7 simple methods for gathering pub customer feedback

customer suggestion box

In our previous article we made the hard-nosed business case for why customer feedback matters.

If you’ve read it then you’ll be keen to learn all the strategies available for successfully gathering customer opinions.

So, that’s exactly what we’re going to do. PLUS we will show you how to organise and act upon this information enabling you to run a pub with greater success.

As Paul Pavli, Operation’s Director at Punch Taverns told Morning Advertiser:

‘Every successful business talks to its customers, and more importantly, listens to what they are saying.’

For publicans, getting customer feedback is the only sure way of knowing whether you’re serving them:

  • The drinks they love
  • The food they’ll savour
  • The setting they feel comfortable in
  • The prices they can afford
  • The customer service they expect

The list could go on and on. The only way to know what your customers want is by asking the right questions and listening to the answers.

There are 7 key methods that pubs can you use in order to gather pub customer feedback. They are:

  1. In-pub conversation
  2. The suggestion box
  3. Mailing lists
  4. Your pub website and social media
  5. Online surveys
  6. TripAdvisor
  7. Non-customer views (we’ll explain!)

Let’s get started…

The 7 simple methods for gathering pub customer feedback

1. In-pub conversation

Some of the best customer feedback comes out of spontaneous conversation. The problem is it rarely gets recorded.

This is why I think it’s important to have a customer feedback box on your bar (see next section). Because not only can customers directly place their opinions in it, but your staff can make a note of verbal feedback (signed off by the staff member) and pop it in the box themselves.

All you need to do is ensure staff are aware of the need to record feedback in this way.

There are certain opportune moments where your staff can naturally elicit feedback. When a new ale is on tap, or a new wine or menu item has been introduced.

Or when you’ve made changes to the décor, for example.

You don’t have to forcefully extract the opinions of customers. It can be a relaxed part of natural conversation. A lot of your customers will likely have a passion for pubs, certain beverages or eating and drinking.

They’ll only be too happy to talk about subjects that interest them, and it’ll make them feel valued at the same time.

As a pub landlord or manager, it’s also good for you to routinely speak with customers one-to-one. Make it a part of your job to seek out the opinions of your customers, even if it’s just once a day or a few times a week.

2. The suggestion box

The simplest tried-and-tested method of collecting feedback is the suggestion box. Stick it on the bar and leave a pen and slips of paper next to it. Give your customers the option of leaving their email address with you if they want access to special offers and promotions.

There are whole raft of ways to entice people to leave feedback with you. For example, why not run a competition where a customer’s suggestion is picked at random each month, and the lucky person gets a bottle of wine?

As well as sourcing feedback, it’s also a useful way of gathering customer contact details.

Mailing list for pubs3. Via mailing list

If you have a customer email list, you can reach out for opinions. Make it an occasional thing.

One option is to ask for customer feedback every six months, in return for being entered into a prize draw.

Another idea, is to add a sign-off at the end of each email asking if there’s anything they like, dislike or would like to see at your pub.

“…If there’s anything you think we can do better, we’d love to hear from you…”

4. Your website and social media

Every good pub website should have a form which encourages visitors to leave their feedback. Again, you can consider providing a reward, exclusive to those who leave online feedback.

Giving away products is not something you want to be doing too frequently. However, this is easy to manage. The most obvious way is by setting out how often you perform prize draws – just make sure your customers are aware of this.

Your pub should have a Twitter and Facebook account. If so, that can be another useful way of gathering feedback. Make sure you keep it fun and conversational, like the good people at the Malt Shovel in Edinburgh:

Malt Shovel Pub

Meanwhile, over on Facebook The White Lion pub in Radford Semele has undergone a major refit. They are keen to hear what people think:

White Lion Radford

It looks wonderful! The locals are interested in finding out more as the following comments demonstrate:

White Lion Radford Feedback

Not only does it show that they care what people think, it’s also effective marketing. Doesn’t it make you want to visit?

If you need help creating content for your pub’s social media, you might be interested in our articles:

5. Online customer surveys

Bad customer survey-1Online customer satisfaction survey enable customers to offer quick feedback.

The survey should take no more than 5 minutes. It will help if you avoid repeating the same question (!) >>>

Be clear about your goal: you want to find out what the customer thinks about different aspects of your pub ranging from the drink selection, food menu, customer service and more.

Here are some examples to get you thinking…

Check out this survey for the George & Dragon pub or this example from the White Horse Inn in Seagrave.

