A&W Canada Sparks Customer Empathy With Real-Time Feedback

I recently had a discussion with Nancy Wuttunee, Senior Director Operating Excellence at A&W Food Services of Canada, about a new feedback system the company is using in its restaurants. The approach is a great example of Guiding with Empathy, one of the principles of People-Centric Experience Design (PCxD).

A&W Canada uses a vendor named Benbria to help it collect feedback via in-store kiosks and a mobile app, displaying the results in real time to employees behind the counter. Customers are asked to give a thumbs-up or thumbs down to three questions:

  • Was your food hot and tasty?
  • Was the service fast and friendly?
  • Was the restaurant clean?

AWCanadaBenbria

Wuttunee is very encouraged by the results of the system, which was initially piloted at six company-owned stores in Ottawa, and is now in 50 locations and is being rolled out to all of its 800 restaurants. She told me “We’re calling it “Guest Connect,” and that’s what it’s giving to us. The front room employees already have the conversations, but this lets the kitchen stay focused on the guest experience as well.”

One of the surprises that Wuttunee described is that the stores get a lot more thumbs-up than thumbs-down. Unlike normal feedback sources that are often negatively based, this system captures a lot of positive sentiment. So the company built a culture that welcomes a thumbs-down as an opportunity to use the information for improvement.

Here’s what intrigued me about A&W Canada’s approach to sparking customer empathy:

  • A simple real-time scorecard. Customers are asked to rate three things and the number of thumbs ups and thumbs down are listed on the board for employees to see. There’s no trending or advanced analytics, employees can see how customers are viewing their efforts in an ongoing way­­—and use their judgment in making adjustments. The scoreboard is reset at the beginning of each day.
  • No goals or incentives. Companies often jump at the opportunity to slap incentives on every customer measurement, but A&W Canada has resisted the temptation. There are no specific goals attached to these scores, they are just used for employees to understand the experiences of their customers.
  • Behind the scenes management. The daily data feeds aren’t just forgotten, as management receives daily reports. Data and trends are analyzed to spot potential issues at specific stores or during specific shifts as well as to identify successful stores that might have practices worth sharing.
  • Consistency with the overall culture. Wuttunee explained that, “A&W Canada has a climate in the restaurant where employees feel valued and feel like they are members of a team.” So this program is not an isolated “gimmick” to engage employees. The company has an extensive focus on employee engagement, which is demonstrated in its “Climate Goals,” the following seven behaviors that the company believes are required to achieve its mission:

1) I constantly find ways to create an excellent and delightful experience for each of our guests.
2) We listen to understand each other.
3) I invite and share feedback that enables us to improve.
4) I embrace change and actively support innovation.
5) We work together as partners pursuing common goals and shared success.
6) We use our differences as a source of creativity and learning.
7) I recognize and celebrate our big and small wins.

The bottom line: Help employees hear the voice of your customers

About Bruce Temkin
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, marketing, interaction design, customer service, and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

2 Responses to A&W Canada Sparks Customer Empathy With Real-Time Feedback

  1. Bruce, thanks so much for sharing this wonderful story about A&W. It’s so nice to hear how they have integrated their feedback processes with their company’s “Climate Goals”. This clearly demonstrates how A&W appreciates and values their consumers as well as their associates who now have total control of meeting or exceeding their consumers’ expectations at the moment of execution. Rich

  2. Hi Bruce, very good article!

    Very interesting how more and more companies are finally realizing how important is to have as you said a centric customer experience. In today’s market it’s crucial to have such data in real-time.

    Mike

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