Guest Surveys Might Be the Most Evil Thing Amongst Us

trustyou-hotel-reviews-raves-tnooz-As I continue to soak up the rays and soak up the rum in Miami, here is another guest post from reader Allan Christensen. Once again, someone sent me a message and it was too good for only my eyes. Thank you, Allan.

I wanted to take some time out of your day to vent to you about “Guest Surveys.”

More and more, we all have them on the bottom of every receipt. And upper management thinks that “guest surveys” are the best thing since sliced bread.

Nowadays, I can’t go anywhere without some poor person being forced to beg me to complete a survey. I go to Home Depot, the cashier hands me the receipt and highlights the chance to win $1000. I go to Walgreen’s, the cashier robotically asks for me to fill out a survey with a chance to win $1000. I understand that they are forced to do this because I could be a “secret shopper” and if they don’t ask me to fill out a survey then they could get a negative review and lose shifts or even worse – lose their job.

In the restaurant business, I find the “guest survey” to be an extra special type of disease…

First: our income depends on it. With most of the restaurant employees that I have surveyed, if you are not getting enough surveys then your shifts are cut. In my restaurant, we are expected to receive at least two surveys a week per server. This leads us to beg or bribe guests into filling out a survey. What upper management doesn’t understand is that most guests do not care to fill out a survey. Surveys are kind of like the common man’s yelp review – “I have an axe to grind so I am going to use this survey.” So, to get our regular happy guests to do a survey, you find yourself constantly begging or offering discounts on their tab if they will just fill out a survey for you. And, just my opinion, but is this solicited feedback the feedback that is being yearned for by the home office statisticians that live for this data??? I don’t believe so.

Second: guest surveys are only used as a negative reinforcement tool by upper management. I could receive 100 positive surveys and never hear a word from upper management. BUT, one negative comment and you would have thought I left the cover letter off of my T.P.S. report because I have to answer to Bill Lumbergh and 4 bosses about why one guest said I didn’t smile enough.

Lastly, restaurant chains always use an “all or nothing” grading scale. So, if I don’t get a perfect score then I get a ZERO. On a scale of 1 – 5 with 4 being “very good” and 5 being “excellent”, if the guest says I was “very good” then the guest said I was “dog shit.” Because if I am not “excellent” then I didn’t “wow” the guest. And, only a guest that has been “wow-ed” is a guest that I have made an impact on. Yet, my regular guests seemed to be “un-wow-ed” on a regular basis yet still come to visit me every week.

I feel trapped by guest surveys. I can’t just ignore them because then the only surveys I will receive will be from the wanna-be yelpers. So, I openly solicit and bribe my regulars to do surveys for me. I also complete surveys using my phone, my home computer, my Dad’s computer, my computer at work, etc, etc. Very shady as far as I am concerned but I feel I was forced into a corner and was not left many options.

19 thoughts on “Guest Surveys Might Be the Most Evil Thing Amongst Us

  1. nem0

    I’ve worked in the tech field under a stack ranking system based on customer surveys. In my experience, people only fill them out if they had an exceptional experience and/or are friends with you, or if the experience was so bad they can’t help but complain. The “average” interactions, though? Not worth the survey time, even when ours is just 3 quick “rate X from 1-5” and a box for comments.

    It’s not useful unless you have data from EVERY interaction, and the mentality of managers is that every interaction should be a 5 out of 5. I was a top 3 performer and constantly got crap from my manager for poor surveys. Most of the time it was people complaining about how long something took, or bitching because another team boned the case, but it got reassigned to me to close, so I took the hit.

    tl;dr: Surveys are bullshit. Learn how to evaluate your employees in a way that makes sense and stop treating us like robots.

  2. Amber

    Gotta say, I’m glad my restaurant doesn’t do that crap. We’re just a family owned and run biz, couple helpers on the side, less than 10 employees total. I think we have ONE yelp review, and it’s good.

