16/03/2016 7:08 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

How You Can Tell Your Local Cafe Exactly What You Think Of Them, Via The EFTPOS Machine

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Waitress serving customer at the coffee shop

Small businesses that rely on customer review websites for valuable feedback can now ask the customer to rate them quickly and confidentially as they are leaving the store.

A new UK software application called TruRating that allows businesses to ask customers to rate them as they pay using their EFTPOS machine has been launched in Australia and an office established in Sydney.

Designed primarily for retail and hospitality businesses, TruRating works by rotating five core questions asking customers to rate them on a sliding scale. The questions vary according to the industry the business is in, so for restaurants, the focus is on food, value, service, atmosphere, whether the customer would recommend the business.

Businesses can also add their own customised questions -- but the consumer will only be asked to answer one. The answers are immediately collated and viewed on a dashboard by the business owner either on a computer or via smartphone app.

TruRating co-founder Georgina Nelson said the idea for the business came when she began to understand the frustration of companies having to rely on feedback from sites such as Zomato, Yelp and TripAdvisor -- and not knowing if it’s reliable.

TruRating Co-Founder Georgina Nelson.

“A lot of small businesses really struggle with the fact that they don’t know whether to trust the feedback because often it can be easily gamed,” she told The Huffington Post Australia. “Reviews can be filled out by whoever, by the waiter or by a disgruntled ex-employee.

“Businesses read a slamming review of one of their outlets on Yelp or TripAdvisor and they don’t know if there is any validity in that review and they don’t know if they need to make business changes off the back of it because they don’t know how prevalent it is.”

The other challenge with feedback is the 90-9-1 Rule -- only a small portion of customers ever actually write reviews.

“That 90 percent of us are the lurkers -- so we just go on to these review websites and we just read and never contribute,” she said.

“Then you have the nine percent who review when they are really angry or happy about something. And then you have this one percent which are called the creators who produce 99 percent of the content. They are the people who review all the time.”

Nelson says the TruRating system, now used by hundreds of businesses in the UK since its launch there in February 2015, offers small businesses a chance to gather feedback immediately from customers of all ages, socio-economic backgrounds and shopping patterns.

“These businesses hear feedback but it can be days or months after the event has happened -- obviously what we’re trying to do is try to build a real-time feedback system,” she said.

“Because if I have bad service in a restaurant and I say thank you and I leave and I tell my husband I am never going to go there again -- that business has no idea. They will just see the impact when they look at their revenue figures a month later and they will see there has been a problem.

“And by that time, that latent period there could be irreparable damage that is too hard to recover from.”

The data will also eventually be available to average Australians via a consumer site -- Nelson says this will be up and running once the volume of merchants grows but it’s an important aspect of the program.

“In our market research we asked 600 adults across our core region and asked them about their use of the TruRating consumer website and 66 percent said they’d use it alongside Yelp and TripAdvisor to validate what they read in those reviews,” she said.

“And 33 percent said they would stop using all other websites and just use ours. When we dug into that; it’s because it’s really quick and trusted.”

The TruRating software allows one feedback question to be offered to each customer.

Nelson said the TruRating software has had great feedback from Australian businesses which have been testing it for the past six months including Rolld, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, TONI&GUY and Crisp and Jones.

“We have had incredible early reception from merchants,” she said. “The BETA testing has gone amazingly and we’re operating at 88 percent of customers are feeding back -- it’s a huge volume of data that these businesses are getting compared to the usual 0.1 percent who tend to feedback to businesses.”

In Australia, small businesses which have an existing account with the CBA or have a payment system with PC-EFTPOS software can access TruRating immediately for a $100 set-up fee and a payment from $25 depending on the number of daily transactions made.

Nelson says the company is speaking with other players in the Australian market.

“We do talk and we are working towards relationships with every payment partner in the space because we want every merchant to gain access to TruRating so we need that umbrella offering and relationships," she said.