The India Restaurant Congress 2014 is here! And we are super happy to be a part of this awesome exhibition, scheduled for August 28 & August 29, 2014.
There’s no greater love than the love for food, said a true blue foodie once. And it is this love for food and the entire F & B Industry that we couldn’t resist from exhibiting Zonka Platform – the cool new restaurant feedback system, at the Indian Restaurant Congress 2014.
The Indian Restaurant Congress 2014 is sponsored by Franchise India, a trusted name in empowering businesses in India. We are looking forward to the numerous golden opportunities to network with all the lovely patrons, connoisseurs and participants from the restaurant industry.
As a leading web and mobile apps developer, it has always been our endeavor to deliver the fruits of technology to as many industries as possible. To that end, our Zonka Platform, that is already blazing trails in the arena of on premise customer feedback collection in the hospitality space, is going to be on display this time at our stall giving you a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to see the product in action before you decide to make it a feature of your restaurant. It has already been embraced by high-end players in New Delhi and shown significant results within a span of a few months. With interesting ways to document, present and analyze information, Zonka is sure to be the next big innovation.
To find out more, please drop by our stall at the event. You can find us at:
Stall 4, “Zonka Feedback”
Vivanta by Taj
Proud as we are to showcase our product before such a distinguished and far-reaching audience, our efforts will reap dividends only when complemented with your benign presence. So, on that happy note, we solicit the pleasure of your company at our exhibit.
The creation of a new business in any industry is followed by closely analyzing what the competitors are doing and then doing it better – typically by cost-cutting, or building superior products. This is what has now come to be known as the “Red Ocean Strategy”. Market share can be captured only at the expense of another business, as the size of the industry is limited and known.
As the industry matures however, businesses need to move beyond traditional competition strategies, because the industry becomes far too crowded to sustain existing competition. Once existing growth opportunities have been exhausted, new ones must be created by exploring “blue oceans”, or hitherto unknown market spaces. A “Blue Ocean Strategy” involves shifting the focus from competitors to customers. It entails unlocking value by expanding the current boundaries of the industry, achieved through innovation of product (or service) offerings. The strategy inherently assumes that industry size and scope is not known and value can actually be created, rather than simply be distributed as in a “Red Ocean”. This essentially renders the competition irrelevant with respect to capturing the market.
A classic example from the restaurant industry would be that of Starbucks. For too long successful restaurants were synonymous with low prices and a wide variety of menu items. But this particular company started on the idea of providing the best possible experience to customers, even if this meant charging a premium above the market prices. The brand Starbucks is a promise of exceptional service and experience to the customers. No wonder, customers are willing to await their turn in a long queue and pay double the price at the Starbucks outlet rather than just grabbing a cup of coffee from the café across the street. Over the years the rapid success and growth of Starbucks bears testimony to the successful execution of the “Blue Ocean Strategy”. By entering into the arena of “customer service management”, Starbucks shifted the focus from traditional competitive areas (low prices and broader menu offerings) to the customer, and in the process expanded the restaurant industry to include customers who come to restaurants for enjoyment of the overall experience, rather than simply quenching their thirst.
With the dissemination of free knowledge over the Internet, restaurants can no longer claim the title of market leader by simply cutting down their prices or expanding their menu options, as everyone in the industry would already be doing that. The focus will now to shift on the customers, with customer experience management becoming more prominent in the service and hospitality industry, now more than ever, as customer expectations of what constitutes good service are increasing by the day, thanks to the rapid advent of social media. The rise in loyalty programs over the past few years just goes to show that customers are increasingly expecting their vendors to capture all relevant information about them and offer them personalized service whenever they visit their premises. This trend is only projected to grow over time as customers are becoming more aware than ever of their service experience. Immediate addressal of customer complaints will no longer be sufficient as customers expect a more proactive approach by the businesses, thus rendering the traditional restaurant feedback system meaningless. The mantra for success in the harsh new F&B world will be stronger and more versatile guest feedback management that can resolve customer’s complaints even before they arise!
The following facts indicate these changing trends:
In 2013, 62% of consumers around the globe switched brands due to poor customer service experiences.
Coming to hard numbers, positive customer experiences can also impact business revenue directly – a study by Forrester Research shows that an improvement of 10 percentage points on a customer’s experience score can translate into an increase of over $1 billion in revenues, which is probably why an estimated 84% of companies expect to increase their focus on customer experience measurements and metrics.
Business intelligence firm Walker Info has even suggested that by 2020, customer experience may well overtake price and product to become the key brand differentiator.
Going by these research reports, logic implies that the next “Blue Ocean” in service based industries (restaurant and hospitality) is going to be customer service management. It is a reasonable assumption that all value and growth possible from price cutting and huge ranging product offering has been (or will have been by 2020) captured and further value may be unlocked on the back of superior customer feedback capturing and real-time feedback management.
Social media websites came out of nowhere and have taken the entire world by storm. The statistics of most social media websites are known to everyone with just the click of a button. But just to jog your memory a little:
- If Facebook was a country, it would have been the fourth most populous in the World.
- Over 30 million pieces of content are created and shared daily over Facebook
- 750 million photos were uploaded on Facebook over the New Year’s weekend
- 48% OF 18-34 year olds log into Facebook first thing in the morning
Clearly, today’s customers are connected very strongly via the Internet. Social media today provides an immense opportunity for businesses as well. Social media offers a simple, inexpensive and quick way of keeping in touch with customers, long after they leave the business. It is no surprise then, that most businesses, particularly in the F&B segment, have dedicated employees updating their presence on social media platforms such as Facebook. The fact is that online marketing and social media strategy is something that no business can afford to miss out on. Social media presence can benefit businesses in several ways:
- Maintaining a “recall” in their patron’s minds
- Keeping their customers informed of upcoming events and promotions
- Providing an opportunity for their customers to provide positive reviews over a public forum
- Customers can also act as “brand angels”; if they are really satisfied with their experience, they can “like” the establishment’s online page which can quickly promote the business to several more people, and a virtuous cycle results
Thus, we observe that maintaining an online presence can yield substantial benefits to a business in the short as well as long run. These benefits appear magnified when considered in the context of the time, effort and expenses involved in the process. For a very nominal expenditure of resources, business establishments can tap into and exploit the full range of opportunities offered by social media.
