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Harnessing guest feedback to your advantage

Harnessing guest feedback to your advantage

Plan a strategy to optimize the dining experience.

Exceptional dining experiences are the heart and soul of the restaurant industry. But for multisite foodservice providers, first-rate dining experiences depend on more than great cuisine. They also require actionable guest feedback at the local level to drive the right actions by staff.

The problem is that while many restaurant companies have excelled in creating mechanisms that capture global guest insights, they haven’t equipped unit managers with the tools they need to properly discern and respond to local guest feedback. As a result, scores of restaurant managers are ‘flying blind’ when it comes to the type of actionable data they need to deliver first-rate dining experiences to their guests.

Growth-minded restaurant chains constantly strive to improve the quality of the guest experience, responding to the needs of their guests as well as trends in the larger food-service marketplace. But to maintain quality guest experiences, restaurant providers need to give their managers total visibility to key customer feedback insights.

Total visibility doesn’t mean inundating local managers with reams of raw or undifferentiated customer feedback data. In fact, the reverse is often the best approach. The companies that are most successful in harnessing guest feedback to improve local guest experiences often limit the amount of data they feed to site managers to ensure they only receive the most pertinent information.

For multi-unit operators, creating a better customer experience management (CEM) model means implementing a handful of strategies designed to equip managers with actionable insights and proven practices.

Quick insights. Local restaurant managers simply don’t have the time to sift through piles of raw guest feedback data. So instead of drowning local management assets in analytical chores, restaurant owners need to do a better job providing managers with simple, concise insights and executable solutions. Ideally, local managers should have the resources to quickly identify guest-related problems and within minutes, be back on track with a plan to implement changes in the guest experience.

Better analytical tools. In the same way that most local managers don’t have the time to conduct in-depth feedback analysis, many lack the skills and training to gain meaningful insights from complex reporting tools. Consequently, owners need to equip their managers with tools that don’t require advanced analytical skill sets. Even better, owners should streamline the delivery of local guest feedback to provide managers with easy access to guest feedback highlights.

Virtual product knowledge. There’s no arguing with the fact that many managers lack the experience to intuitively understand how to properly manage the brand’s guest experience. As inexperienced site managers become more familiar with the concept’s core values, the ability to craft consistent, high-quality customer experiences will become second nature. But given the high management turnover rates in foodservice it’s important for operators to leverage technology as a way to bridge the experience gap, delivering a consistent expertise through virtual knowledge centers and other online resources.

There is a growing awareness among leading multiunit owners that local managers may not need access to complex customer experience data at all, but rather actionable insights and executable plans that concisely tie local guest feedback to the task of improving the guest experience.

In many chains, the way this is being achieved is through the implementation of CEM solutions and other technologies that enable owners to leverage guest feedback information as a driver of location performance, equipping local managers with the insights they need to accurately target guest experience improvements. After all, isn’t the goal of restaurant managers to be out interacting with guests and coaching team members rather than poring over a stack of reports?

Steve Prodger, v.p. of food services for Empathica, has more than 12 years’ experience in the multi-unit food services and retail spaces.

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