When you run a national restaurant chain with 187 locations, keepingeach customer happy and loyal can be daunting. How do you know if the salad bars in your New York location are well-stocked, or if the steaks in a Florida spot are hot enough? Sizzler, the buffet-style restaurant chain, decided the best way to find out is to ask the people who really care: the customers.
Six years ago, the company began using monthly shopping reports to find out more about what diners wanted, says Forbes Collins, Sizzler's director of company operations. “Our guests told us that taste and flavor of food, appearance and cleanliness of the salad bar and attentiveness of wait staff were the most important triggers for us to make them highly satisfied,” he recalls.
But he adds that monthly reports didn't tell the company enough. “You can't peel them back and find out what you need to do to improve operations at all,” he explains.
So last year, the restaurant joined with Mindshare Technologies — a company that produces, collects and analyzes customer surveys — to collect customer data through links to surveys on dining receipts.
An increasing number of companies have discovered the benefits of collecting data from customers. Several major players are adding simple survey requests to Web sites, dining receipts and other forms of customer communication, which means they can easily gather customer opinions and turn them into action plans.
Satisfaction is key metric
For Sizzler, the survey approach is a way to improve one of the chain's key metrics — the customer service index (CSI). The CSI is a combined measure of customer happiness, loyalty and desire to promote the chain to others.
Under the Mindshare partnership, Sizzler includes a survey request on the bottom of all of its dining receipts at all locations. Customers call a Mindshare call center or sign on to a Mindshare survey site, and then rate different factors of their Sizzler experience on a scale of one to five. They are also prompted to explain responses in their own words. In exchange, customers receive Sizzler coupons upon completion of the surveys. Sizzler reports that in the past year CSI for the chain has risen 10%.
“A year ago, we were struggling at 68%-70% for overall satisfaction, so my goal in a year was to drive satisfaction to 80%,” Collins says.
Two key factors in the success of Sizzler's surveys are the timeliness and spontaneity of responses. If a customer keys in a negative rating, the manager of the poorly rated store will be notified and can listen to the customer comments verbatim — in this way, the problem can potentially be remedied within minutes.
“The missing thing in most CRM systems is the C — the customer,” says Richard Hanks, chairman and president of Mindshare. “Big CRM systems are all aimed at data such as demographics, likes and dislikes, but they don't tell you how the chicken strips are in a particular store.”