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Outback Steakhouse – Customer Satisfaction Survey Essay

Outback Steakhouse is a multinational restaurant chain operating throughout the United States and in 18 other countries including Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and many more countries worldwide, (Outback Steakhouse, 2013). In most basic terms, Outback Steakhouse could be described as an Australian themed steakhouse. The restaurant offers a casual dining experience with menu offering a wide variety of selections that will fit most guests’ preferences. As common with casual dining restaurants guests are seated and served by wait staff and pay for their meal after eating.

The casual dining restaurant industry is highly competitive business with many chain restaurants competing for the same customers. Research has shown that the “demand for casual dining is driven by personal income, consumer tastes, and demographics”, (Hoovers, 2013). It is important for all businesses in the casual dining industry to ensure they’re meeting and exceeding customer expectations and demands. In order to meet those demands the company must learn what their customers expect from their casual dining experience. One way of reaching out to customers for insight into their experiences and expectations is with a customer satisfaction survey.

Customer satisfaction surveys are extremely important for all businesses selling a product or service to consumers. “Surveys get the pulse of your customers by revealing their satisfaction levels and preferences”, (Information Week, 2008). By implementing a customer satisfaction survey the managers of the local Outback Steakhouse will be better informed about the positive and negative aspects of their service directly from the customers themselves. “In an era of high competition and expectations, customer satisfaction surveys are essential tools for listening to customers about their satisfaction levels,
and for developing strategies for improvement”, (eSurvey Pro, 2013).

In this particular case a combination of closed-ended, multiple-choice and open-ended questions were used. This provides the surveyor an opportunity to collect data that is easier to analyze as with closed-ended and multiple-choice questions, but also allows the customer an opportunity to elaborate or branch if necessary. Method

Recently a customer satisfaction survey was conducted at a local Outback Steakhouse restaurant (Appendix A). A group of 10 customers (10 tables surveyed; 1 survey per table) that had just finished their meal were approached to assist in a brief customer satisfaction survey about their experience dining at the restaurant. This afforded the surveyor the opportunity to collect data while the experience was still fresh in the customers mind. By giving customers an outlet to express their opinions and to vent possible frustrations you are able to gather a lot of valuable information.

The customer satisfaction survey addresses many facets of their experience to gauge various satisfaction levels and to better identify areas that need the most improvement. The first step in the process was to develop the actual survey that would be distributed to customers. Research was done to compare other customer satisfaction surveys used by competitors in the restaurant industry. There were many similarities between the various surveys and the final survey for Outback customers is also written and compiled in a similar manner. There are also many resources available over the Internet to help develop effective customer satisfaction surveys for various fields of business.

Developing the survey and writing the questions is an important step in the process because you must ensure that each of the questions serve a purpose and is written clearly and concisely. The customer shouldn’t feel burdened by the survey and if there are too many questions or the questions are confusing or seem irrelevant it may discourage some customers from participating. The customer satisfaction survey was conducted on a Friday evening between 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm and tables were selected at random. The surveys were placed on tables before the guests were seated so that the pool of customers was completely random and unbiased.

This local Outback Steakhouse is located in a middle-class neighborhood and is located within a mile of the local interstate which increases traffic near the restaurant and has the potential to improve business. There were a wide range of customers in the restaurant during the time the survey was conducted which resulted in a diverse group of participants. After collecting the completed surveys the data could be compared to find trends in responses (Appendix B).

These trends could indicate a consistent problem that needs to be addressed and can also highlight areas where the business is thriving which can serve as a great motivator for the staff and management. Analysis

The first question of the survey addresses the frequency in which the customer visits Outback Steakhouse. This can be used to differentiate between new customers or regular customers and can look for trends in the data. The survey results indicate that the restaurant often serves regular or repeat customers. This is extremely important for business because it is very beneficial for the company to increase loyalty and keep the customers they already have.

“With the high cost involved in acquisition of new customers loyalty usually plays a critical role in the development of business and services that are provided”, (Bhaskaran, 2013). Many customers responded to the survey stating that they visit monthly and some even visit weekly, which is very telling of the consistency in the service offered at Outback Steakhouse. Another trend in the survey data was the overall satisfaction with the service and staff at this Outback Steakhouse.

