Five keys to the foodservice industry in 2010
As 2009 comes to an end, food service operators must focus on how they will better connect with customers in the New Year and prepare for a successful 2010. Mike Amos, president and CEO of customer experience management company Empathica, has put together his list of Five Keys to Food Service Industry in 2010.
 
1. Look Toward Transformation
 
When it comes to improving your business, success can only be defined as having your entire organization become far more customer-centric than it is now. Many brands kick off initiatives to get customer feedback and then once they have it, become stalled in the early "data viewing" stage of what should be a comprehensive process. This approach won't get them anywhere close to where they need to be. As retailers head into a new year, it's essential that they understand the difference between simply starting a program and actually setting out to transform the brand or business into something greater than it is now.
 
2. Take Action
 
Many brands that have set out to better reach customers and improve business have used traditional programs such as mystery shopping or very basic surveys. While these approaches provide operators some information on customers, they are passive methods that usually don't lead to actual, measurable results. Instead of just using programs that allow them to view data, they need to understand how to take action from that data more so they can enact changes and increase business.
 
3. Get a Prescription, Not a Report
 
Just getting a report or scorecard of the state of your business is a good first step, but it's not enough. Operators need a prescription of what they need to do to fix the issues. If you get sick and go to the doctor, it wouldn't be acceptable for the doctor to simply say, "Yes, you're sick. Let me know when you're better." Instead, the doctor should tell you exactly what you need to do to get better. This is the same way operators should approach customer experience management. With this approach, store operators can not only identify issues, but also more easily act to fix them with a thought-out plan. Prescriptive reporting uses science to replace a lot of decision making and can be essential to operators being able to enact positive change and achieve brand goals.
 
4. Finish the Conversation
 
Looking forward to 2010, foodservice operators need to not only start the process of reaching out to customers, but also be sure to take it to the finish line. The first step is to survey customers on how often they use the brand itself and the specific retail category that the brand fits within. Then the customer base can be divided into different types of users (loyal to you, loyal to category, loyal to neither, etc). Once brands have this powerful info, they can "finish the conversation" with these customers via offers that don't cannibalize existing sales. Operators can also use this valuable information to target and maximize sales from specific types of customers.
 
5. Connect to the Social Graph
 
As reported in April 2009, Facebook has an active amount of users amounting to roughly the size of Western Europe – 450 million people. It has around 74 million users in the United States alone. Social networking is huge and will continue to have a dramatic impact on how retailers market in 2010. 
 
More than 80 percent of the time, when a customer comes into a store, they like their experience, but don't have an easy vehicle to broadcast what happened to them and recommend the brand. Now is the time for foodservice operators to capitalize on these happy customers willing to promote the brand to their social networks. We recently launched GoRecommend, a social media application that allows our clients' customers to easily recommend brands on Facebook. For example, using GoRecommend, in just a few months Red Robin was able to generate 250,000 positive impressions on Facebook.

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