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Georgette Vlangos, Costa Vida’s director of training and communication, said her company entices customers at its 39 restaurants in eight states to participate in the surveys with freebies such as chips and salsa.
Although customers are mostly uncomfortable giving feedback face-to-face, they are less reticent when they can take a survey on their phone or over the Web, she said.
For eateries, MindShare breaks the survey results down into different categories, such as cleanliness, the taste of the food and the quality of the service.
"We can drill down to see specifically what was wrong," said Vlangos. "Restaurant cleanliness for example. Was it the dining room? Was it the serving line? Where did the guest notice an issue or feel we were doing really well."
Customer complaints can be delivered nearly instantly to a store manager.
So, for example, if a customer called on a mobile phone, he or she might be asked if the bathroom was clean. If they pushed "1" for "not clean," they would be asked to say in their own words what was wrong.
"So then you talk: ‘I went into the restroom and the sinks were overflowing and the place was a filthy mess,’ " said Hanks.
Those types of responses trigger an instant message saying a customer is reporting the bathroom sinks are overflowing, and the manager can dispatch someone to fix the problem.
Long-term change » But information also is compiled over longer periods to provide a view of constant problems or trends.
Analysis can be provided for different levels of the company. A district manager could look at all stores in his or her area, a CEO could see a companywide picture, and the data can be sifted down to a single comment.
The company’s software analyzes the messages automatically and triggers reports based on what it sees. Tables described as messy, dirty, filthy, sticky or icky can generate a message to the mobile phone of the manager.
Part of MindShare’s magic is its ability to take voice calls from customers, analyze what they are saying and reproduce the voice calls as text that is analyzed and can be transmitted to clients. The technology is based on IBM’s Watson computer, such as the one that played and won "Jeopardy!"
In addition to the reports on customer comments, MindShare also can recommend that managers make improvements in stores operations.
Store and restaurant managers often are too busy to step back and take a look at what they might do to make improvements, Hanks said, so MindShare can take company policies and use them as a guide to make recommendations for actions.
MindShare charges $40 to $100 per location per month for its services. Its profits are possible because of the high degree of automation.
MindShare also takes employee feedback for businesses and can subject it to the same analysis tools as customers input.
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