Will they sign up? Techniques to retrieve and properly use customers information.
For one reason or another you will want to collect information about your customers. There are millions of reasons to do so and almost all of them are good. Understanding and communicating with your customers allows you to develop strong relationships and insure you are providing the best services possible. One possible problem when collecting information is a lack of responses, another is an incomplete representation of your clientel (for example only the under 25 age group responds and you get data that ignores your 25+ year old clients). In this article we are going to address both problems.

A major contributor to the success of your data collection is the questions you ask. A very common mistake is to ask questions that you want to have answered, with no mind to how your customers may react to them. This situation is clearly displayed by asking inappropriate questions but doesn't always have to be so obvious. Sometimes it's the tone of the questions themselves, sometimes the questions invite the customer to write too much. A common problem is asking to many questions and thus scaring away customers because it seems like too much work.

The questions that you ask for should always be in revision and be improved upon. If you are going to change the questions on the request form be aware that it may prevent the new version of the responses from being compared with older versions. Something as simple as the order of the questions effects the responses. When in doubt create a whole new questionnaire (repeating a large about of questions is fine) and treat them separately.

If creating new questionnaires it is not a problem to ask the same customers over and over again to participate. Obviously you need to be reasonable with the quantity and duration of requests. If you feel you might be bothering your customers too much then you probably are. Customers will also pick up if you are asking questions that are not useful to you. Questionairres are not to be used unless gathering important information. Other promotions and updates (events etc.) are better for constant communications.

Another often overlooked part of the questioning process is to explain how the infomration is going to be used. A perfect situation is displayed when asking for an email address. It is simple fact that many business abuse email address by sending lots of spam and/or selling them to make additional money. Obviously these techniques are not acceptable. In this situation, if you explain that you will never share the users email address, that you will limit emails to twice a month and that they can unsubscribe at any time, you will get more sign ups.

The last and biggest factor to your success on gathering information is how you ask. There are a lot of techniques used and some might be more successful in different restaurants. A high pressure model might include having your waiters/waitresses ask the customer if they would like to and phsyically placing the questionnaire on the table. A more relaxed approach would be to put the questionnaire at the door or at the front desk. A middle of the road, and common technique, is to include it in the folder with the payment cheque.

If you feel like you that the information you are asking for is worth something, you can provide rewards for completing providing it. A common technique to provide a coupon if filled out. An extension of this would be to mail out a coupon on the birthdays of the person if they provided their birthday. If you create some sort of membership system you can get the information you want, gather constant information and, perhaps, provide incentive for repeat business and restaurant loyalty. Immediate rewards are, in general, more successful then delayed rewards. A free piece of cake today is probably going to get a better response then a free piece of cake on your next purchase. In this situation creativity is key along with understanding your customers. Ask yourself how much is this information worth to you.