Starting each day by reading customer feedback allows Chuck Sliker to get extensive insight into customers' likes and dislikes. Sliker, senior vice president of operations services at Arby's, uses that information to strengthen weak points in the company's products or service, as well as to commend individual restaurants and specific associates for superior customer service.
With a firm belief that the customer's own words afford companies significant opportunities to improve, Sliker introduced Arby's
Promise Check in 2008, adding to the numerous programs-including inspection reports-the company uses to gather feedback about its nearly 3,600 restaurants. Sliker and his team worked with Mindshare Technologies to customize an already existing program into one that met Arby's unique needs. The new approach focuses on gathering real-time, actionable customer feedback.
Since its launch, the program has allowed the fast-food chain to amass more than 10 million responses. "We know every single morning, and sometimes within hours, about what happened, where it happened, and who was involved," he says, adding that the extensive data from Arby's Promise Check gives the organization deep insight into customers' perceptions on everything from speed of service to the level of hospitality they receive when choosing Arby's.
"There is no more motivating, actionable data point than the customer's own words," Sliker says. "We can all say that we think we are the best operators and know our businesses extremely well, but the bottom line is that customers tell you every single day what opportunities there are for you to improve your business. The day you stop listening to your customers is the day you start on a very slippery slope."
Customer feedback is regularly shared with frontline employees as an inspiration to give exceptional service. Sliker says that by showcasing "the many wonderful stories of great service," Arby's helps provide examples of behavior that associates should emulate.
Negative feedback is also shared with employees, including Arby's training department, which uses it in the development of its programs.
Openly sharing customer feedback has allowed Arby's to increase its scores in all service attributes by an average of five to 15 points since the program kicked off three years ago.
The real-time feedback Arby's now collects also allows the company to address issues quickly and take swift action to keep customers happy and retain their business. That insight and action has allowed Arby's to shrink the performance gap between high- and low-performing restaurants by 43 percent over three years. Sliker says this mainly revolved around responding to alerts triggered when a customer rates part of his experience as "poor" or "fair," and then addressing the underlying problem.
"Our job at Arby's is to create good moods for our customers, and it's impossible to do this unless we recognize that the consumer is not dependent on us, but rather we are dependent on him."