A Common Mistake—Focusing on the Wrong Target

When I was a franchise operator, the franchisor was excited about creating a successful new CX survey program. After using the system for a few months, the executives reviewed their progress and identified five key drivers of satisfaction. They believed that if all of their locations would focus on the five drivers, CX scores and revenues would naturally increase. They were so confident this would happen that they decided to set a target score and incentivize the employees so they would hit the target. The incentive was a $.25 per hour raise for every month their restaurant hit the target score.

The program was a success…kind of…well, not really. Yes, all of the locations hit or exceeded the target score and received a $.25 per hour increase in pay (which is highly unlikely and should have raised red flags for all of us).

Determining the drivers. What we should have been doing was figuring out exactly what factors needed to change to deliver an excellent customer experience. We should have been tying both the operational measures that we had collected through either audits or mystery shops and aligned that with what our customers had to say about us via our survey program. This is no trivial exercise. It requires a specific modeling process to understand the linkages between behaviors and perceptions. We just didn’t have the Ph.D. statisticians and data scientists on staff that could help us draw those conclusions—the specific on-site behaviors, that when executed in combination, drive the highest levels of overall satisfaction with our customers—or delighting them.

Tying to financials. My new firm, Market Force Information, leverages just this type of talent and modeling process to help brands understand three things, i) what matters most to its clients' customers, ii) where operational deficiencies exist, and iii) what the specific financial ROI would be for implementing various targeted improvements. This is made possible by incorporating financial measures in the analysis such as same store sales or same store sales growth. It is this kind of analytics that truly provide the strategic insight required to make sound business decisions as to which stores to invest in and what focus that investment should take. I would have loved to have had this available to us.

Focusing on the score. In the case of my company, the big mistake we made was to focus on just the score as opposed to focusing on the behaviors that drove the score. Understanding the importance of "please" and "thank you" or what the specific speed of service needed to be in order to avoid frustrating customers is critical to charting what matters and focusing action plans on how to address them.

Gaming the system. As a result, by incentivizing the employees based on achieving a score, the goal changed from “delivering an amazing customer experience” to “gaming the system so they can make more money.” (Yes, we have seen instances where staff or friends of staff filled out favorable surveys.)

Measuring execution objectively. In order to minimize the problem of gaming the system and to ensure that the survey data that you collect is accurate, you need sufficient fraud protection and detection capabilities as well as other measures of restaurant performance besides just a survey. Having other measures like social media review tracking or mystery shopping ensures that you are getting a much more holistic view of the customer experience. These measures can be aligned with your survey scores to provide assurances that what you are learning in your survey is factual. 

Measuring to improve each location. By leveraging multiple measures and reporting on each key behavior uncovered in the analytics objectively, you’ll be able to see exactly what a restaurant needs to improve upon. All restaurants are not equal. Typically a handful of restaurants consistently execute at a high level, while others are abysmal and reflect poorly on the brand, and most are somewhere in the middle. The challenge is let each location know exactly where they need to improve.

Does this make sense? In the case of my company, it would have been immediately apparent that something was awry if the higher scores did not translate into increased revenues. Our analytics practice has repeatedly seen clear correlations between high scores on both surveys and mystery shops and increased same-store sales performance.

A better way. My learning here was that we should have focused on behaviors instead of scores. In upcoming posts I will offer up exactly how brands can focus on those behaviors that drive change, as well as how to effectively drive change down to the individual restaurant level.

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Troy Mott is a Director of Sales at Market Force and works with restaurant clients to help them understand what matters most to their customers, where they have operational gaps in execution and what specific financial ROI can be derived by implementing specific initiatives.  His experience in working in restaurants and with restaurant executives makes him a sought after resource for operations measurement, customer experience and growth initiatives.