So, how do you create these pub customer satisfaction surveys? The most widely used service (which has a limited free option) is Survey Monkey. And their website features some useful guidance on the do’s and don’t’s of creating surveys.

Another competitor in the same field is Client Heartbeat and they offer a selection of real life customer survey examples.

6. Trip Advisor

Trip AdvisorWith all the negative headlines, you’d think that Trip Advisor only ever caused harm to pubs and restaurants up and down the country.

That’s not quite true.

Sure, people can criticise your pub with complete anonymity – and sometimes they can be pretty brutal. However, it’s incredibly rare that someone will put the boot in for the sheer hell of it.

If you do a good job of running a pub, and your clientele are enjoying the experience then your positive feedback will far outweigh the bad.

In such cases, rather than something to be afraid of, Trip Advisor will be a powerful pub marketing tool.

There’s some good advice on the Trip Advisor website on how pub and restaurants can get the best out of Trip Advisor.

One of the most important things you can do is set-up email reminders so that whenever a new review is posted about your pub, you will know about it.

Just remember, that if you receive negative criticism, respond in a mature, responsible and conversational manner. Try to avoid all those corporate cliches about ‘doing your best to improve the customer experience’. Really address people on a one-to-one human level.

You can also get a free Trip Advisor sticker, which you can place on the door of your establishment or anywhere else you feel is appropriate. It’s a nice little prompt for the customer and also demonstrates you care about public opinion.

7. Non-customer feedback!?

Sounds absurd, eh? Many of you will be wondering: ‘How am I supposed to get feedback from people who don’t visit my pub?’ And: ‘Why would I want to?’

Well, it’s actually incredibly useful to know why people in your pub’s catchment area don’t visit your pub.

There can be a variety of reasons:

  1. They don’t know why they should (i.e. a lack of marketing)
  2. They don’t like the exterior of your pub
  3. They heard bad things about the food
  4. They prefer the pub down the road which serves a wider selection of real ales
  5. Price

The point is that if you talk to, or observe, customers who don’t visit you can gain real insight into why they stay away. And then, you can work out how to persuade them to frequent your establishment.

Now, the question is how can you find these people who don’t visit? There are 2 main methods:

i. Visit rival pubs and observe the customers. Consider why are they visiting this pub instead of yours? Is it the décor? The food? The service? Or maybe the location?

ii. If you live in the area, talk to friends and family and find out from them why certain people don’t frequent your pub? Or find out what would persuade them to visit?

How to organise pub customer feedback

You might use a few, or even all, of these customer feedback strategies. Great. But what do you do with all that information you’ve gathered from different sources?

There are a collection of project organisation tools which can help you collate all the data, simply and easily. One of my personal favourites is Trello. You can create different project boards for different kinds of feedback and it’s really easy to use:

Take a look at this example…

Trello for pubs

Under the heading ‘Pub Feedback’ I’ve created different categories. If I click on the first one: ‘Customer service feedback’ you’re taken to this screen…

Trello for pubs

It’s a collection of customer opinions, all dated so you know when it’s from. Wherever you receive the customer opinions, whether it’s online, in person, or on slips of paper; it can be recorded and then placed into this system for easy viewing.

No good feedback is lost and forgotten…

How to action the feedback

Action boardYou can get all the feedback you like, but it’s what you do with it that counts.

Make it a monthly job to pull all the information together and consider how to action it.

There are certain aspects where the required actions might be obvious.

Like if you have complaints about the quality of the beer, you need to speak with the cellar manager and take the necessary steps to ensure your beer is served at its prime condition at all times.

The same goes with any complaints about the food. Speak to the chef and get to the bottom of any problems, or improvements that can be made.

Bottom-line is you need to consider all pub customer feedback with an open mind and observe any patterns you see developing. Each month, you need to create a plan of how to respond to the feedback.

Use it to address specific problems and take the practical steps needed to rectify them.

Then, if a customer’s suggestion or opinion has been acted upon, tell them about it. They’ll be delighted that you’ve taken on-board their opinion. It’s incredible how many businesses fail to do this, yet it’s the easiest and most rewarding part of all.

When a business earns a reputation for listening to customers, they are far more likely, in future, to let you know what they think.

Plan your pub customer feedback strategy today…

Use this guide as inspiration for creating your own pub customer feedback strategy. It’s great PR and a vital activity for better understanding your customer-base and ensuring you give them what they want (and more!) over and over again.

Let us know how you get on and feel free to leave your own feedback below…


Image 1: Suggestion Box by Hash Milhan – CC

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