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Customer-centric won’t cut it. Food firms must be ‘customer obsessed’

Food and beverage firms might think they provide superior service, but would consumers agree? Here's how to make sure

Kitopi's cloud kitchen platform analyses customer data to predict what they might want to eat and offer it to them

Food is one of the most “emotional” products a consumer can buy. It’s not just fuel – we mark special occasions with special meals, and flavours can evoke powerful memories.

This is why running a food business such as Kitopi, a Dubai-based managed cloud kitchen platform that partners with restaurants and expands their delivery reach, isn’t so straightforward. 

It’s not enough just to be customer-centric; you have to build a culture where your strategic business decisions are entirely based on your customers’ needs. 

This is especially true in the wake of the coronavirus shutdowns. According to research firm Morning Consult, 60 percent of customers prefer to dine out. When they’re ordering in, they still expect great service with a variety of options and convenient technology.

In a report published in June, market research company Forrester said only 3 percent of US companies were “customer obsessed”, putting their customers centre stage in leadership, strategy and operations.

This is a 7 percentage point drop from last year – and this decline can be harmful to businesses in the food and beverage markets. 

Food companies must aspire to create an amazing customer experience (CX) at every touchpoint. Various factors can aid in this: knowing who the customer is, what they like and what they do not like, and capturing their feedback to consistently improve.

App data helps delivery platforms such as Deliveroo understand their customers. Picture: Kitopi

There are two critical components any organisation should focus on:

1 Use data to understand your customers better

Cultivating retention and loyalty from your customers is vital to any business, yet companies tend to focus on quality, timeliness and cost.

A recent Bain & Company survey of 362 companies highlighted the importance of this. In the study, 80 percent of the companies surveyed believed the CX they provided was “superior”, but when the same question was put to customers, only 8 percent of the businesses were described as offering a “superior” service.

Most companies collect data to get a better understanding of their customers, but analysing the information and building insights is the hard part. The data should be used to build rich customer profiles and learn about every aspect of their history with your organisation, in order to improve the CX you offer.

At Kitopi, for instance, we incorporate the data we have into our customer relationship management system to create predictive recommendations and further enhance a personalised experience.

2 Foster a culture of innovation and quality obsession 

Only 38 percent of consumers say employees understand their needs, yet this interaction can make or break a food and beverage company.

Customer-obsessed companies put them at the centre of every decision, instead of being solely driven by revenue. Two aspects of company culture are vital here: quality obsession and innovation.

It would be virtually impossible to deliver an amazing customer experience without having the highest-quality offerings.

Quality should start at the core of the company; from your people. This should not only apply to your CX teams, but to those that build the tech, those that plan the overall experience and everyone in between.

Driving a quality-obsessed culture will produce a more customer-focused culture as well. One way to do this is to educate employees on the business from the day they join and update them on any changes that are made. 

Make sure your employees are able to innovate – new and exciting offerings will keep customers coming back. Staff should be empowered to fail, so they can learn from what does not work and what does.

Employees should be encouraged to share their feedback too. This not only inspires collaboration but brings in diverse perspectives, which is critical when it comes to something as universal as food.

You should always strive to go above and beyond to create “wow” moments for your customers. Sometimes it’s as simple as having special care teams available 24/7 to allow for quick interventions and quality evaluations. Other times it is more complex – and it’s how you can predict customer desires and personalise your offerings that can set you apart from the competition.

Badih Hachem is VP, contact centre, at cloud kitchen Kitopi

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