Customers Change: Lessons From a Dejected Restaurateur


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A friend in New York sent me an article last week she thought I’d be interested in. Not only is it slice of a customer journey we’re all familiar with (following diners during their meal experience at a nice restaurant), it shows that customers today “ain’t what they used to be.”

Trying to determine why they were getting slammed on social media, this restaurateur had a pretty good idea; compare videos of the dining experience a decade ago with today’s – and see what’s changed, so they can fix it.

They got an answer, though it’s probably not the answer they wanted. In short, their customers changed – and they haven’t.

A novel approach to customer journey mapping

Across 45 transactions, the restaurant owners examined video tapes of the dining experience in July 2004 with a similar transaction set from the same month in 2014. The food, location and staff quality are said to be about the same, and pretty good.

Average time from start to finish: up nearly an hour, to 1:55. Time from customer entry to food order up from 8 minutes to 21. Yet some things remained constant; the waiter still gets to the table as soon as the customer sits down; appetizers still fired 6 minutes after the order taken.

customer-interactions_2004-2014This adds up to a pretty unappealing picture for a restaurant owner: In addition to negative word-of-mouth, they have longer turn times, lower volume and higher service costs. And the apparent cause of the problem is concerning as well, because the fix isn’t an easy one; patrons are spending so much time on their phones (taking and posting pictures, surfing the web, email, text etc.) that they’re no longer just eating – it’s almost as if they’ve just found a comfy place to sit while they play around with their digital devices.

Change is here. (And it just keeps on coming…)

All we have to do is look at ourselves to recognize a customer-experience truism that affects us all: customers change. Thinking about the last 10 years, it’s clear that the pace of change has accelerated radically. Not just with customers, of course, but also with markets, competition, innovation and more.

Many of these changes are positive – as customers, the last decade has given us unparalleled access to information about the companies that wish to serve us, and the products and services we wish to discover, learn about, purchase and use. But from the business-management side of the table, some of these changes are a bit less rosy.

The fact is, customers have become less loyal, more demanding and less patient than ever. And this “pace of change” doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Consider that today, an S&P 500 company is replaced every 2 weeks. It wasn’t that long ago that the average tenure of an S&P 500 company was measured in decades.

If you can’t keep up with your customers, you might as well give up.

When it comes to customer experience – whether you’re talking about strategy, management, improvement, design, etc. – it’s critically important to recognize this fact. I bring this up because one of the constants with customer experience – as with so much today – is change. That’s why no organization can afford to assess and improve customer experience on an ad-hoc or one-off basis; it’s a discipline, and one that requires, just like your customers, ongoing monitoring, care and feeding. Because what works today may not work tomorrow, or the day after.

If you can’t keep up with your changing customers, you might as well stop trying. Because your customers won’t wait for you to figure it out. They’ll simply go somewhere else – after expressing their dissatisfaction vocally and publicly.

If you’re running a nice restaurant in New York? You can try what these folks did – nicely asking their customers to “be more considerate” in an online post. But given what we know of customers today, the best solution might be a bit more radical – food trucks, anyone….?

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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