Based on the data collected (Figure 1) the overall satisfaction levels indicate that customers are generally very satisfied with the service they receive when dining at the restaurant. In addition to gauging their overall level of satisfaction the survey asked individual questions pertaining to the satisfaction with the wait time, their server, their meal and the overall environment within the restaurant. All questions returned satisfactory results with most responding with answers of ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’.

There were very few negative answers in response to these four specific questions about their satisfaction with the different facets of their dining experience. These questions are important because they allow the surveyor or the management team with the restaurant to isolate different areas of service to identify areas that excel and those with room for improvement. Based on the data collected it appears that overall the management and staff is doing a great job of providing great service and in many cases are exceeding customer’s expectations. Figure 1

The final questions of the survey asked respondents if they are likely to return to Outback Steakhouse, if they are likely to increase the frequency of their visits and also if they’re likely to recommend the restaurant to a friend. These questions are extremely important in forecasting future business and how it may be affected by customer satisfaction levels. The data collected indicates that overall most customers are satisfied with the service they receive (Figure 2). Despite some minor incidents reported on the surveys none of the respondents stated that they were going to start dining at Outback less frequently following their most recent visit.

Many of the respondents provided answers that indicated that they’re very likely to return to the restaurant and would also recommend Outback Steakhouse to a friend (Figure 3). It is also very important to note that many customers would recommend this restaurant to their friends because that gives the surveyor and management and indication of what their reputation may be in the area. This also gives the impression that the company has the ability to possibly acquire new customers for free by utilizing this word of mouth concept. This is also great news for this local Outback Steakhouse because it indicates that they are not losing very many customers. Figure 2

Figure 3

Following the closed-ended questions that required customers to respond using only the choices provided on the survey there was one open-ended question where respondents were able to write any comments or suggestions they wanted to share. The closed-ended questions are important because they allow for the data to be collected and compared much easier because there are a limited number of possible responses you will encounter.

With open-ended questions there are an infinite number of different responses you may receive which can be difficult to compare side by side with a large number of respondents. The benefit to this open-ended question is that it serves as an open forum for customers to vent their frustrations or sing their praises. The information the customer wants to relay may not fit well into any of the close-ended questions provided so the open-ended question works to avoid losing out on any important information that could be useful. The respondents to the Outback Steakhouse customer satisfaction survey all provided additional notes regarding their experience.

This is critical to the effectiveness of the customer satisfaction survey because it may introduce areas of concern that were not considered by management or the surveyor and could have been missed. The data collected from this portion of the survey highlighted areas of strength (friendly and effective staff) as well as areas of weakness (long wait time). The comments highlighted in Appendix B identify some of the most common themes across all of the surveys.

The responses indicate that the staff at this Outback Steakhouse is friendly, knowledgeable and skilled in their job; this gives the restaurant a competitive advantage over the competition that has a sub-par staff. There were multiple comments that indicated some customers experienced a considerable wait time before being seated which could indicate problems with seating or serving delays.

Recommendations
There was a lot of important and useful data collected by the customer satisfaction survey at Outback Steakhouse. In order to truly make the most of the survey it is important to compare and analyze the data to identify any common trends that effect business. The survey results indicate both positive and negative aspects of their service so there are some areas in which they could improve, but overall the results were optimistic. If Outback Steakhouse continues with providing the level of service they’re accustomed to than they should be on track for continued success.

One common trend mentioned in the open-ended question indicated that many customers had to wait a considerable amount of time before they were seated at a table. While some wait time is expected in the restaurant industry it is important not to overlook any data that might indicate a bigger problem than just the typical wait time. Wait times are typically consistent over the same periods of time – weekdays/nights and weekends differ greatly so a wait time during the weekend is often expected whereas it’s very possible to avoid any wait time when dining during the week.

