So much has been written about the importance of employee engagement that it almost seems foolish to spend time talking about it. But if we are creating environments that created happy, productive employees, why do organizations like Gallup report that only about one third of employees report being “engaged” in their work?

The reality of what employees actually think about your brand, their job, and your customers needs to be measured. Why? Because literally hundreds of research studies, including those from Market Force, show that engaged employees create more revenue, lower costs, and create more loyal customers. In one study by Market Force, we found that a 30% difference in absentee rate and a 19% difference in retention between locations with high vs. low employee engagement.

Employee engagement is a vital part of your customer experience management strategy. So how should you measure employee engagement? You will need to assess satisfaction and engagement in two core areas: Engagement and Enablement. Consider the following in each core area: 

  • Engagement. Do your employees love your brand? Do they understand your mission? Do they personally believe that the brand and the location they work in serves customers well? Do they believe that their job matters to the business and that they do their job well? Do they believe they can grow and learn?
  • Enablement. Do your employees have the tools and training they need to do their jobs? Do they receive regular feedback about their performance? Do they understand corporate policies and how to follow them? Do they have a reasonable workload and are able to balance?

In restaurant and retail, employees come and go. You may think the revolving door is inevitable. It’s not. By getting a clear picture of what employees need in these two core areas, and then having the fortitude to act on what you learn, your brand will thrive and be the place where the best want to work. 

As Chief Strategy Officer, Cheryl aligns Market Force's strategic direction with our clients' strategic objectives. She oversees the North American client base, Analytics and Insights, Winnipeg Operations and Marketing. She has a Ph.D. in social psychology and broad business experience in both private and public companies.

Measurements are the key enablers to drive accountability and effective business and consumer analytics, as well as to help companies grow and strengthen their business performance. When I led a team at McDonald's that was charged with developing and implementing a world-class measurement system that centered on the critical drivers of restaurant performance and customer satisfaction, there were specific key elements/enablers that made it so effective. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Management buy-in before all else

The first and foremost step in creating a measurement system for your restaurant brand is to obtain support from senior management. Like any major initiative a company undertakes, it requires funding, people resources and management support to address any pushback within the organization regarding the need or direction of the project.

After the business case has been made and approved by senior management, you then need to create a cross-functional team that represents all of the critical segments of the business that will either be impacted or able to add value to the process design. This is critical to ensure you receive the best input on the design and structure of the measurement tools and processes. Plus, it lends credibility to the process, and helps turn those involved in the project design into advocates and supporters of the end product.

 

2. Set achievable and actionable metrics

The next step is to sit down with your team and ensure that the metrics or targets for the components you’re planning to evaluate possess the following characteristics:

  • Actionable – Are they in the control of the people who are being measured?
  • Realistic – Are they achievable or too far fetched?
  • Targeted – Make sure the targets are designed around the critical drivers for your business and customers’ expectations
  • Data-friendly – Data must be captured at the unit level to help determine root-causes and assist in developing effective action plans
3. Outsource the feedback gathering

Enlist quality third-party partners to help you capture and evaluate customer feedback on your brand and service, to assess in-store performance relative to your standards, and to gather employee input on their day-to-day experiences (e.g. customer satisfaction surveys, mystery shopping audits and employee commitment surveys). This is typically a more cost-effective way to capture the data versus trying to do it internally, and these are professionals who do this all day every day.

4. Tap technology – don’t undertake it all yourself

Leverage technology wherever possible to capture, input and report data performance at all levels of the organization. Spend the time upfront to perfect this process because, in the long run, it will guarantee the data is captured efficiently and reported back to the appropriate people in a friendly, summarized format. Technology will also assure the reports and analytics (e.g. unit rankings, top and bottom performers, trending, etc.) are performed in a cost-efficient manner, as they can easily start eating up lots of man-hours. The other benefit is that your performance data will be available any time and any place your staff wants to access it.

 

5. Don’t skip the training

Once the reporting is finalized – or even alongside it – you should be developing a comprehensive training program to educate all of the people in the system on all the tools, processes and reporting and, even more importantly, making it clear how they can tap them to drive increases in performance. The key here is to communicate early and often to all of the impacted people, so they have a thorough understanding of what, why and how the new performance improvement system operates.

6. Review and review again

Lastly, it's critical that you periodically review the measurement system and processes that you decide upon to make sure they’re still current and relative. Don’t go too long without taking stock because you’ll quickly fall behind in a fast-moving industry. Any significant enhancements or changes should be implemented ASAP.

Keep in mind that developing an effective measurement system will take time and dedicated resources. It's a journey and customers may not notice the performance improvements over night, but rest assured that they will eventually take note. When approached correctly, it will be a valuable tool to help drive performance improvements at both the unit and system level.

Any organization with numerous locations spread out geographically, such as multi-location restaurant brands, needs a quality measurement system to help them measure and assess performance consistently and timely. These tools are also the key enablers that will help you react to problems quickly, determine if action plans are working and begin building an accountability culture throughout the organization.

 

Jerry Calabrese was responsible for a global restaurant measurement system that evaluated and helped to significantly improve the performance of 32,000 restaurants in 100+ countries in the period from 2002 to 2008. As VP of Restaurant Measurement at McDonald’s Corporation, his leadership and implementation of tools and processes were a key enabler and significant factor in the financial and operational turnaround of the company during his tenure that helped McDonald’s improve its performance and brand image during that time period.

The World Bank projects a 3.3% growth in GDP for 2016. But the projection for high income countries is lower, with the US at 2.8% and Europe at 1.8%. When the economy softens, businesses typically respond in two ways:

  1. By cutting costs
  2. By seizing the opportunity to gain competitive market share.

The one thing businesses must not do is short-change their focus on customers. 

A 2015 study by Forrester Research shows that companies that deliver excellent customer experience have a high correlation with likelihood to recommend and consider the company for another purchase. They also have a much lower likelihood of switching—key when competitors lower their prices or introduce new offers to lure customers away. What’s really interesting in Forrester’s research is that many companies are putting a renewed focus on customer experience with various indices and ratings skewing higher. Most importantly, Forrester cites research demonstrating the strong relationship between share holder value and actual revenue. 

    Market Force’s research confirms that emphasizing the customer experience impacts loyalty and revenue. Across dozens of statistical models we have built for clients in the restaurant, retail, grocery, wireless, and petro-convenience spaces, we’ve found that high satisfaction rates result in 2x to 12x higher recommendation ratings. In addition, we’ve found that a focus on operational excellence and customer experience has a positive and significant impact on revenue results like YoY same store sales (restaurant), conversion rates (retail), household spend (grocery) and volume of fuel sold (petro-convenience). 

    The strong relationship between CX and financials makes a compelling argument for continuing your investment in customer experience. Continue measuring so you understand how every function and every location delivers to customers. Increase the visibility of those measures, and make sure every employee understands his or her impact on the customer experience and is committed to excellence. Demand action with commitment from managers to addressing issues and improving scores. Model the relationship between CX and financials to show ROI and build the business case for keeping your program intact. Your investment will help your business thrive in a slowing economy. 

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    To discuss your needs for improving performance for your multi-location brand, give us a call. We’d be happy to discuss best practices for measuring the customer experience and compliance to brand standards, using analytics to understand what matters most and the ROI for change, and technology solutions that integrate large quantities of data on one single platform. We look forward to a great discussion!

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