Real Talk

Objective vs. Subjective: The Proper Voice for Shopper Reports

No matter what type of assignment you have, the report required at the conclusion of your shop typically includes a battery of questions along with text and narrative boxes in which to expound upon your experience. Answering the Yes/No/Not Applicable questions is usually easy but many shoppers find writing detailed descriptions of their encounters a little more difficult.

Proper grammar and spelling are challenges that can be met through using free online services that check and correct errors. However, when it comes to keeping comments objective, shoppers have to understand the difference between objective and subjective wording and make sure they stick to objectivity.

Basic Difference Between Objective and Subjective Comments

It all comes down to distinguishing between fact and opinion. Most people have seen some sort of courtroom drama on TV or in movies where witnesses are grilled on the stand. If the witness states they saw a woman across the street arguing with a man and then pull out a knife and stab him, a good lawyer will ask how the witness knew they were arguing. Without the interchange actually being heard, there’s no way to be sure. In other words, the witness’s statement is subjective because it’s based on assumption, not fact. On the other hand, if the witness observed the incident from a nearby parked car with the windows down and could clearly hear what was said, that would be objective because it’s based on fact.

Shopper Report Examples

When you’re immersed in recounting your shopping experience, it’s easy to drift into subjective commentary without realizing it. Whether it was a good or bad experience, comments that you’d share with a friend about a real life encounter – which are appropriate and add color to casual conversation – are not appropriate for shopper reports.

Demeanor

If a clerk is not outgoing, friendly or helpful, use facts to convey their demeanor. “Bob did not smile or make eye contact. He glanced at his cell phone while I was asking him questions. No questions were asked to confirm my needs.” Unacceptable comments would be, “Bob was just plain rude. It was obvious he didn’t like his job and didn’t want to help me.” You may feel that way about Bob but you have no idea what’s on his mind or why he’s distracted.

Site Observations

Restrooms, dining rooms, parking lots and landscaping often require evaluation on shopper reports. Stick to the facts with statements such as, “There were three tables that were not bussed. The restroom was out of paper towels and had debris on the floor. There was trash in the parking lot.” Comments that would cause an editor to deduct points from your score would be, “Sara was standing around doing nothing but didn’t clear the tables. I saw an employee leave the bathroom and when I went in next, they hadn’t bothered to replace the paper towels in the empty dispenser. I saw a homeless person in the parking lot that probably left the trash I saw there.” Again, pure conjecture, no facts to support the opinions. Another common error in subjective comments is offering unsolicited advice:  “I didn’t like the layout of the dining room. There should have been more booths and the flowers on the tables clashed with the décor.”

Service Comments

Service narratives often inspire subjective comments because shoppers are personally involved in the scenarios. Correct: “The bartender was attentive but seemed more focused on certain guests during my visit. Twice I had to wave at him to get his attention.” Colorful but inappropriate: “There was a woman at the bar with a low-cut shirt showing cleavage. The bartender was constantly flirting with her and ignoring everyone else.” Your report should reflect the facts you observed and not what you perceived as the bartender’s motives.

Food & Beverage Observations

Narratives about food and beverage quality are most commonly plagued by subjective comments. While some are appropriate, such as whether your steak was cooked to your desired level of doneness, many are not, especially those that compare products to other eateries. “The ribs were good but much smaller than the ones at Joe’s Ribs. The drinks were obviously watered down,” is wrong. You can convey the same message objectively by reporting, “The ribs had good flavor but I was a little disappointed in their size. I could not taste the liquor in my cocktail.”

Writing objectively takes practice. Think of yourself as an unbiased news reporter who is reporting only the facts. Before you submit a report, give it a final review to make sure it’s free of beliefs, judgmental statements, rumors and assumptions and you’ll improve your shopper scores.

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