Consumer dining trends are changing. Are you staying relevant?
According to the latest NRN-MillerPulse survey, quick-service restaurants have outperformed full-service dining in at least 29 of the last 30 months. The takeaway? Today's consumer sees sit-down dinners as a splurge – not just of money, but of time. Speedier fast-casual chains like Qdoba and Panera appeal to time-strapped consumers, but it's about more than just counting seconds. Increasingly health-conscious, the American diner wants their food not only to be fast, but to be healthier and taste better, too. Trends are changing, and established brands that aren't changing with them are going down. Is your restaurant poised to remain relevant?
Value doesn't just mean price
In the past, most chains' response to an increasingly crowded market was to discount away in a race to the bottom. A focus on price over quality have left many bargain-centric restaurants squeezing every last cent out of their own shrinking profit margins. These days, fast food chains like McDonald's and Wendy's are struggling to reverse the damage done by dollar menu mania. Much of their strategy seems to be in adding healthier, fresher-looking items in order to attract health-conscious diners. Instead of engaging in price wars, chains should have been paying more attention to what consumers were actually wanting.
If convenience is king, quality is queen
Quick-service concepts have an obvious advantage over their full-service brethren when it comes to speed and price, but a third factor – quality – is becoming ever more important. According to a recent report from Mintel, more than one third of Americans are cutting back on red meat for health reasons, while the NPD Group reports that the same percentage of Americans are avoiding gluten in their diets. Fresher, healthier flavors are in demand, and restaurants everywhere are revamping their menus to accommodate. KFC is taking things one step further, retraining consumers to see the brand as a healthy choice by launching a new fast-casual concept. "KFC eleven" will be chock full of healthier flatbreads and rice bowls.
Technology to the rescue?
In the quest to stay ahead of these trends, more companies are turning to high-tech solutions. As Panera's popularity has skyrocketed, customers have been walking away from long lines caused by overwhelmed employees. The company is combatting this by shifting phone orders to an automated web system, freeing up employees to deal with in-house customers. Some casual dining chains, most notably Chili's and Applebees, are embracing a new wave: tabletop devices designed to allow guests to order and pay at the table. They're hoping the increased efficiency will help them reclaim a segment of the lunch crowd lost to fast-casual concepts. Whatever your solution, capturing that perfect trinity of value pricing, fast service, and healthy menu options is critical to a restaurant's survival.
Milwaukee Bucks Lead IntelliShop NBA Season Ticket Study
IntelliShop recently published a syndicated tele-sales study in the January 6th issue SportsBusiness Journal. Our 2013 NBA Season Ticket Agent Study has produced a number of interesting (and often surprising) results. Taken at the highest level, there are three key takeaways; two being quite positive, the third being somewhat concerning:
1. NBA agents are performing better than most call center sales operations, including those of other major sports leagues.
2. NBA agents improved their sales processes and customer handling skills, since the last study (2011).
3. Although the overall picture is positive, there is an alarming gap between the performances of individual teams in how they handle customers.
The primary focus of the mystery callers is to determine whether agents performed key specific processes during the call (ask for the sale, collect contact information, etc.). At the end of the call, however, mystery callers were also asked to shed their evaluator hats and simply compare the overall call-in experience to other telephone sales experiences. The chart below shows that for this overall question, the agents not only scored exceptionally well, but also improved upon what was already an impressive performance in 2011.
Despite that fact that each NBA team is selling essentially the same product (a pair of season tickets), there is an almost alarming gap between the performances of each team. Simply stated, some teams employed telephone agents with absolute best in class sales skills, while others connected prospects to what would more accurately be described as “order takers.”
So what did the Milwaukee Bucks (who blew past their competition) specifically do to generate this type of caller delight? The answer is simple: their ticket agents not only did the right things (processes), they did so in an extremely friendly and engaging way. In terms of processes, the Bucks almost always invited the caller to log onto the website as a reference during the call. They were twice as likely as other NBA teams to invite the caller to come to the arena to look at seat options in person and more likely to ask who the caller will be going to the games with in order to tailor the “pitch” to those needs.
