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2014 Voice of the Customer Trends: What Food Service Providers Need to Know for Guest Experience Success

As I think about 2013 and what it meant for the Voice of Customer industry, one thing is very clear to me: It was undoubtedly the Year of the Customer for food service providers—the experiences of their guests have become more important than ever. Consumers were eager to be delighted by the establishments they chose in ways that improve the quality of their dining events and their relationships with their favourite restaurant brands.

As we enter 2014, the push for truly remarkable guest experiences will become even more intense. In most cases, the food service providers that rise above the marketplace will be those that are adept at capturing integrated guest feedback and converting it into meaningful guest experience improvements.

For today’s food service providers, successful guest experience efforts aren’t limited to reacting to the comments and complaints of individual diners. The aggregation of feedback from many different sources offers proactive insights for targeting multiple dimensions of the guest experience.

With that in mind, there are at least four trends that will help shape the guest experience in 2014:

1. Feedback Integration

Savvy restaurateurs are recognizing the problem with siloed feedback. When feedback collected from offline and online sources are treated independently, consumer insights are disconnected, causing the guest experience to become disjointed.

Food service providers are quickly moving toward the consolidation of feedback from multiple, disparate sources into unified customer insights. By bringing together feedback from all available sources, food service providers are better able to achieve a single view of the customer—and are better equipped to implement customer experience improvements that dazzle their guests.

2. Combining Solicited & Unsolicited Feedback

With good reason, restaurateurs have given top priority to their solicited feedback (via customer surveys) when making customer experience improvements. Yet, this feedback can be improved. By adding in unsolicited customer feedback, you may be able to identify new insights into creating world-class customer experiences.

In the food service industry, unsolicited feedback usually comes in the form of restaurant reviews, social media mentions and other user-generated content that directly influences consumer dining decisions. This year, restaurateurs will continue to invest in technologies and strategies that combine unsolicited and solicited feedback insights to improve the consistency of the customer experience.

3. Evaluating Branded Behaviors

It’s no secret that food and service quality are no longer enough when it comes to the guest experience. Many food service providers are also placing emphasis on the atmosphere of their establishments and designing them to elicit emotional responses from guests.

In 2014, many food service brands will invest in technologies that enable them to quantify these feelings and incorporate branded behavioral data into their brands’ Voice of Customer (VoC) strategies. With these technologies, restaurateurs will gain important insights that allow them to reinforce and validate branded behaviors, or point to customer experience changes that will amplify desired feelings and sentiments.

4. Big Data

Big data is still a big story in the restaurant biz. Although data captured from exceptionally large and diverse data sets has the potential to deliver important insights related to the guest experience, the use of big data to create guest experience improvements at the local level has been limited, at best.

Why? In many cases, it’s because location managers simply lack the time and ability to distill big data into actionable guest experience insights. By using data visualization technology to convert their most complex data into simple stories, food service brands can now quickly relay big insights throughout their organization to instruct and unify.

Across the board, food service providers that continue to place emphasis on being guest-focused and recognize the value of feedback and data from all channels and sources will have the advantage in creating exceptional guest experiences and capturing more than their fair share of the dining marketplace.

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