A personal connection to guests is invaluable.

High inflation and concerns about economic instability are causing consumers to be more judicious in their spending. On the flip side, restaurant brands are looking for ways to cut spending amidst a labor shortage, supply chain woes, and looming minimum wage hikes. 

Management and measurement of the customer experience are often one of the first areas to face cuts in the face of budget concerns. Brands might assume their technology can be set to autopilot without continuing to measure and manage their customers’ experience. In some cases, the finance team might miss the correlation between a brand’s customer experience and ongoing revenue. 

But cutting customer experience programs—and therefore, losing your personal connection to consumers—is a surefire way to drive them toward competitors who have not. With increased competition for quick-serve restaurants coming from convenience stores and full-service concepts offering curbside service, now is the time for brands to hone in on what keeps customers coming back.

“Consumers are looking to save money where they can, but the last things to go will be ones with which they have an emotional connection,” says Laura Livers, head of strategic growth at Intouch Insight. “Consumers will continue to frequent stores that have become part of their new normal.”

So how can brands continue to improve the customer experience without breaking the bank? “Data is the new currency,” Livers says. “If you’re collecting data, make sure you’re using it.” 

For example, if your customers are providing feedback via surveys, make sure to take action on that feedback and look at it holistically to identify trends. Technology can help brands uncover patterns and understand customer preferences—and the good news is that most brands already have tools in place to conduct this analysis.

If you are already collecting customer feedback or operational data, such as inspections or mystery shops, make sure to analyze this data alongside other key business metrics, like average sales or LTO performance. This can help uncover the key drivers behind business KPIs.

Another powerful way to improve customer experience is to treat employees well. Remember: your employees represent your brand. Provide proper training and clearly communicate brand standards so that they can provide the experience customers want and expect. Additionally, if you already have tools such as surveying capabilities to measure customer satisfaction, use those same tools to take a pulse on your employee experience. If you are running inspection or auditing programs, make sure the data captured is used effectively to address employee skill gaps.

“It doesn’t take a lot to make sure your employees are well treated and have the tools and training they need,” Livers says. “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.” 

As consumers tighten their purse strings and become more circumspect with their spending, brands must be proactive in their efforts to provide a consistent, rewarding customer experience. The industry is already dealing with labor shortages, which can impact the overall customer experience. Don’t cut in other areas that will affect your ability to listen to customers, measure adherence to brand standards, and deliver experiences that keep guests coming back.

“With the ever-growing number of purchase paths and consumer expectations around omnichannel experiences, it is critical to make sure you’re measuring every customer journey so that you know they are meeting your customers’ needs,” Livers says. “It’s the brands that don’t cut these programs and focus on creating “aha moments” that will be winners.” 

To learn more, visit the Intouch Insight website.

By Davina van Buren

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