But, as noted above, the Bucks also excelled in “soft side” personal skills. For example, the agent’s “personality” was judged to be “truly exceptional” 90% of the time (more than double the already high NBA average). These high personality ratings for the Bucks were undoubtedly aided by things such as their consistently taking the time to personalize the conversation by talking about things other than the sale at hand.
One of the processes that propelled the Bucks to the top was a consistent effort to stress the benefits of season ticket ownership. This is important given that our callers were “on the fence” about whether to buy season tickets or just to continue on as frequent individual game day purchasers. In particular, the Bucks agents consistently made a significant effort to stress benefits, such as exclusive events for season ticket holders, access to amenities not available to non-season ticket holders, payment plans, and ticket exchange programs.
To get the full-detailed study, which includes summary performace on Reaching an Agent, Needs Assessment, Selling the Benefits of Season Ticket Ownership, and Closing the Sale – please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
IntelliShop helps companies improve inside tele-sales from many different industries. Give us a call and find out how we can help your company win more sales! – (419) 872-5103
IntelliShop Acquires Clients Of Shops, Training and Results, Inc.
Perrysburg, OH, January 16, 2014
IntelliShop, a leading provider of customer experience research solutions to companies, and organizations across North America, announced today that it is expanding its business serving owners and management companies in the multi-family housing industry with the client acquisition of Shops, Training And Results, Inc. (“STAR”), a subsidiary of Multifamily Ancillary Group (“MAG”).
“We have served clients in this industry for more 14 years, and are thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to add value to owners and management companies in this space”, said Ron Welty, Chief Client Officer of IntelliShop. “STAR has set the bar very high for serving its clients, and we learned early in our conversations with them that we shared those same service philosophies. We will continue that tradition of exceptional service, and we’ll use our base of almost 500,000 field evaluators in North America to continue supporting them as well. For those clients seeking a more holistic approach to understanding and improving the customer experience, our additional customer research services will provide them with valuable options.”
As a leading provider of customer experience research solutions to companies in more than 30 industries in North America, IntelliShop has developed a unique approach to traditional mystery shopping, and its effect on helping clients improve their performance has been dramatic. Using its proprietary technology platform, combined with exceptional team members with deep experience in market research and customer satisfaction work, IntelliShop offers its clients a combination of location-level detail that is unmatched, along with in-depth analytics and consultation for true organizational improvement.
“IntelliShop has a great reputation in the industry, and with their extreme service philosophy, expanded service offerings, and large base of field evaluators, we are confident we have found the right home for our clients”, said Annie McClinton, Vice President of Shops, Training And Results. “Knowing they are in good hands with IntelliShop will allow us to transition our focus on our core services and continue to help multi-family property owners maximize ancillary revenue at their properties”.
IntelliShop is a leading provider of customer experience research solutions to companies, government agencies and non-profit organizations throughout North America. We serve clients in more than 30 industries, including market research firms, advertising and promotions agencies, automotive sales and service, restaurants, retail, sports teams & leagues, entertainment venues, financial institutions, consumer packaged goods, government agencies, and more. Our solutions help our clients understand and improve what happens at every touch-point with their customers, driving improved satisfaction, loyalty and financial performance. Our base of almost 500,000 field evaluators throughout North America allows us to visit any geographic location quickly, with the right person. We have many worldwide partnerships so that we may offer assistance to our clients internationally. IntelliShop combines the most innovative web-based intelligence & analytics platform with our team of highly exceptional people to provide our clients with a level of expertise and an extreme service experience that is unmatched. For more information, please visit www.intelli-shop.com
About Shops, Training & Results, Inc.
Shops, Training And Results, is a nationwide mystery shop, training, and consulting company, which is highly specialized in providing customized performance-based mystery shop evaluations, and training programs to the multifamily housing industry that encourage performance results, and align with the client’s specific performance goals, and company values
Neal Gregory, Director of Marketing
Overkill? How About Just Right!