This survey was conducted on a Friday night, which means some wait time is not unusual and overall the customers seemed to agree that they expected to encounter a wait. An important recommendation is to continue monitoring survey data and customer comments to ensure the wait doesn’t extend longer than it needs to because that provides an opportunity to lose a customer. The data collected also indicates that this restaurant sees a lot of repeat business from customers who visit frequently. This is very beneficial to Outback Steakhouse because they have developed a relationship with the customer and hopefully they have a sense of loyalty to the restaurant, menu, staff, etc.

Survey data also shows that the respondents plan to keep the frequency of their visits the same or plan to increase frequency. Increasing business is a great benefit but it is also important that there are no indications that these customers plan to visit less frequently. Since it appears the company is set to keep their existing customer base, it is important to try and reach out to new customers.

New marketing campaigns, especially local spots, may be a viable option to attract new business. Local marketing such as sponsorships and teaming up with local groups can be a good choice because it focuses on customers from the area that are likely to visit this specific restaurant versus another location of the same chain. Conclusion

Customer satisfaction surveys provide a great deal of useful information that can be critical to the success of the business. If a business is not satisfying their customers consistently they will eventually lose those customers and ultimately lose the business altogether. Research has shown that “customer satisfaction surveys are essential for continuous improvement of product, services, and/or support, as well as enterprise competitiveness and survival”, (eSurvey Pro, 2013).

In order to continue and improve their level of service and satisfaction it is important that regular customer satisfaction surveys be conducted. Performing regular surveys allows for the company to identify any problems, develop strategies and to put those plans in motion. Once the improvements have been in place it would be beneficial to conduct another survey that could gauge how those changes have affected business. This is also an opportunity for the company to identify any new problems or suggestions that should be addressed.

References
Bhaskaran, V. (2013). Conducting an effective customer service program. Survey Analytics. Retrieved from http://www.questionpro.com/images/Conducting-Effective-Customer-Satisfaction-Program.pdf ESurvey Pro. (2013). Business Imperatives. Customer satisfaction surveys. Retrieved from http://www.esurveyspro.com/article-customer-satisfaction-surveys.aspx Hoovers, Inc. (2013). Casual Restaurants Report Summary. Casual restaurants industry overview.

Retrieved from http://www.hoovers.com/industry-facts.casual-restaurants.1443.html Information Week. (February 14, 2008). Gauging customer satisfaction: The importance of the online survey. Retrieved from http://www.informationweek.com/gauging-customer-satisfaction-the-import/206504051 Market Research Methods. (2012). 5 Essential customer satisfaction survey questions. Retrieved from http://www.mymarketresearchmethods.com/customer-satisfaction-survey-questions/ Outback Steakhouse. (2013). Outback Steakhouse. Retrieved from http://www.outback.com

Appendix A
Below is sample of the customer satisfaction survey that was given to customers of the local Outback Steakhouse to gain insight into the quality of service they offer. Following each question is a brief rationale explaining why the question was included and how it would be useful to the company. The rationale information was not included in the customer’s survey.

* * *

Customer Satisfaction Survey
Outback Steakhouse

Please take a moment to complete this short survey. The information you provide will be extremely useful in identifying strengths and weaknesses in service as well as developing plans for improving the service you receive. Your time is greatly appreciated.

1. How often do you typically visit Outback Steakhouse, Inc.? a. 1 – 3 visits per week
b. 1 – 3 visits per month
c. 1 – 3 visits per year

Rationale: – This question is useful in comparing data from regular customers against data from sporadic customers. 2. How satisfied are you with the time you waited to be seated? a. Very satisfied

b. Satisfied
c. Neutral
d. Dissatisfied
e. Very dissatisfied

Rationale: – This question can help to identify specific areas of service that may need to be improved upon.

3. Were you satisfied with the friendliness and attentiveness of your server? a. Very satisfied
b. Satisfied
c. Neutral
d. Dissatisfied
e. Very dissatisfied

Rationale: – This question can help to identify specific areas of service that may need to be improved upon.

4. Generally, how satisfied were you the taste and presentation of your meal? a. Very satisfied
b. Satisfied
c. Neutral
d. Dissatisfied
e. Very dissatisfied

Rationale: – This question can help to identify specific areas of business that may need to be approved upon.

