Quick-service brands are familiar enough with customer-relationship and customer-experience management tools and how useful they can be to improving operations. Sonic Drive-In and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen are two chains that have seen traffic and/or sales improve after employing such tools to improve their customer service and operations.
Those tools typically invite customers to call in and take a survey via an interactive voice response system. One company, Portland-Ore.-based Oberon3 has developed the Opiniator solution to allow customers to take the survey by text message.
The Opiniator CRM solution encourages customers to take the survey at the point of experience — in the restaurant dining room — rather than long after they've left the establishment.
Matt Selbie, president of Oberon3, said asking customers to rate their experience in real time provides more accurate information.
"The value proposition is all about trying to address the problem of defection, and the way that we think is the best way to address the problem is to ask people when they're consuming the product or experiencing the product and to do it in the right way," he said. "If you can do that and then you actually take action on the feedback that is given, then I think the restaurant will be in much better shape than using some of the existing methods."
Opiniator works on any cell phone and begins with the customer responding to a call to action in the restaurant — either from an employee's suggestion or POP in the store. The customer sends the text message, which prompts the series of questions to begin.
The survey can ask objective questions that ask the customer to score various attributes such as store cleanliness or staff friendliness. Or the operator can choose to ask more open-ended questions, from what flavor or menu item customers want to see next, or to name the friendliest staff member.
Oberon3 then analyzes the data from the survey in real time and forwards it immediately to the restaurant. A new alert function lets managers know when an actionable response has been sent, allowing them to correct any problems that need immediate attention.
Customers can include their e-mail address if they want the operator to follow up. But most surveys are completed anonymously.
"Either way, the restaurant will understand the significance of the feedback because the analytics is done," Selbie said.
Selbie said the most effective surveys require about a minute to complete — and the call to action in the store should state that. Letting the customer know the survey will be brief and that they can take the survey in the store is important to encouraging participation.
Operators can also add an incentive, such as a coupon for a free drink, if they want. The key is overcoming most consumers' reluctance to complain or even to take a survey.
"Only 4 percent of the American public complains," Selbie said. "Most often in a restaurant, (if they're unhappy with the experience) they just don't come back."
That's why having real-time analysis and feedback is so beneficial: Managers can take immediate action to correct a problem, such as a dirty restrooms.
Inviting customers to take the survey at the point of service is the ideal scenario since customers have just experienced the food, atmosphere and customer service. But Selbie recognizes that QSRs see a majority of their customers at the drive-thru window. The company does not promote texting and driving but does offer a website where consumers can take the survey once they've arrived home.
Having the appropriate type of questions also is important for operators to get the best results. Questions that allow for objective responses are the easiest to analyze and provide the best data for operators. Operators can then use those scores to benchmark their locations and drill down to determine why come locations are mediocre and others successful.
But open-ended questions have their purpose, too.
"It also gives the quick-service restaurant an opportunity to get the ideas, comments, thoughts, suggestions or staff recognition that they may not get through any other method or a more expected method," Selbie said.