experience, frame the expectations, create real value, which you can then market! Get with the program(s)!

The author believes that Remarkable Hospitality is the portal to the Memorable Experience.  Seek solutions at:


Ragsdale Hendrie

Also See: Executive Compensation Run Amok; Does Hospitality Share the Shame / John Hendrie / March 2009


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