  3. Alan

    Oh, what’s even worse than pushing survey cards onto guests was this 3rd party rewards program we were required to sell at the Japanese steakhouse I used to work at. It was called Valued Member or some stuff like that. It was a pain in the ass to both sell and manage. The owners actually fired servers who did not meet a certain quota per month. Eventually I left because I couldn’t stand having to deal with all the bullshit of angry, pissed-off guests who did not get their points from their last visit (they usually showed up via an online account and awarded when a registered credit card was used at the restaurant).

  4. Kim A

    I think management read somewhere that you need to measure something in order to analyze it. And the best way to analyze customer behavior is to start with data — on customer behavior, not survey opinions. So the most relevant piece of customer behavior we see is that they don’t want to fill out customer surveys. Good to know. Hell, even if you got everyone to fill out surveys, do you even know if that strongly correlates with actual behavior?? Now, what sort of behavior do we next want to analyze? To paraphrase Matt Damon in the Martian, “it’s time to science the shit out of this.”

    If you want repeat customers, you need a way to track them. Customer loyalty card/club? Register by name at the front? Direct question by the server? Betting the front-line people might have some suggestions for you. Trying to see who refers you to friends? Maybe a discount referral card or mention my name sort of thing. Again, I bet the restaurant professionals would have ideas to try.

    And by the way, WHY are you focusing on these segments? Are you sure that’s where you want to focus? Show me the data to support your conclusion. Maybe you only need to worry about that teeny-tiny segment of the population that is so unhappy they scream it from the roof tops. Move them from “I hate this place” to “meh, it’s about average” and maybe some of your headaches go away. I don’t know but if you (meaning *corporate management*) haven’t looked at real data, I’m betting you don’t know either. Gut instinct can only get you so far.

    If you really can’t resist the urge to survey, A/B test it at least. Do you regular surveying in half your stores and in the other half do a one question survey. Seriously. Something like “Did you enjoy your dining experience today?” or “Based on your experience today, will you try us again?” Yes or no, binary option. Easy to complete, easy to analyze. Even I might tick off a single check box. 🙂

    And stop threatening your front-line partners because of actions out of their control. Geez.

  5. Anita Moffett

    It’s very much like the cops that have a quota to fill for number of speeding tickets they give out in a month. The last week they are out in force ticketing anyone they can for even 1 MPH over the limit. These poor people are just trying to get to their shift a little early so they can fill out their customer surveys. It’s the circle of bad management throughout the world.
    Corporate management has ruined many lives.

  6. Robin

    Another problem with the all or nothing grading system is that MOST people won’t put excellent. It’s human nature.

    1. CincyDrunk

      Re: Robin

      I always put the highest score unless something tripped up my visit. I like filling the surveys out for places I frequent. Then again, I’m in the business so I know how it is. :/


    I was in a unique position of knowing the VP of OSI and the President of Darden. I flat out told them their survey system was deeply flawed and the results were fabricated simply because of the requirements you stated. I asked them if they’d ever noticed that 90% of the surveys always came flooding in at the end of each month and had they ever wondered why that was. I told them it’s because employees had to go out and fill them all out so as not to risk being penalized because the general public just doesn’t care to be bothered with any of it. They asked what incentive the public would need to fill out more surveys. I told them none. We just don’t care. A Bloomin Onion isn’t worth the 15 minutes. A free cheesecake slice isn’t worth the spam. Leave the survey link on the receipt, sure. But quite making a big deal out of it.

  8. Barb Chandler

    I prefer to call corporate direct if I want compensation for the shit I was subjected to during my dining experience. If I want vengeance for the attitude I received, I call the health department. OR BOTH. But from what I’ve gathered on here, you’re a cheap shit and regular piece of filth if you dine at chain restaurants that have a corporate–so what does that mean? We shouldn’t dine at such places, we shouldn’t give them our business, we should leave them and the people that work there to wither and die? If it’s a chain, call corporate, lodge your complaint, get some freebies. If it’s independently owned, your best bet is to use the health department to get results. Those people sure won’t be leveraged into making it up to you, so do what you have to do. You won’t get a freebie, but you can cause some headaches. One of the easiest things to remark on is how the employees have personal drink in food prep or other inappropriate areas. When the inspector comes, he may or may not find that. But it will get the peons chewed out and the inspector’s foot in the door to uncover other violations.