There are two sides to a coin, and a social media strategy too needs to be employed with caution. Social media is a double-edged sword. Just as positive reviews by customers can propel a business to great heights in a matter of minutes, a single negative review can snowball into a horrendous PR nightmare. There are numerous examples of how entire businesses have succumbed to a few negative online reviews by disgruntled customers. Businesses are exceptionally vulnerable in this digital age as not only is it very easy and convenient for customers to post their complaints at the touch of a button, but the really worrying part is that they can do so anonymously, thus protecting them from any untoward legal implications. Businesses, therefore, need to continuously monitor the live feeds pouring on their online pages, keep a check on each and every post that comes in, and give a suitable response to any negative review before it spirals out of control. Better still, they may want to develop mechanisms to prevent negative rants from going viral online in the first place.
To sum it all up, we can safely say without any doubt that businesses today need to be present online, and they need to make a conscious effort to keep their online image pristine. It goes without saying that social media strategy is a complement to exemplary customer service, not its substitute. No amount of facebook updates and Twitter tweets can ever make it up for an unpleasant experience. Negative reviews on social platforms should be sorted out quickly and handled in an effective manner to prevent the bad word from spreading.
Getting to know what your customers think about you is an essential for the long term growth and strategy of your business. Only when you know yours customer’s opinions, likes and dislikes, can you tailor your offerings to give them the perfect experience and make them wanting to come back again and again.
The matter assumes even more importance in service related businesses, since they do not have any rock solid product to fall back on, rather dependent entirely on their customer’s reviews and ratings. It is no surprise then, that most of the restaurants ask their customers (or rather, guests) to fill in a feedback form after they have completed their meals. The restaurant managers consider this a part of their daily routine, and more often than not, these collected feedback forms get filed up in thick volumes, never to be seen again. Hardly any analysis is done with feedback forms submitted over paper.
The second and much more worrying issue with these paper based feedback forms is a delay in addressing the guest’s complaints. An angry guest walking out of the restaurant can do more damage than you may think. The rapidly expanding social media is becoming a serious threat by providing a platform to disgruntled customers to vent out their anger in public domain. And the spiraling effect of social media networks, wherein a single comment or post can traverse across millions of screens with just a few clicks is even more disturbing for owners and managers of service related businesses, particularly restaurants. Word of mouth, they may be aware, is effective and now in the digital age, has become quick and omnipotent.
This is where digital customer feedback platforms come into the picture. A short feedback form presented to the guests towards the end of their visit can go some way in helping them vent their frustration over minor lapses in services inside the confines of the business, and not in full public view over the Internet. While restaurants have been capturing feedback with the traditional pen-and-paper method, an online feedback capturing tool may well be the next big thing to take this industry by storm. Following are few of the benefits offered by an online feedback tool compared to its low-tech counterpart:
Imagine going to a restaurant and being presented with a boring sheet of paper with boxes and columns along with an even more boring looking pen to fill it up. Now imagine being presented with a cool new gadget (tablet/ iPhone) in which the customer can convey his experiences with a flourish of his hands and (literally) a swipe of his fingers. No points for guessing that the latter option is going to be way cooler for the modern generation of customers.
Such a feedback form can be easily linked up with an SMS alert service that can be programmed to send an SMS alert to the staff on duty when a negative review is being filled in, so that the concerned staff can resolve the matter with the customer without any delay, thus preventing a customer from leaving the premises feeling disgruntled.
With an electronic feedback collection system, gone are the days of filing up pompous paper reports in thick, dusty files and losing important feedback related reports in the endless depths of musty reams of paper. All of your data can be stored over the cloud (an online information storage and retrieval mechanism) from where it can be accessed easily awhile maintaining utmost privacy of sensitive data.
Keeping track of your loyal patrons and giving them customized service may be the key to retaining them for the long haul. With electronic feedback collection systems, collecting information about loyal customers becomes far easier, almost automatic in fact, as the program recognizes newly entered names from its database and adds frequenters to it. The program goes a step further by recording their preferences and favorite orders. They may even be asked if they have any seating preferences, and reservations for them may be made before their next visit. Introduction of gamification can also induce guests to increase their visits and purchases, or participate in promotional events.
Routine work can become mundane, while humans have a tendency to be attracted to situations that encourage excitement and stimulate competitive environments. Gamification is the concept of applying game based theories to non-gaming environments. This can be particularly useful in service based businesses, where servers have to be involved in the boring aspect of fulfilling guest’s wishes day in and day out. Introducing game-based concepts may include- awarding points to servers on their performance/ awarding points to various branches of the restaurant for the business attracted/ loyalty points for guests to encourage them to participate more etc. These may be applied even without an electronic feedback mechanism, but the presence of one would make their implementation far easier.
Analysis and Reports
Saved the best for the last. This is where the true power of online feedback collection lies. Feedback collected electronically can be easily sliced, diced and mined to gather interesting trends and analysis about what customers like, or want corrected. Most online feedback capturing tools come with in-depth reporting and powerful analytics that can help the manager separate the wheat from the chaff at first glance and pinpoint the problem areas to elevate their business to greater heights.