5. Were you satisfied with the cleanliness and overall appearance of the dining room? a. Very satisfied
b. Satisfied
c. Neutral
d. Dissatisfied
e. Very dissatisfied

Rationale: – This question can help to identify if the servicescape is beneficial to the overall satisfaction of customers.

6. What is your overall satisfaction level with Outback Steakhouse, Inc.? a. Very satisfied
b. Satisfied
c. Neutral
d. Dissatisfied
e. Very unsatisfied

Rationale: – It could be useful to learn more about the reputation and overall level of satisfaction of customers.

7. Based on your experience while dining at Outback Steakhouse, Inc. how likely are you to return? a. Very likely
b. Somewhat likely
c. Undecided
d. Somewhat unlikely
e. Very unlikely

Rationale: – Ultimately it is important to know whether or not the company is at risk for losing customers because of poor service.

8. Based on your experience while dining at Outback Steakhouse, Inc. do you plan to visit more regularly? a. More often
b. No change
c. Less often

Rationale: This could indicate if customers are satisfied enough to increase their number of visits and would show if things are going well for the business in terms of customer satisfaction levels.

9. How likely are you to recommend Outback Steakhouse, Inc. to a friend? a. Very likely
b. Somewhat likely
c. Unsure
d. Somewhat unlikely
e. Very unlikely

Rationale: The highest compliment a customer can make is recommending the company to a friend. If a customer is likely to recommend the company to friends

10. Please provide any suggestions that you feel would improve your overall dining experience. ________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________

Rationale: – This will give customers the opportunity to freely voice their opinions. It is much easier to gain additional insight into customer satisfaction when customers are provided with a forum to share.

Appendix B

Customer Satisfaction Survey
Outback Steakhouse
Collected Data

1. How often do you typically visit Outback Steakhouse, Inc.? a. 1 – 3 visits per week (2)
b. 1 – 3 visits per month (5)
c. 1 – 3 visits per year (3)

2. How satisfied are you with the time you waited to be seated? a. Very satisfied (5)
b. Satisfied (4)
c. Neutral (0)
d. Dissatisfied (1)
e. Very dissatisfied (0)

3. Were you satisfied with the friendliness and attentiveness of your server? a. Very satisfied (3)
b. Satisfied (5)
c. Neutral (2)
d. Dissatisfied (0)
e. Very dissatisfied (0)

4. Generally, how satisfied were you the taste and presentation of your meal? a. Very satisfied (4)
b. Satisfied (5)
c. Neutral (0)
d. Dissatisfied (1)
e. Very dissatisfied (0)

5. Were you satisfied with the cleanliness and overall appearance of the dining room? a. Very satisfied (5)
b. Satisfied (3)
c. Neutral (2)
d. Dissatisfied (0)
e. Very dissatisfied (0)

6. What is your overall satisfaction level with Outback Steakhouse, Inc.? a. Very satisfied (4)
b. Satisfied (3)
c. Neutral (2)
d. Unsatisfied (1)
e. Very unsatisfied (0)

7. Based on your experience while dining at Outback Steakhouse, Inc. how likely are you to return? a. Very likely (5)
b. Somewhat likely (3)
c. Undecided (1)
d. Somewhat unlikely (1)
e. Very unlikely (0)

8. Based on your experience while dining at Outback Steakhouse, Inc. do you plan to visit more regularly? a. More often (4)
b. No change (6)
c. Less often (0)

9. How likely are you to recommend Outback Steakhouse, Inc. to a friend? a. Very likely (4)
b. Somewhat likely (4)
c. Unsure (1)
d. Somewhat unlikely (1)
e. Very unlikely (0)

10. Please provide any suggestions that you feel would improve your overall dining experience. Notable responses:
“Great food! Great service! We’ll be back next week!”
“Our kids loved Sarah! She was very friendly and was one step ahead of us throughout our dinner. Sarah made dining out with our young children a much better experience.” “Our steaks were cooked to perfection and Brian was an awesome waiter. We will definitely be back!” “We haven’t been to Outback in about a year and were interested in trying something new. Our waitress was very helpful with food and drink recommendations and made our experience


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