Listen to Your Food Truck's Customers - dummies

Listen to Your Food Truck’s Customers

By Richard Myrick

The best judge of whether you’re providing a first-class dining experience at your food truck is always going to be your customers. Customer feedback is often given immediately, which allows you to act on it quickly. People like when you ask for their opinion, and you need this information for your business to grow.

By requesting customer feedback, you’re able to discover what you’re doing well, generate new ideas based on customer comments, and identify weaknesses or areas that need improvement.

Employ online customer feedback methods

Thanks to the rise in social media, you have more opportunity than ever to discover what your customers want. In fact, your food truck’s online persona will likely help widen your customer base and increase your sales as more new and returning customers discover your presence on the web. Online customers can serve as focus groups, temperature gauges, and brand ambassadors for your business.

Adding a feedback application to your website is relatively inexpensive and easy to install. These applications can offer analytics that analyze feedback data, organize the feedback into a specific inbox, and categorize feedback by type (complaints, questions, and suggestions).

You should answer unsolicited online feedback as quickly as possible, ideally within 24 to 48 hours. You can deliver a simple thank-you note and a return compliment quickly and sincerely, but you should handle complaints with an eye on restoring the person’s trust in you and your products.

In addition to unsolicited feedback from your website and social media platforms, you can send survey links through Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail newsletters that direct customers to your website. Surveys should be between five and ten questions that relate to areas of food quality, customer service, or help in determining new locations to park your truck.

Opt for print surveys and comment cards

Print surveys seek specific information that you can analyze over time. Using this medium allows you to know which changes have impacted customer satisfaction and lets you put the survey right in the hands of the customer as opposed to referring the customer to your website to fill out an online survey.

Consider conducting short, simple surveys. Pick one key issue to focus on — such as food quality or customer service — and ask five to ten questions about it. You’ll have an easier time quantifying your results if you ask customers to rate their answers on a scale of one to five.

Comment cards, on the other hand, may provide only broad opinions, which, while valid, can’t be used to trend changes in customer opinion. Still, they’re a simple and direct way to solicit feedback. Keep your cards simple, but be sure to ask for names and e-mail addresses.

Make it worth the survey participant’s time to help you. With each print survey or comment card you hand out, offer customers something of value, which may lure more customers to complete your surveys. Enter the names of everyone who takes the survey into a contest or drawing for a free menu item to encourage customer participation.

Talk to customers face to face

The simplest way to find out what people want from your business is to ask them while they’re at your truck.

While you need to listen to your customers, you also need to read between the lines. Even though customers may say they’re happy, does the tone of their voice really reflect it?

Pay attention to the questions customers asks. Track how often customers ask the same or similar questions. If you know that a certain question always leads to more questions, you can manage customers’ expectations by developing a response that answers the initial question and answers the follow-up questions.

Encourage your service staff to build strong relationships with customers so customers feel free to share how they feel about the service. They can give both general and specific observations. Employees can be a valuable asset when they’re given the knowledge and support to address customer concerns, and customers are more likely to give feedback to someone they believe is able to act on it.

Sift through customer feedback and make changes

When you’ve finished gathering your feedback, take the time to read it carefully and tabulate the results. You can follow these steps:

  1. Read through the comments a few time and then create categories for the different types of comments.

  2. Create separate lists for positive and negative comments in each category and then review the comments again, this time marking “positive” or “negative” for each comment.

  3. Look for patterns.

Chances are you’ll see a number of expected responses, which should serve as a reminder that you do know what needs to be addressed, but be prepared for some surprises, too. When coming up with solutions to the issues you uncover through customer feedback, think in stages:

  1. Consider the topic and gather input for change from your staff.

  2. Define the plan for change and check whether you have the budget to implement it.

  3. Benchmark the success or failure of the change with metrics over a reasonable period of time.

It’s amazing how often companies neglect to get back to customers even after they’ve implemented changes. When you make a change that’s customer-driven, contact the customers who were part of the feedback process. This step is critical, because customers will be encouraged to give even more input if they know they’re being heard.

Analyze all the data you receive and put it to good use. Only then will you have the information you need to keep your company strong and profitable for years to come. If handled right, the communication between you and your customers can become the lifeline of your mobile food business.

To establish and maintain a healthy flow, customer feedback must result in change your customers can see. Change is the most powerful currency to reward your constructively vocal customers.