Customer Satisfaction
I Really Want to Know (Really?) - A Waiter Grades Himself

Friday night I went off my diet. I dare say I deserved a good meal after losing the twenty pounds I gained from too many trips to Manhattan restaurants last year. My wife and I went to one of our favorite Houston restaurants to celebrate the successful conclusion of my diet.

The food, as always, was wonderful. The service was even better than usual. I really would have given the restaurant top marks on every item -- but I didn't. Why? We'll see in a moment.

It is admirable for an organization to want to measure customer satisfaction. However, to do so correctly, the entire measurement process must be properly designed and implemented from start to finish. Proper questionnaire design is just the first step in the process. Equally as important is establishing a process of gathering data which will obtain a representative sample of customers, and which keeps bias to a minimum. This is where many organizations fail. This is where this particular restaurant failed.

After we had finished our coffee, the waiter brought over the check. With the check was a brief customer satisfaction survey. One side of the questionnaire contained a note from the owner, beginning with the words "I really want to know." The other side of the questionnaire contained a few standard measurement items and room for comments. What was a little different about this is that the questionnaire had already been filled out by the waiter. On a scale of "excellent," "good," and "needs improvement," the waiter had drawn a line through all the excellent boxes (see below).

As much as I enjoyed the service, I was not about to deposit a questionnaire into a ballot box that somebody else had completed. However, many people would return such a questionnaire without thinking twice.

The owner of the restaurant is only fooling himself by keeping the current customer satisfaction measurement program in place. If he "really wants to know," he would be better off asking someone to hand out postage-paid questionnaires to people as they left the restaurant.

If you have a customer satisfaction measurement program in place, or if you are thinking of implementing one, we urge you to give as much attention to the distribution and collection process as you do to the questionnaire design.

Clive Mettrick

Exhibit A - Back of Card

Exhibit B -- Front of Card -- Line Through Excellent Boxes Drawn by Waiter