MANAGING CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS
The supply and demand is a age long theory that still holds true today and is the basis of a market economy. In the market today, customer expectations are now a part of the product, and has become a significant underlying component of the supply and demand concept in many markets.
Customer satisfaction especially in the QSR industry is a delicate balance between customer experience and the customer expectation. It is not necessarily how well you perform but how well you perform in the eyes of the customer. Bearing testimony to the famous phrase, the customer is always right rule.
Customer expectations are dynamic and tied to various variables, they dictate every aspect of business from, product, price, place and personality’s we choose to have within our organizations. It is therefore important to identify your target market and calculate carefully to determine it’s expectations, optimally managing these expectations bringing us steps closer to fulfilling the customer needs and therefore customer satisfaction and retention. This helps to accurately as possible deliver a product that translates into profitability. The QSR industry is highly competitive and longevity is determined by how well, you meet and or exceed the expectations of your customers who walk in, so they can walk out satisfied.
What are the expectation of the customers who comes to our stores?
The customer expectations fall within four Basic areas: which for easy reference will can call the 4p’s of customer expectations. Product, Price, Place, and Personality
The first thing our customers expect without even asking is that the product we have is safe for their consumption. They expect that within the store efforts are being made to ensure that chances of food contamination are limited if not eliminated. It is therefore significant to make sure that the image projected within the store is one of cleanliness and proper sanitation practices, building the customer’s confidence in your product. This can be done with a clean food preparation and service area. Washing hands and changing gloves before touching food and after being in contact with possible contaminants. While at the same time ensuring customer safety by actively monitoring food safety through procedures like temperature taking, tempreture records, and observing shelf life just to mention afew. When a customer is affected by your product, not only does it put to risk the life of your customers, but that of your business given the negative attention such tragic events attract to a large number of people. Customers don’t come to the store expecting to be ill or to find contaminants in the food therefore part of managing this expectation would be to ensure that the product you give to them is safe and contaminant free.
The assigned value for any given product in relation to the actual value of the product. Customers expect the quality of the product in their eyes to be equal to or more than what you are requesting for the acquisition of the product. Consistent pricing structure within the store needs to be maintained, such as the variance between the price of a six inch and a foot long, Veggie sub and Steak and cheese sub. For a branded image it is also important to have some level of consistency between stores, to avoid loosing customer to competitors because the customer feels cheated at one location versus another due to price variation of the same product. If you don’t take care of your subway customer’s, Mc Donald will take care of them for you. With inconsistencies in pricing the integrity of the product can easily be questioned making the customer disgruntled because product value fluctuates and the customers can not determine what their dollar is worth within the store and will therefore opt for a product that gives them exactly what they pay for every time. Bringing to light the significance of formulas, if it is 8 meatballs in a foot long for $5.00 dollars then so be it in all subway’s the customer does not expect to pay anymore and when this happens, then you end up with a disgruntled customer emailing or calling customer service. Customers expect some level of consistency, in pricing with the store and in the market.
While actual geographic location is important, the state of the place (store) is just as important. Choices of places to eat in are so many customers are so particular about their comfort in establishments they choose to spend their money in. Is the table sticky from the previous customer spilling their soda? Are the bathrooms clean and odor free? Does the sandwich unit look clean and organized? Does the celing have a distracting hole through it? These are just but few examples of things the customers don’t expect to get in the store because it reduces their comfort level and inadvertently brings to question your product. Why would a customer choose to eat in a place they don’t feel comfortable in and pay for a meal that could land them in the emergency room? The customers expect a lively, well lit, well maintained and clean place to comfortably consume their sandwich. Statistics also show that when the experience is less than expected or ideal then the customer may choose not to return. Creating an inviting, comfortable atmosphere that is stress free, and non distracting not only encourages customers to stay longer but because they feel so comfortable they are more likely to remember you as a choice to consider favorably for a repeat visit. The longer the customers are able to stay in your establishment the more likely they are to learn more about your products by witnessing other customers choices, taking note of your Advertising materials within the store, noticing and picking up your take out menu, among other dynamics within the store at the time. Therefore the customer area should be inviting, comfortable and clean to project a positive professional image, and to help contribute to a positive customer experience which brings us to the last and not any less important P.
Customer’s expect to have a good experience in the store which is only possible given the staff present at the time. Mistakes are bound to happen but with certain people in place you are always able to turn things around. Customers expect to be assisted with the orders and when not clear, they expect more information to be provided so they can make informed choices. Customers also expect recommendations on products they have little or no knowledge about; therefore it is significant that front line staff is well versed in product, policies and promotions in the store and within the brand. To effectively manage this expectation within the store, adequately train all staff, assess the strengths of each staff member and as recommended in the thru-put program, place the best in best. Place the staff member with good communication skills and ability to interpret customer needs with a good understanding of your products as your “imager maker”/ “greeter” position. This is the first impression the customers have of the staff in the store and you want this to be positively memorable. The acknowledging greeting usually sets the pace for how easy an up sale will be. The architect building the sandwiches should also be pleasant, accommodating and good at practical presentations for a picture perfect sandwich. The wrapper and or cashier should be able to pick up where the greeter left off closing the order on the same positive note leaving the customer with an enhanced impression of the store. The industry is so competitive the customers expect an above average standard of service from staff, They expect to be greeted pleasantly and professionally, They expect to be accommodated, made aware of the choices available, they expect service as soon as they walk in, they expect to be appreciated for choosing you and not Mc Donalds across the street, they expect to have a listening ear when service is less than expected and lastly they expect you to try and make it right when they let you know their experience was less than expected.
If this means higher lifetime revenue per customers you would think, why not? Well it is easier said than done.
The key is to recognize that customer satisfaction and retention is not based on our perceptions but customer perceptions in relation to their experience and in comparison to their expectations when they walked in the door therefore:
Customer satisfaction = Customer experience + Customer expectations
Bearing in mind that: Satisfied customers = increased sales
Satisfied customers= repeat customers/ recommend the store/word of mouth advertising
Repeat customers = bring friends / increase customer count
Increased customer count = more suggestive selling opportunities
Suggestive selling = increased sales
Doing regular surveys within the store helps to get a fair picture of the expectations of the customer who come to the store and areas of opportunity you may have in the store that could facilitate customer retention. Surveys outside and around the store help to identify market expectations to better tailor marketing efforts and your product to be a more favorable choice.
Online one can get are survey’s that are already designed that can be customized, and used to determine customer expectations like the brand awareness survey, and result trackers to tally survey results. The customer complaints and the customer trend reports are also good indicators of the expectations the customers have, from rude employee’s complaints (Personalities), to Extra charges (Price), foreign object in food (Product) and Cleanliness (Place)
Originally on the MidAtlantic; Subway Development Corporation of Washington Franchise Newsletter