Don’t wait for them to complain

Pop quiz! Put yourself in the following situations, and then select a multiple choice answer. Don’t think about too much—just go with your first, gut reaction.

1. You receive bad service in a restaurant. Not only is the wait staff rude, but the food is below average and the atmosphere is noisy. You look around but can’t find a manager. Do you:

  1. Demand to see the manager anyway and voice your displeasure?
  2. Pay your bill, leave a small tip and vow never to come back?
  3. Tell your friends what a bad experience you had?

2. Now imagine you’re dining in another restaurant on a different occasion. The waitress is friendly and prompt. The food is delicious, and the manager is busy helping to greet customers and expedite meals. Do you:

  1. Ask to see the manager and share your good experience?
  2. Pay your bill, leave a generous tip and make a mental note to come back again soon?
  3. Tell your friends what a great experience you had?

If you’re like most people, you’ll do some combination of B and C. Most people are simply too timid to tell the manager about their experience, good or bad. And while most people will base their decision to return on their last experience, most who have a good experience won’t tell their friends. Why not? The same reason that bad news makes the 11 pm broadcast and good news doesn’t—it’s boring. It’s the expectation that a dining experience should be pleasant. When it’s not, that’s worth sharing around the water cooler.

However, when a customer does offer feedback, count your lucky stars. Ken Blanchard wrote that “Feedback is the breakfast of champions,” and he’s right. While it’s instinct to recoil from criticism and embrace praise, the reality is that customer feedback is pure gold.

Companies spend thousands—even millions—of dollars to find out what their customers think. Why? Because feedback can benefit the company if it’s used to make changes and improve processes. When someone offers you free feedback that you didn’t pay a consultant to get for you, consider it money in the bank!

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