How to Eavesdrop on Your Customers – A Few Tools

It seems that just about every restaurant these days has a “receipt survey” in place. You know the kind I’m talking about, right? When I’m trying to pay for my meal, I get a long receipt with a code highlighted near the bottom.

It’s always a little awkward when the server says, “Visit our site and use this code and you will be entered into a drawing to win something useless to you.”

Okay. I know they don’t really say that, but that’s what I hear.

What are the exceptions for me, if any? What would cause me to actually visit the site and use the super-long encrypted code?

That’s easy. There are exactly two occasions when I would bother to follow through:

1. The service was phenomenally good.
2. The service was horrendous.

Everything else falls into the lukewarm spectrum in between.  Is this really candid or valuable in any way?

With that in mind, how can restaurants (and other businesses, for that matter) get a handle on how they’re actually doing? Unlike the title of this post, I wouldn’t advocate actual, in-person eavesdropping.

I have two ideas to help.

The first one involves a bit more work – ask them a couple of the intended survey questions personally before they leave. Offer to reward the customer immediately by giving them a free dessert or knocking a small amount off of their bill.

The second idea is a little more elaborate, but it can be done free of charge. You can easily use some simple online tools to get a feel for what people are saying about you. Believe me, if you do much business at all, someone is having a conversation about you and your company.

Here are a couple to get you started:

Set up Google Alerts ( for your company name or the names of your competitors. If people are writing blog posts that mention how terrible your coffee tastes, you might want to know this. Conversely, if someone is raving about you to their online sphere of influence, offer them something cool, like a t-shirt or a free dessert.

Use Facebook’s “deep search” function. Many people don’t even know this exists. Use the “SEARCH” box on Facebook and put in your company name (or your personal name).  A dropdown menu may appear there automatically.  If so, make sure you click on the “See More Results for ______ Here”, which will be the bottom result on that list.  The results could surprise you.

Utilize – the “advanced search” gives you a lot of options. Again, you could be surprised by what you see, both good and bad.

Of course, there are plenty of others, some of which are professional (read: paid) in nature.

If you are a business owner and you need help understanding how to leverage social media tools to help you improve your company’s image and make more sales, let us know how we can help. We love this stuff!

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  • christinelherrera

    These are great alternatives to finding out what people are saying about your company. I agree with you-I am not the kind of person that will go home and log in to a survey which most likely won't work for nothing. How about some good incentives? Thanks for posting, a great resource

  • Christine – I'm glad that you found it to be helpful! I think the surveys would bring only two results, weighted on either end, as I mentioned. Hope you're having a great week!