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The latest research by Guest Experience Management Expert HGEM has revealed that while online reviews remain a valuable tool for operators, with 87% of consumers making diner choices based on them, consumers would also welcome more direct channels of feedback with operators – particularly email and conversations with the manager.

For operators hoping to rescue a customer following a negative experience with a server, a follow-up email is the ideal channel for nearly a third (31%) of diners – especially the 65+ Baby Boomers (44%) – while 25% would prefer to feedback directly to the server and/or manager on-site and 14% via an online review site.

The preference for sharing feedback after a positive server experience reveals a greater tendency to communicate face-to-face, with 28% of diners choosing to speak directly to the server and/or manager on-site versus 22% choosing an email sent after their visit and 15% via an online review site. More Gen Z diners indicated online review sites as an ideal feedback channel after a negative (21%) or positive (34%) experience with a server.

The survey into guest satisfaction also reveals how employee engagement directly impacts diner experience. After interacting with an engaged and positive server, more than one third (36%) of diners would spend 10% more time in a restaurant or pub and 22% would spend double this, highlighting the incremental spend opportunity to operators that get this key aspect right. Perhaps more importantly, the survey also reveals that a disengaged server would result in 27% of diners choosing not to return.

Sally Whelan, Founding Director at HGEM, said, “The research highlights a potential gap in the way operators are sourcing feedback from diners, with perhaps too high a dependence on online review sites and social media and less on direct channels of communication options – such as email and manager feedback – that consumers clearly value.

'It also reveals a trend we’ve identified across our clients, namely a positive correlation between employee engagement (ENPS) and customer satisfaction levels (NPS), which means employee engagement could be one of the keys to unlocking operator reputation and driving customer loyalty.”

(source: HGEM)