As more customers experience streamlined, convenient payments, it won’t be long before it becomes a requirement in their dining experience.

Serving up memorable, engaging dining experiences isn’t easy.

And not having access to valuable customer feedback can make it even tougher. In the full-service restaurant space, knowing what’s on the mind of your customers when it matters most might not always be an option. However, the promise of real-time feedback may empower restaurants to overcome this challenge once and for all.

Though it may seem like customer surveys are the most practical way to gather feedback from your diners, research says otherwise. Only 2 percent of customers will actually take the time to complete a survey. Couple that with the fact that the average person can get distracted in as little as eight seconds, and you end up missing out on the insights your business really needs.

So, what’s a restaurant to do?

The answer lies in real-time feedback, allowing your customers to instantly share opinions about their time in your restaurant. Research from TruRating reveals that a one-question survey at the point of purchase can result in customer response rates as high as 88 percent. Real-time feedback can be a game changer for FSRs, but it requires rethinking the payment process and literally putting power back into the hands of your customers.

The pay-at-the-table difference

Pay-at-the-table technology isn’t anything new. However, many restaurants in the U.S. have a long way to go compared to other parts of the world. Despite advances in restaurant technology and payment capabilities, many U.S. diners still hand over their payment cards to a server who then leaves the table to process the payment.

While restaurants may resist the change due to the cost of implementing integrated payments or fear of impacting the dining experience, pay-at-the-table is still a move worth making. In 2016, 63 percent of customers said they are interested in using tableside payment options, a significant increase from just 48 percent in the previous year.

Diners are all about convenience, and the ability to pay for a meal right at the table provides just that. The technology also improves payment security, increases table turn and leverages software that makes tracking financial data easy. Not only that, bringing the payment device right to the table opens the door for your customers to seamlessly share feedback.

The power of one question

Collecting real-time feedback helps you reach more of your customers and allows you to do so in a way that’s convenient and frictionless. Asking a single question right after a purchase is made enables customers to quickly provide feedback when the experience is top of mind.

Though it might seem counterintuitive, asking one question of each customer is actually more powerful than asking 20. One question answered with ease will produce far more responses, which gives you real, valid and meaningful insights that can truly help transform your business. By asking the right questions and being strategic about when those questions are asked, you can start to see the significant impact of instantaneous customer feedback.

For instance, if you’re looking to gauge the success of a new menu item, you can test it out for a single service or timeframe and then directly ask the customers who ate during that time about it. If the new dish isn’t a hit, then you can know before moving forward with the time and cost of making it a permanent fixture on your menu.

Offering just one survey question at a time to your diners also makes it easy to rotate through various questions based on all of the different aspects of the experience your restaurant is delivering. From customer perception and their likelihood to return, to the quality of service or what marketing channel brought them into your restaurant, the data gained from real-time feedback can be tremendously powerful.

The path forward

Though the adoption of tableside payments is gaining traction in the U.S., there’s still work to be done in helping restaurants see the true value of the technology. Even at the end of 2017, only 41 percent of restaurants planned on using tablets. As more customers come to experience more streamlined, convenient payments in other aspects of their daily lives, it won’t be long before it will become a requirement for their full-service dining experiences as well.

Taking the leap to pay at the table can pay off big for your business, especially when it comes to giving your customers a voice and using that information to improve your business. By marrying real-time feedback capabilities to the payment experience, you can build up new operational efficiencies and improve the customer experience like never before.

Expert Takes, Feature, Technology