Knowing how your customer thinks is a vital part of any strategic business plan. This means understanding not only what drives decisions in the board room, but having practical, in-depth knowledge of what happens at the counter of each restaurant. Actively gathering, studying and acting on this sort of "behind the eyes" understanding gives you a holistic perspective for success and for establishing a solid reputation with your customers, as well.
The ability to empathize with how customers are feeling, understand the problems they're experiencing, and appeal to their top priorities will help your restaurant to become regarded as a trustworthy, knowledgeable brand that holds their customers' best interest in mind. To achieve this type of brand trust, three core elements become paramount: Assess, Analyze and Act.
To identify and address your customers' needs, survey them to better understand what they feel is being done well in your restaurant, what can be done better, and what issues they may be facing that you can help solve as a member of their community. For QSR operators, this means staying in touch with the customer and asking constructive questions – formally and informally. Be it through a poll or through a casual conversation via a social media platform, be sure to use a method that works best for each individual guest.
Assessing your customer gives you raw data; it's just as critical to study and analyze the feedback as it is to gather it. Relying on information that is dated from a decade, two years or even six months ago is dangerous because customers are constantly exposed to new influencers and shifting preferences. Timely analysis is particularly important when both domestic and international customers are part of your customer set, as dining and business norms vary from country to country. Regular data collection and analysis afford you the ability to think proactively; as you come to know trends, preferences and the unique factors in each segment, you can think through each issue thoroughly, from the customer's point of view, and develop a solution – often before the customer articulates it or is fully aware of the problem.
Obtaining guest feedback and analyzing it simply isn't enough. This knowledge – taken directly from customers – must be translated into actionable items to be of value. While it's critical that your organization be ready and willing to make changes based on your assessments, it's also very important to keep in mind that not all changes need be sweeping. Underestimating the power of small changes can be a mistake. For instance, is it more convenient for your customers to learn about new developments, improvement and the like via your company's website, or does he/she prefer a blog or Twitter platform for quick information on the fly? By adding to or improving your guests' quality of life, with simple yet effective enhancements to how you do business, your efforts will speak loudly about your organization's understanding of and desire to meet their goals.
Similarly, don't shortchange the insight people at all levels within your organization may have; don't treat the feedback and analysis results as something only for a privileged few. Instead, strategically share the findings throughout your QSR franchise or company to arm every level of employee with the most comprehensive, up-to-date customer profile.
In the end, you will discover positive feedback and, as a bonus, find that existing relationships are changed for the better, simply from connecting with the customer of your own accord. While "assess, analyze and take action" is a major (and often challenging) effort, Henny Penny has found it to be very important. From service to product development, a system of trusted feedback has proven indispensible to our customers and our success. Our innovative Evolution Elite fryer, which significantly reduces costs and energy and uses 40 percent less oil than conventional open fryers, is a direct result of the three actions discussed above. Working closely with our customers, we heard what they needed, analyzed the requirements, and acted on making a groundbreaking fryer reality.
Rob Connelly is the President for Henny Penny, the leader in high quality foodservice equipment designed for easier operation, greater flexibility and lower operating costs. For more information on the company, visit www.HennyPenny.com