Customers and staff feel the strain
In their survey of 500 QSR customers and 100 frontline staff, nearly 2-in-3 customers had noticed venues they have visited being short-staffed over the last 3 months and 1-in-5 said they’d waited longer to be seated and served than normal.
Staff too are beginning to feel the strain, with 59% of staff admitting that customer experience is suffering in their venue due to lack of staff. The research suggests that the knock-on effect of shortages is also leading to an overload of work on existing staff and subsequent stress and dissatisfaction, with an alarming 64% of staff saying that working in hospitality is less enjoyable now than it was pre-pandemic.
What’s important to customers?
The resounding message from the customers surveyed is that good old-fashioned customer service from QSR staff is still key to a great customer experience even in the fast-paced setting of a quick-service restaurant. With this being the case, the staff shortages should certainly be cause for concern if staff are not available to carry out this core skill.
The demand for the ‘human touch’ and connection is still absolutely at the heart of a memorable customer experience and in fact, has grown in importance post-pandemic, even in a QSR environment; more than 40% of customers say staff friendliness and also knowledge is even more important to them now compared with 20 months ago.
Staff friendliness came a close second at 85% with speed of service at 88%, showing that these soft skills are still much in demand as is customer’s expectation for staff knowledge at 68%.
We expect staff to be able to advise customers how dishes are prepared, highlight any allergens, suggest dishes based on a customer’s dietary needs and know about food sourcing/provenance. So are we expecting too much from our staff?
Blake Gladman, Strategy & Insights Director at KAM Media comments: “Outstanding customer experience demands a human touch. It requires empathy, flexibility and passion. These skills can be harder to train and take a greater level of emotional and intellectual knowledge to deliver effectively. Operators need to create an environment in which these skills can flourish. The danger of having too many processes and menial tasks for staff to deal with is that they can negatively impact the capacity for them to connect with customers.”
What are the solutions?
What do staff think?
Thankfully, technology is available to help. And far from feeling threatened, staff are embracing time-saving technologies with 64% saying tech improves their job satisfaction. 94% of them are confident that technology can help them do their job.
Staff recognise that technology, everything from detailed digital menus to time-saving self-serve kiosk ordering, can help free up their time to focus on delivering the highly sought-after soft skills of customer service and interaction.
What do customers think?
Those customers surveyed agreed with staff that technology could help speed up service, make it easier/faster to pay, make the venue safer with clear communication of allergens on digital menus and make it easier to order.
Critically, the survey found that without these tech enablers in place 69% of customers would only give a QSR a maximum of two chances to deliver acceptable customer service before they would decide to never visit again. And an even higher percentage of QSR staff agreed, with 73% expecting customers to give them no more than two chances before they voted with their feet.
Operators must act
“Given current staff shortages, tight budgets and supply chain issues, the pressure is really on for operators to ensure that their staff have the time and space in which to ‘look after’ the fundamental customer demands and consistently deliver the experience their customers expect.
Staff obviously only have a finite amount of time so it’s critical they are focused on the areas which will deliver the greatest return. Quality and relevant training, great leadership, and company culture, as well as emerging technology, are all critical enablers here.”
By incorporating digital menus via self-serve kiosks in the venue or via a branded order & pay app, operators can facilitate this need from customers and crucially, give their staff better job satisfaction and enjoyment. When faced with fierce competition to recruit from a rapidly decreasing recruitment pool, operators need to look to tech to make their working environment as attractive as possible to future employees.
A leading commentator within the hospitality industry and Editor of Tech on Toast, Chris Fletcher says:
“Technology is here to stay. I’ve been in this industry all my life and the best part about it is the people. However, we are challenged on the people front and need to embrace change and quickly. How you embrace and integrate technology into your overall strategy will decide how your business will grow over the next digital era.”
pointOne’s CEO Steven Rolfe agrees,
“We know that hospitality is not the most desirable career path for many, a challenge the industry must conquer, but knowing that a better use of tech can ultimately take away a lot of the tasks that are less desirable and make a career in hospitality about actually delivering hospitality to customers is a valuable thing.”