If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Basic physics can prove the answer to this question, and it is Yes! It absolutely makes a sound. However when a customer is disappointed there is no way to be sure they will make a sound.
Many of us have seen the survey cards, emails, or call backs asking how a company did. Were you satisfied, etc…? I applaud those companies because at least they are asking. Furthermore they are taking an extra step to try and understand their perceived value, and if the customer enjoyed their experience.
The problem is that most people don’t want to be bothered by these surveys. They are way too busy to take the time to fill out a survey or comment card, or spend time answering questions. Many studies have been done, and the average is around one percent of patrons actually fill out a survey or comment card. If you dig deeper into that statistic you will find that, a majority of the surveys that are filled out are not complimentary. Therefore, you can reduce it down to approximately one out of a hundred people will actually take the time to tell you how you are doing, and usually it is only if they were dissatisfied. So what about the other 99 customers? Where they all happy? Of course not!
This blog was inspired by an experience I had this weekend. My wife and I went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant. Actually, it used to be her favorite restaurant. When we arrived we spent about five minutes waiting at the door with no one acknowledging that we even existed. Finally we had someone come over to and take us to our table. Then a waiter came up and took our drink order. About ten minutes later he came back with what must have been a very complex drink order, two waters and a diet coke! Then, before we could say anything, he said he would be right back to take our order.
As we waited for at least another 10-12 minutes, I couldn’t help but notice there were hardly any people in the restaurant. While the bar was pretty crowded, the actual restaurant was empty. What could cause such bad service at what used to be an excellent restaurant? The more I thought about it the more I realized that the last several times we had visited this restaurant the service and food had progressively lost the quality it once had.
Just then the waiter came over, and took our order. After we waited for what seemed to be an eternity, the cook actually came and brought us the food at last. I guess the waiter couldn’t be bothered? My food was not only a disgrace to Mexican cuisine, but the cook hadn’t even remembered to stuff the peppers I ordered. After two bites I pushed the food to the end of the table, and figured I would send the food back when the waiter came back to check on us. Roughly 30 minutes later the waiter came to our table and asked if we were done as he took up all the plates, completely ignoring the fact that I hadn’t eaten any of my meal. At this point I was so angry I figured I would just keep my mouth shut and leave.
My wife and I left and talked about how sad it was that they could let, what was once a great product, become such a disappointment. We will continue to spread the word to everyone we know that this place is a dive, and will never again recommend it to anyone. Once more we will never patronize that restaurant again.
So the question I put out there is how many customers do you have that are not saying anything to you, but are saying a lot about you? In the past if I came across this situation I would take the time to express my dissatisfaction to the manager. However, in the above case I was pushed so far over the edge that I was just done with this establishment. Most people are not going to say anything to you regardless of their frustration level. They will just disappear.
Today I have had a chance to calm down and I plan on stopping by the restaurant and letting the manager know what happened and why I will not be returning. Being in business, I feel I have that obligation. However, it will not change the outcome.
Too many companies in today’s world feel that ‘no news is good news’. I hope that this example helps illustrate how dangerous silence can be, as well as the importance of having a specific process and continually monitoring its success. That which is not measured cannot be improved. So how are you measuring your customer’s satisfaction?
The truth is that I love to hear from happy customers that sing my praises. However, I need to hear from the ones that are not as impressed. Every time a customer has a problem, I have the chance to excel. It is my duty to my customers to always be looking for ways to improve their customer experience and reward them for choosing our service over the hundreds of other options they have.
So if you don’t currently monitor your customer’s satisfaction, you really should start to think about implementing a plan. While yes, there will always be a small group that is willing to tell you where you went wrong, it is the silence that is the true danger to your bottom line.