In Revel's 2017 customer user conference, merchants at Revelry discussed the keys to their business success. The primary reason we hold Revelry each fall is to bring our customers together to connect and hear from fellow leaders in their industry. The customer panel is a session we hold to have a dialogue amongst customers, and this year we broke our panels into two sessions: one for our retail and one food and beverage.
Anyone in any business understands that their customers are the “bread and butter” and are key to their success. Interestingly, in both panels, our customers talked about customer experience and how their employees are at the heart of what they do. While intuitively we all know this to be true, our panelists are all running successful, growing businesses, and shared practical advice about how you can create a memorable customer experience and build a team who supports your business vision.
We hear about “customer experience” so much in the digital age - so much so, that “customer service” is taking a back seat to the experience with a company or brand. Many of us consider the two to be intertwined - creating a great overall experience for customers being the first priority and providing great customer service is a central part of that experience. Daniel, a panelist who runs The Station cafe in San Francisco, mentioned that customer service is their “number one focus” and that they want their clients to feel that friendliness each and every time they visit. Creating that consistent experience is key.
Whether you have a retail business or a quick-service, Restaurant POS Systems, or fast-casual business, one thing is for sure: the demands from customers to offer quality product, with a great customer experience are great and the competition is high. We didn’t hear from one customer on our panels who isn’t feeling the pressure of staying competitive in the “we want it now” age.
The good news is that in this impatient age, technology is here to support merchants in their growth. Merchants are all working on becoming increasingly “omnichannel” by being able to create engagement with their existing customers and potential customers through online ordering, customized apps, social media, and delivery services.
Alex, CFO for The Cobb Group in New Zealand, points to their improved speed of service using Kitchen Display Systems (KDS) In being able to nail down the production stations with what that station should be producing at a precise moment has been a game-changer in optimizing their production and noted that the KDS is probably one of the most “underutilized” tools Revel offers.
The team at Vanelli’s Bistro in Tupelo, Mississippi, sing the praises of their Digital Menu Boards and that their boards feature fresh designs created by their Marketing guru, Ken. The fact that they can customize the backgrounds on their boards creates a unique visual component to their fast-casual restaurant and their customers love them.
Jean, Director of Operations at Over the Top Cake Supplies in Texas, runs 2 locations plus has 2 franchise stores. Jean says “loyalty programs are big” and their program has evolved significantly. They started out with punch cards and eventually landed on an integration with Como because it is robust and integrates with Revel seamlessly.
Both Jean and Jake, IT Director for Fossil Creek Liquor, mentioned that part of their strategy to compete with the giant corporations is to create a truly unique experience. Over the Top Cake Supplies offers decorating classes and Fossil Creek caters to the niche buyers looking for rare brews, for example. Now Fossil Creek is looking at delivery because consumers want their food, groceries, and alcohol brought directly to them. When one can simply order supplies off of a website or open an app for something, creating a personalized experience is the single most valuable weapon brick and mortar merchants have.
Of course, you can’t create an amazing experience for customers without amazing people. Forming a group of employees who truly represent your values can take some time. So many businesses struggle to find the right people and, then, once they do, they struggle to keep them. But your employees are definitely the key to longterm success. Merchants can be utilizing the flashiest technology available but it without a great team driving the tech, customers will not return.
Consumers, particularly millennials, spend their cash with businesses who seem to share similar values - if the employees look miserable at their favorite gift shop or watering hole, why support them?
All of our panelists explained that their company culture and staff were the backbone of their success. Dan, co-founder of Mexico City’s Pinche Gringo BBQ, said that when they came up with the idea to share true North American food by bringing barbecue to Mexico, they could not have achieved popularity without a team who exhibits their company values. Even as they have grown from a food-truck to adding a brick and mortar marketplace concept, he knows that their employees feel like they are “a part of something bigger than themselves.” Dan noted that it wasn’t always easy to “change the paradigm” wherein you have to put someone else down to get ahead.
Lyndia, who runs Retail Operations for the Northern California region of Verve Coffee, says that the “magic in their brand” comes down to “putting people first.” The key to creating repeat customers is “nailing” that first experience by hiring the right people who “stay present” during each interaction.
Philip, who operates Patty’s Cakes in Orange County, has had a lot of success leveraging customer reviews. Philip says their “reviews tell all” about their service and having a high Yelp review is what sets them apart from their competitors - so much so that Patty’s Cakes does no advertising at all. They incentivize for reviews and invite customers to leave them reviews on their cake boxes and packaging materials. Philip then charts their reviews in the back office for employees to see - sharing customer feedback with his employees is clearly a big motivator for them.
Similarly, Jean, who is in the cake-decorating supply business, says that she is lucky because she has “fun” employees which she attributes to the “fun” nature of the business. Philip looks for “bubbly” personalities when hiring to ensure that the customer experience is always a pleasant one. Melissa of Vanelli’s told us that she goes into the restaurant every day with the mission to make sure everyone is having a good time and that her cashiers, who she calls the “faces” of their restaurant, are smiling when they greet customers and are able to balance taking orders and getting them out while maintaining a positive demeanor.
Daniel from The Station mentioned that labor is his “biggest stress” but that figuring out his management style and how to support his employees is one of the core parts of running the business. Putting that extra time in with your employees goes a long way. Which, of course, includes how you coach your staff. Juan, General Manager of Mercadito restaurant in Chicago, says that if you aren’t spending time in training your staff, “you are making a big mistake.” In any business, ensuring that your employees understand your partners’ and vendors’ products allows them to share their information with customers. At Mercadito, they spend a lot of time on menu training. Employees who feel supported and adequately trained are happier and set up for success each day.
Jean, Over the Top Cake Supplies
Jacob, Fossil Creek Liquors
Lyndia, Verve Coffee
Philip, Patty’s Cakes
Dan, Pinche Gringo BBQ
Daniel, The Station SF
Melissa & Ken, Vanelli’s
Alex, The Cobb Group