Last weekend on my visit to the new MM Juice outlet at Kasih Ibu Hospital at Jl. Teuku Umar, Denpasar, after our lunch is completed the waiter handed us a customer satisfactory survey to fill out.
It's a regular feedback form where the business (in this case MM Juices) tries to gain insight into their customers satisfaction level, and it also contains regular questions like how their food was, their hospitality was, hygiene and cleanliness, etc.
One thing strikes my mind though, upon inspecting the first question on the list: "How long have you waited for the food to arrive?", and upon the answer choices there's "less than 5 minutes", "5-10 minutes", and so on. What made me thinking is, do we as customers really timed the length of time lapsed before our food arrives on our table, in minutes?
Timed no doubt, but in actual minutes? Which one of you have a good reliable measure of time? Can you say that you've been reading this writing for 45 seconds? One minute and 15 seconds? I doubt any of us common customers have that accurate measurement when it comes to timing; especially lapsed ones. Different case would be, if we are asked beforehand to do the measurement, then we would perhaps armed ourselves with a stopwatch, or at least consciously looking at a watch and make a mental note.
(Else if you are food critics that incorporates actual time measurement into your review subject).
A more interesting (and more reliable) result would be, if the question and answers are rephrased to gain emotional response than quantified, i.e.:
Q: "How long have you waited for the food to arrive?"
Q: "How do you feel about the waiting time between making the order and the food to arrive?"
While it's true that you won't get a quantified result from such question, but your customers should not be treated as a time tracking feedback mechanism anyway; people, especially regular customers operates more on feeling than objectiveness.
What can you do to make the waiting time more bearable then? Or even more meaningful?
It could be achieved by taking into calculation the other aspect of waiting, which is the "waiting experience".
The Waiting Experience
People are bad time measurer, but the more important fact is, people don't base their response on factual timing but more on the perception of timing; hence how the waiting time makes them feel is far much important than the actual time spent upon waiting.
This is why with a good waiting experience, 15 minutes feels short, while with a bad one, even 10 minutes are already too long.
On eateries with most of their dishes are prepared from fresh where longer preparation time is unavoidable; measuring the other aspect of waiting, the "waiting experience" -- on surveys, could also provide a more useful insight into the customer satisfaction level:
Q: "What did you do while waiting for the food to arrive?"
A: "Watching TV/reading magazine/going online using free WiFi/playing table games/conversation with other guests/nothing"
(Note: please make sure you make all those options available -- except for "other guests" -- , and not relying on customers to brings their own!)
Afterward you can follow up with a question like:
Q: "How do you find the waiting time is?"
A: "Satisfying/acceptable/too long"
Does it works only on those kind of restaurants? On the contrary; for eateries with shorter food preparation, e.g.: fast food restaurant, and buffet style restaurant, this kind of question could provide an even more useful insight into your customer satisfaction level; especially when time of preparation is considerably instant or requires only minimum time.
Combining the measurement
For a more accurate result and less obtrusive means, you should let technology handles the technical aspects of your survey; have a stopwatch or other timing device that could measure the time it takes between the waiter enters the order note, up into the food is served on your customer's table, and do it automatically or with semi-automatic triggers. At the same time, held a survey to measure the satisfaction level your customers have; this way you could measure both the preparation time average, and how it makes your customers feel. (byms)