We know that people’s trust in advertising is waning—Nielsen’s 2021 “Trust in Advertising” report showed that 66 percent of consumers in North America ignore mobile ads and that the most trusted “channel” for advertising are recommendations from people you know. As a result, marketing strategies built for broadcast are decreasing in effectiveness every year as customers exert more control over your brand than ever before.

So how do customers exert that control? They talk. They tweet. They write blogs, post YouTube videos, TikTok clips, Twitch streams, actual conversations with other human beings in real life. The topic of those conversations, real and virtual, are the experiences they have with your brand – good, bad, ugly and just as importantly, how that experience lives up to what is promised to them by the marketing that they know you paid to have them see.

These unpaid voices of your brand carry more credibility than your marketing—they may (usually) have less reach, but the reach they do have carries exponentially more weight, and more virality; and we know that customers who actively participate in brand experiences will create more value for the brand in the short and long-term.

If experience and participation is so critical to brand growth, measuring it and refining it must be at the core of any quick-service marketing strategy, and with so many digital and physical touchpoints for your guests, it has never been more complex. 

At the heart of this quest for experience optimization are a set of tools that make understanding, mapping and prioritizing your omnichannel guest experience rigorous and actionable:

1. CX research

Internal and external-focused research that dives deep into how your guests experience your quick-service brand and how your teams are able (or unable) to deliver on the promises you make, where it matters. Covering operations, technology, data and customer service, understanding where you are and how that maps to a CX maturity model is key.

2. Participation mapping 

Omnichannel customer journeys are complex, interwoven and constantly changing. To be actionable, they must first be comprehensible—this is where you must leverage your research to create a “participation map” for your brand.

The first step is to map out your guests’ relationship to the category, what they’re looking for and how they make choices when they’re ready to eat! Think about their needs, mindset, drivers and barriers to participation.

Layering this insight over a journey map of the experiences you currently deliver will reveal the gaps and actions required to overcome those barriers and optimize experiences to deliver the things your guests really want.

3. Prioritization

Our goal is to change the way guests remember their experiences with your brand, so the key to making smart decisions about where to focus our attention lies in understanding how we remember things—because not all parts of an experience are equally memorable. 

We disproportionately remember “peak” experiences, moments that stand out from the rest of the journey (be they positive or negative) and we also remember the final steps of the journey more than those that preceded them. This scientifically proven approach is known as the “peak-end rule” and lies at the heart of how we can use participation mapping to plan the most efficient and effective ways to transform how guests remember their experiences.

4. Joined up collaboration

Underpinning all of these steps is a need for your entire organization to come along for the ride. To recognize the importance of this process and be able to work together collaboratively to solve it.  

Effective CX transformation lies at the intersection of everything in your business: finance, operations, marketing, technology, legal, branding, training, HR… so building an agile, cross-disciplinary team to make it happen is more essential to its success than any strategic framework. 

Things move fast in the world of your guests, so this team should not be focused solely on long-term transformation and grand plans: agility and action is at the heart of successful transformations, so build it, empower them, and make a real difference to your guests.

Jordan Harper is Executive Strategy Director for Iris, focused on Digital Transformation and based in Chicago, he loves finding and solving problems for businesses and helping de-mystify technology and deliver on ambitious transformation initiatives.

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