EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS | Staff Reporter, Australia
Christina Murrell

The rise of the customer experience king


“No restaurant segment or brand is immune to focus on enhancing the customer experience,” McDonald’s CFO Kevin Ozan said late last year. He went on saying the brand would invest two-thirds of its capital in accelerating guest experience.

I hear people talk about customer experience a lot. Dropping the phrase into conversations as if word density will make a difference. As if it happens on its own - like magic.

It’s not magic. It just needs to be designed.

For me, there are 3 areas of customer experience that has the greatest impact on customer retention are:

1. Customer Buying Experience

2. Customer Food Experience

3. Customer Care Experience

Pillar #1: Create the Customer Buying Experience

Five years ago, it took 25 steps to place an order on Domino’s website. Now it takes 5. They’ve gone further with their zero-click ordering process. If a customer opens their app for 10 seconds, their previous order will automatically be placed.

Wagamama UK is rolling out a new digital wallet app that allow customers to order more items, split bills & pay the bill automatically as they leave the restaurant without pressing a pay button or see staff.

Friction is the ultimate customer turnoff. Zero clicks, zero friction.

Step 1: Make buying easy with minimal friction

a. Easy to understand what they’re buying. Ingredients, nutritional content, kilo joules, dietary suitability, what it includes, what it doesn’t include, what’s different.

b. Easy to compare with alternative offers. Between meal deals, against substitutes.

c. Easy to order & transact via different channels. In store, online, mobile app, etc.

Step 2: Provide information with minimal friction

a. Provide answers fast from knowledgeable staff. Which implies you have a dynamic training platform with fast access to information if they do not know the answer.

b. Provide self-serve answers fast without friction. About the food, status of the food, brand, people behind the brand, etc. In store, online, mobile app.

Step 3: Get food to the customer fast

a. In-store speed of service. Order flow, back of house, front of house.

b. Speed of food delivery. Third party delivery services.

Step 4: Be consistent

a. Have clear & simple standards. Just those that really matters to the customer.

b. Monitor & control standards. Keep it simple & don’t overload.

c. Continuous training without friction. I’m a big fan of mobile gamification video content style training platforms. Perfect for the Millennial transient retail staff.

d. Monitor & control training. Keep it simple & don’t overload.

Step 5: Be memorable

a. Identify one ordinary customer interaction along the buying journey that can become extraordinary.

b. Standardise this extraordinary moment.

Pillar #2 Create the Customer Food Experience

Not long ago I had the privilege of working under the creator of a cult burger brand. His obsession, his pursuit in creating the perfect burger was infectious.

The meticulous detail: freshly baked potato buns so you don’t feel gluggy; the daily pressed minced patties using 2 different cuts of beef; fresh produce delivered daily & the precise temperature to ensure the cheese melted just right.

The perfect layering to ensure that every mouthful receives just the right amount of bun, patty, cheese, lettuce & secret sauce.

That was just the food. The entire food experience is much more encompassing. Look to fine dining. They’ve mastered this fine craft for centuries. 

Step 1: Quality is a Minimum

a. Quality is a given. It’s a minimum standard. Not a differentiator.

b. View the food as a piece of art, a masterpiece in the making. The pursuit of perfection.

c. Select your farmers/ meat/ fish suppliers well. They are your artistic building blocks. Align with your values & integrity.

d. Choose fresh over frozen.

e. Make daily instead of packaged manufactured goods. Go a step further & avoid microwave ovens if possible.

f. Choose local suppliers over international. Support our farmers, producers & suppliers.

g. Have a secret X Factor. Grandmother’s recipe, secret sauce, 100 years of heritage. Just something different.

Step 2: Food Presentation – Awake the human senses

a. Indulge the human senses. Awake it from its slumber.

b. Sight: the masterpiece, food presentation, food theatre, food display, cutlery/ crockery, packaging, staff, uniforms. Not only how it is presented but also who presents it. Think about how your food is presented if you choose a 3rd party delivery service.

c. Sound: noise level, cooking, music.

d. Smell: food aroma, other scents.

e. Touch: furnishings, seat, table, cutlery/ crockery, packaging, room temperature, food temperature.

f. Taste: What are the taste buds saying?

Step 3: Environment – Brand fit with ambience

a. Store layout conducive of intuitive customer flow. Directional signage. Self-serve stations.

b. Aesthetics. Store decor, fittings & fixtures, lighting, posters & boards.

c. Cleanliness of fittings & furniture. Toilets.

d. Location, street signage & visibility.

Step 4: Be consistent

a. Have clear & simple standards.

b. Monitor & control standards.

c. Continuous training without friction.

d. Monitor & control training.

Step 5: Be memorable

a. Identify one ordinary customer interaction along the food journey that can become extraordinary.

b. Standardise this extraordinary moment.

Pillar #3 Create the Customer Care Experience

Imagine if you were in a loveless relationship. You feel like you give so much but get so little back. Would you stay?

The human relationship you have with your customers is the similar.

According to author Michael LeBoeuf in his book, “How to Win Customers & Keep Them for Life”, 68% of customers leave because of an attitude of indifference by the business.

Customers leave because they think you just don’t care.

Step 1: Acknowledgement

a. Greetings & farewells. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple human ‘hello’ & ‘good bye’. How certain are you that every customer who walks into your store receives this?

b. Remember little things. The human memory is amazing, 2.5 petabyte actually. But it is limiting. In fact by Day 30, we retain only 2-3% of new memory. I’m a fan of a customer database for this reason.

Step 2: Show Appreciation

a. Genuine thank you. Two little words go a long way. Make this a habit.

b. Show signs of gratitude. Because customers are paying for your bills, your livelihood, your staffs’ wages.

c. Gifts. It’s only a gift if it doesn’t relate to your product. Systematically do it. Sporadically do it. But do it.

Step 3: Be Present

a. Give your time. Don’t rush. Pretend you have all the time in the world.

b. See, not just look. Make eye contact with every customer. Heads up, eyes alert. Be ready for the slightest gesture from a customer who may need you. Don’t zone out.

c. Listen, not just hear. Not just from the customer directly in front of you. Tune in to what other customers may be saying. Are there no toilet paper left? The table is dirty?

Step 4: Be Human

a. Genuine helpfulness. Be chivalrous. Be old fashion. Go out of your way.

b. Treat as an individual. Be human to human.

c. Kindness. Be empathetic. Be more than friendly.

d. Be Positive. Be a glass half full. Be upbeat & optimistic.

e. Have Fun. Be happy. Life is good. Smile.

Step 4: Be consistent

a. Have clear & simple standards.

b. Monitor & control standards.

c. Continuous training without friction.

d. Monitor & control training.

Step 5: Be memorable

a. Identify one ordinary customer interaction along the care journey that can become extraordinary.

b. Standardise this extraordinary moment.

Take responsibility for the customer experience. Take ownership of what you can control. Mastering customer retention puts you one step closer to future proofing your food business. Because there are so many forces that can pull you down.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by QSR Media. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Christina Murrell

Christina Murrell

Previously the marketing director of Vietnamese chain Roll'd and cult burger brand Royal Stacks, a cult burger brand, Christina now helps food retailers, cafes and restaurants, to keep customers. She advocates for optimising existing customers to generate future profits. She is the Customer Retention Chief at Loyalty Tribe Marketing, a boutique-marketing agency that specialise in the food retail sector.

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