My car passed out today; it didn’t die, thankfully, but it certainly had me worried for a minute. The experience to revive it was nothing less than fantastic.
I drive a GMC product, so thanks to the little phone-icon button on my rear-view mirror I was talking with someone from OnStar in a flash. They answered immediately, were very friendly, seemed genuinely empathetic to my situation, asked if I was in a safe place with my vehicle, and then immediately connected me to Roadside Assistance (RA). RA was the same – immediate, friendly, empathetic, concerned for my safety, etc. They told me they’d send someone out right away. Then they asked for my preference on how to receive confirmation and follow-up: text message, email or live automated call (I chose this one).
I received the auto-confirmation call almost immediately, as promised. This call told me the name of the repair service that would come out, an approximate time, and their phone #. That service’s technician then called within 5 minutes, confirmed my address, said he knew right where we were, and that he was on the way. Shortly thereafter, he actually showed up! While he was here, I received another automated call, confirming he would be there soon (he showed up early). He jumped my battery, then told me how to make sure it stayed charged. Then he recommended I buy a 2nd battery, showed me where to store it, how to connect it, and why it would be helpful to do so. He then asked me to sign a work order, gave me a copy, shook my hand, looked me in the eye and thanked me sincerely, and got in his car and drove away.
I just stood there for a minute, stunned. Literally, it was less than 30 minutes from the time I pushed the phone-icon button to having my car fully resuscitated with a new bill of health. They had given me options on how to be contacted, instead of dictating them. A service person showing up earlier than promised. Getting it fixed on the first try. Giving me additional tips to try to prevent it from happening again in the future. They did everything they promised, and more, quicker than they had committed to. What an incredible experience. Did that really just happen?
But that wasn’t the end. I received another automated call shortly after he left, thanking me for contacting them, and making sure everything really was taken care of; they gave me the option to speak with a live operator if I needed further assistance. Wow.
This didn’t all happen by accident. How much time, thought, and caring went into designing this service experience? Quite a bit, obviously. It happened on purpose. What processes do they have in place to attempt to insure it happens every time? How do they measure whether it does? I know they have a customer survey program; maybe they also utilize mystery shopping as well. Why can’t all customer-interactions be this way?
Whatever they’re doing, it’s working!
As the holiday season is now in full swing, you may be communicating to your Client Services Manager that mystery shoppers should not evaluate your locations on specific days. Your employees simply cannot be evaluated when they are at home with their families (whether gathered around a turkey, a fireplace, etc.) and your doors are closed.
Mystery shopping programs are often given additional “blackout dates” when evaluations may appear atypical for a number of reasons. Take the recent behemoth shopping day Black Friday for example, which is widely assumed to be a “blackout date” because employees are simply too busy to be appropriately evaluated. Contrarily, we must pose the question, “Isn’t customer service as important – if not more so – when serving more customers than usual?”
As Black Friday sales are starting earlier and sales are becoming predictable (see this recent New York Times article), the bottom line once again becomes customer service.
So, how does your company measure customer service on these important days without detrimentally skewing your ongoing mystery shopping results?
In 2013, we recommend you talk to your Client Services Manager about one of two possible alternatives to “blackout dates.”
One option is to create a complementary mystery shopping program to collect information about your customers' experiences on abnormal dates. An additional program can work identically to an ongoing program, or it can be tailor-made to suit the experience of a day like Black Friday. These results can then be compared to your own ongoing mystery shopping program and/or analyzed separately.
A second option would be to simply not restrict mystery shopping on any date; simply tell us that you’re interested specifically in the results for these days. You may be pleasantly surprised with the service your customers receive on hectic days. You can identify your exceptional representatives and areas where improvement can be made. Of course, we can still keep these evaluations separate from your normal reporting if you so choose.
Your best managers will inspire their staff to shine brighter when the store is busy. Pausing your mystery shopping programs at these crucial times is like changing the channel in the fourth quarter, when the game is on the line.