As outdated as they may seem, comment cards are still an important standard for businesses in the service industries, especially restaurants. Despite the fact that any business which relies on customer feedback to succeed can benefit from the use of comment cards, their popularity has declined in recent years. Perhaps the increased use of technology such as smartphones and smart devices may be to blame, but the comment card should not be completely eliminated. The best business strategies utilize both the traditional and digital forms.

Paper and digital comment cards have similar characteristics in structure, and understanding what a good comment card comprises is imperative before starting to create one. In general, it should include a short survey designed to rate customer experience, either through written responses, through grading various aspects of the company’s service, or through a combination of both.

Depending on what a business needs to know, comment cards can be generated that include specific questions about particular features of the customer experience, product, or service. Plenty of space should also be made available for customers to individually comment on topics of their choosing. Traditional comment cards should have instructions printed that tell how to submit them.

After an adequate set of comment cards has been produced, implementation in the business establishment can begin. The paper and digital versions, however, each come with their respective pros and cons. Traditional comment cards placed on tables or in the lobby of stores and restaurants have high odds of being filled out on the spot, because customers are more likely to complete surveys at the time of their visit rather than later. Their greatest advantage is the instant feedback they provide a business about guest experiences, fresh from customers who are still within the establishment.

On the other hand, paper comment cards can pile up rapidly, and they can easily be neglected. Without some form of central organization for paper cards, the staff members who need to see them the most might not even get the chance to do so, rendering them ineffective. If software is being used to record the information from the cards, it must be done manually, and this takes up time that could be spent elsewhere. In addition, customers might not be able to fully share their ideas because of limited space on the cards, or they may be in a rush and not have the time to fill one out.

Digital comment cards are much better for aggregating data, as they can be organized without difficulty. A comment card URL can be included at the end of the checkout process or with the bill, generally on some sort of material such as receipts, carry out bags, or take-out boxes. The URL can either be printed in its entirety or linked to a QR code, which gives customers immediate access to the cards by scanning the code with their mobile devices. In general, digital comment cards tend to get more responses than their paper counterparts, and the anonymous nature of submitting feedback appeals to many customers.

Since they are online, the cards allow businesses an opportunity to build their databases because an e-mail address must be filled in by the customer, who in turn can be presented with chances to sign up for other loyalty programs or a company e-newsletter. Digital comment cards also come with the pluses of offering the customer more space for specific responses and of saving a business the money from printing out paper cards. Their major downside, though, is that they do not accommodate immediate guest feedback. Digital comment cards are usually completed by the customer outside of the establishment, either at home or somewhere else on the go. There is no guarantee that a customer will fill out a comment card once they leave, and if they do, their memory of the experience might not be fresh.

To overcome the limitations of each type of comment card, a combination of both would make for the most effective customer evaluation strategy, one that every service-oriented business should be following. Comment cards let customers invite suggestions for how the experience in an establishment could be improved, and they are inexpensive compared to other methods, with the digital ones being virtually free. Customers with negative comments will also receive an outlet to express their feelings before potentially retelling their story to friends, family, or another public forum. 

The cards also deliver businesses a constant loop of feedback through which corrective action can be taken. Collected commentary needs to be compiled, tracked, and responded to in order to pinpoint the areas of a business that are lagging behind the rest. Basically, businesses need to find out anything they have done inadequately so they can learn how to do it satisfactorily, increasing the number of pleased customers likely to return. This can be accomplished with a well-designed strategy; negative comment cards, for example, can help locate problems to address, and the feedback from positive comment cards could be applied to fixing those issues. Guest insight is even crucial for staff evaluation. Comment cards can help to identify which staff members are consistently performing at a high level, and which ones are not.

Digital and traditional cards both offer businesses opportunities for expansion in the aspect of CRM, as personal data from customers can be collected for future promotional and marketing campaigns. Besides this business benefit, comment cards also build customer relationships. Asking the right questions will help a business to get a feel for its customer base, so the establishment experience can be tailored to match the customers’ values, ensuring more guests return.

There are several things to keep in mind when using comment cards. In order for the feedback gathered to be of any worth, a business must first define its CRM goals, ascertain the information needed to achieve them, and set up methods for collecting, categorizing, analyzing, and acting on the information. Efficiency in these methods can be reached if the data from comment cards is thoroughly organized and stored in a single, accessible location.

Submitted comment cards need to be responded to promptly; otherwise, current customers will become past customers. Customers want to know that their comments are being taken seriously and that they are being listened to. Incentives could work well here, but just sending out emails that thank customers for submitting a comment card would be a simple yet effective gesture. 

Additionally, the response rate to comment cards in general is relatively low in comparison to total numbers of guests, and feedback usually comes from atypical customers, who are either extremely satisfied or unsatisfied. Thus, the feedback itself can be somewhat biased, and it might not show the experience of the average customer. To improve the efficacy and appeal of comment cards, an incentive such as coupons or another small promotional deal can be added for comment card submissions, which can also aid marketing efforts.

Despite what many people claim, the comment card is not dead. Used in the proper ways, traditional and digital comments cards can make significant contributions to the success of businesses in the service and hospitality industries. With their distinct potential to make customer voices heard, comment cards should be a part of every service-oriented company’s customer feedback campaign.