    1. Hide

      Barb, you’re part of the problem. If you get bad food or service while dining out, then don’t go to that particular establishment every again. “If I want vengeance for the attitude I received…” Vengeance? Are you serious? This has to be a troll post.

      1. CincyDrunk

        Barb’s a troll. Every single one of her comments is quite trollesque. BITCHY WIPE THAT SUNSCREEN OFF YOUR NOSE AND DO SOMETHING.

        1. Barb Chandler

          I’m just honest and handing out good advice for the customer that may not realize how easy it is to pick up the phone and call the health department. Many departments now have online forms, you can fill it out anytime and you don’t even have to get them on the phone. There’s a couple of places I go to that are great and I tip great. But I’m not always in my usual neighborhoods, so I must dine in untried venues. When the staff is bungling or has an attitude, I get even. Let’s say we have a bill for $35. Everything is okay, I’d leave $5-7. But if it’s a shitty experience, I have no way to slide the scale down to penalize the breach of contract by the restaurant. Enter the corporate complaint line, enter the health department. Chances are, if you had shitty service, that waitress can’t stand being nitpicked, so once the health inspector comes and gives the manager a laundry list to fix, he’s going to start riding the waitress and hopefully she will quit, thus improving the restaurant. Complaining betters the situation for everyone. Employee drinks are a crutch, and so are phones. Something else handy to mention is employees that may have handled money or their phone and then handled food without washing their hands. Those are a couple of rules that if enforced properly, will make the job less pleasant and weed out a lot of bad apples.

          1. Rei

            You are a terrible human being and your advice is ghastly. Please get off the internet and start eating at home.

          2. Kenzie


            Your ideas about what the health inspector cares about are completely flawed. They care about food temps and the dish tank being the right water temperature not whether employees have a glass of water or soda in the server area. Employee drinks aren’t a crutch, servers are human beings too and sometimes need to have something to drink during their long shift waiting on people like you, you think they should go all day without something to drink or eat? Maybe you should call my boss because I have an iced coffee every morning while I sit at my desk. You are out of your mind.

          3. Ms. Blake

            Kenzie is spot-on. The health department is there to inspect health conditions, not the attitude of the staff. Employees (servers, cooks, hostesses, etc.) are allowed to have a beverage (water, soda, juice) so long as the container is covered and not stored near a flammable surface or in the guest area, blah, blah. blah. These are human beings who require hydration, food and air to survive so expecting them to not have access to water and a meal for 8 hours is ridiculous . Barb, do you also expect restaurant staff to never use the restroom whilst they are on shift?! If you truly had a negative experience with a server, then you should you discretely contact management and explain to them what occurred. I would caution you to do a survey of the situation before complaining. If the server was truly rude or inattentive then fine. If however, they were in the weeds (got news for you–people call in sick and mgmt does understaff sometimes) and it took a bit longer for you to get a refill on your iced tea then cut them some slack. In regards to phones–how rude do you think it is for a server/bartender/grocery store clerk/retail clerk to be treated like an after-thought whilst the customer is busy on THEIR phone doing nothing of importance? I’ve seen this time and time again where customers are so busy on their phones that they treat the person attending to their needs as dirt. Put down the phone and engage with the person who is helping you out. You may see service industry employees check their phones from time-to-time for the same reasons you do–sick child, sick relative or maybe they just want to see if that well-deserved after shift get-together is still happening. They aren’t checking their phone whilst taking your order so why do you care?

          4. Barb Chandler

            I said employee drinks in prep areas and touching money and phones without washing hands are violations that will get the inspector to respond. Around here, a valid concern means that the inspector will go out and investigate. You might not be able to tell the holding temps or the labels in the storage area, but if you complain based upon something you can observe, it will get the inspector to check out what you complained about and what you couldn’t see.

            For your information, KENZIE, when the health inspections are published in the paper, employee drinks in prep areas or anywhere customer food is present IS a non-critical violation. Have your drink in the office, in the break area, but you better not have it near the food, whether in storage, prep or on its way to being served.

            Blake, you better wash your hands after I see you touching your phone. It’s a germ magnet and a great conversation starter for that call to the health department.

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