Not long ago, I was enjoying a meal in Las Vegas at Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar restaurant on the strip and noticed something pretty cool. When the check was delivered, it was accompanied in the bill book by an iPod, which asked a very simple satisfaction survey. After writing out my tip and signing the bill, it took me just a minute or two to complete the survey while the whole experience was fresh in my mind. Because I was providing feedback in the moment, after just having tasted my meal and while still sitting at the table, it was easy to speak to my experience in rich detail. I think this is a much better way to approach satisfaction studies than sending an email hours, days, or even weeks after the experience, when recall can be difficult or inaccurate. With the advancement and the availability of mobile technologies lately, the opportunity to seize meaningful and timely insight is within the grasp of many business owners, customer experience professionals, and marketers.
Think about a restaurant or hotel experience that you had within the past month. How much of what you remember about the product or service is clouded by the company that you were with, an event that was going on, or an activity you had just completed or were preparing for? This information is certainly valuable – establishments want to know your reasons for visiting, and who you bring with you– but it’s missing some of the granularity that might be available to you in the moment. Waiting to provide feedback means risking that the level of detail diminishes. We might not be able to accurately recall what happened due to many factors such as lack of saliency or interference with other memories of similar experiences.
Furthermore, feedback provided in the moment reflects your feelings at that very instant, whereas delayed feedback could become more or less emotional over time. On the one hand, your opinions might be more emotionally charged if you’re only remembering what was outstanding or terrible. On the other hand, you may be more neutral and level-headed after the fact (that place wasn’t that bad, the food wasn’t that good because I was just hungry, etc.). Although there are many ways of triggering the mind to find accurate details, nothing beats collecting data in the moment.
With the constant growth and diminishing prices of mobile technology, the opportunity to gather in-the-moment consumer feedback has never been easier. And it will likely continue to get easier. Think of devices available to the masses only 10 years ago compared to now – it’s overwhelming. Smartphones were in their early stages; the only ones on the market were Blackberries and Treos, which had a fraction of the capabilities that modern smartphones have. Apple Pay wasn’t a thought, as iPhones hadn’t even been introduced yet. Most food trucks or mobile services couldn’t swipe a credit card with a simple app and plug-in device. Since that time, IBM Watson won at Jeopardy, a 3-D printer produced a prosthetic Iron Man arm and you have the ability to run with Spot the robot dog.
The technology is already in place and is only going to expand. Consider the restaurants Chili’s and Applebee’s (with many other restaurants following suit), that already employ tablets for ordering, games to entertain, and easy pay at the table. It wouldn’t take much to run an app or program on that tablet to ask consumers how they liked the products and services provided. Additionally, many hotels have check out systems on your room’s TV. How easy would it be to answer a quick five-question, on-screen follow up after checking out of your hotel room? Finally, the self-check-out at most grocery or big-box stores is really a touch screen computer running an application to scan items and take a form of payment. It would be easy to add the capabilities to collect consumer feedback in a quick and effective way.
Technology has advanced to the point where we actually can capture in-the-moment responses from service industry customers without breaking the bank. The opportunity to gain instant insight from the masses is available, and expanding by the minute. Whether it’s being taken fully advantage of or not is a different story, but there’s no doubt that advancements in both hardware and software will open up so many more doors for research.