Casino consultant Martin Baird calls customer comment cards the "dinosaurs of casino customer feedback," and he is not alone in his view. In the age of Twitter, Facebook and integrated customer relationship management (CRM) programs, comment cards seem like a leftover from the pre-digital age. They do not offer the immediacy of online customer interaction, and they lack the data-tracking bells and whistles of state-of-the-art CRM dashboards.

When they are designed well and used as part of an overall voice-of-customer initiative, however, customer comment cards offer distinct advantages. Understanding the pros and cons of comment cards can help you use them effectively for your business.

Advantages of Comment Cards

Comment cards are relatively inexpensive, even when you factor in the cost of postage if you ask customers to return them by mail. They ask customers for feedback when their experience with your company is fresh in their minds, which gives you a more immediate sense of how well your company is meeting their expectations. Because the comments are in writing, you are less likely to forget compliments or complaints. If customers choose to identify themselves, you can contact them to resolve issues or thank them for compliments.

Finally, and perhaps most subtly, customer comment cards provide an emotional release for customers who may have had an unsatisfactory experience. Writing down their complaints gives them a feeling that they have done something to address the problems and may make it less likely that they will air their gripes in a more public forum.

Disadvantages of Comment Cards

The response rate for comment cards is low. By most estimates, only about 30% of customers fill out the cards you leave on the table or place by the front desk.

Another one of the disadvantages of customer feedback from comment cards is that you are also getting a skewed view of the typical customer experience if you rely solely on customer comment cards. The few customers who take the time to fill them out tend to fall to the extremes in customer satisfaction. They are either very happy or very unhappy. While those views contain valuable information, standard customer comment cards will not give you a lot of insight into how your typical customer feels about your business.

Collecting the Right Data

One of the biggest problems with customer comment cards, however, is that it takes a lot of planning and work to collect the right data, analyze it and act on the insights gained. In order for the collected feedback to have any value, your company must define its goals, identify the information needed to accomplish them and establish procedures for collecting, categorizing, analyzing and acting on the information gathered.

Using Response Cards Effectively

A well-designed data collection strategy can help you identify things your company is doing right as well as where things are going wrong. If one department in your business consistently exceeds targets, for example, you can pull up the comment cards associated with that department to see what they do differently and find a way to replicate it in other departments. Similarly, if you are losing sales, comment cards can help you pinpoint the problems that need to be addressed.