Kanari. Customer feedback for the mobile age.

It has been about 2 months since our last post, and that’s a lot longer than we would have liked. I’ve been meaning to write this one for the last few weeks now but we’ve been pretty busy with the beta launch of Kanari that I haven’t found the time. Its a pretty important post since we haven’t really talked about what Kanari is although if you’ve had the chance to take a look at our website then you probably have a decent idea of what we’re trying to build. I’ll go into a little more detail for you…

The Power of Word-of-Mouth

There are a couple of interesting things happening in highly service-oriented businesses and industries right now, especially in the hospitality and F&B industries. The advent of the internet, and social media in particular, has allowed consumer word-of-mouth to travel faster and farther than ever before in the history of humankind. The consequence of this is that consumer word-of-mouth and reviews (a la TripAdvisor, Yelp, blogs etc.) are replacing traditional forms of advertising and reputation. I, for example, use Booking.com to 1) research and select a hotel I want to stay at and then 2) book the actual room. The ability to check availability and reserve/pay for my room on Booking.com is a nice convenience but for me the value in using the platform lies in all the consumer reviews and ratings that are on there. They allow me to make what I perceive to be more informed decisions about how and where I spend my money – something that is very important to me.

What does this mean? Well, it means that businesses that want to be successful and competitive need to devise strategies and make managerial decisions that are, in part, driven by customer feedback. Don’t patronise customers and assume you know what’s important to them… Let them tell you instead. This is especially important in the restaurant industry, especially if you believe (like us) that restaurants sell experiences. If I want good food that’s made with fresh ingredients then I can go to a supermarket, buy all the ingredients and prepare myself a nice meal at home. If what I’m looking for, however, is a nice experience then I’ll happily pay a handsome premium to go to a good restaurant that has a vibrant atmosphere and great customer service.

The Paper Comment Card

The importance of the customer experience in the restaurant industry is nothing new and operators use a variety of methods to gauge it. Managers go around asking customers if they’re enjoying themselves, chains engage in social media monitoring and fine dining establishments hire mystery shoppers. These are all effective ways of capturing customer sentiment and gauging customer experience levels at their businesses. Then, of course, we have the good old paper comment card. This is the most basic of ways in which to listen to your customers, and it is still in use at the majority of restaurants today.

Our research and interviews with hospitality professionals uncovered three main issues with the paper comment card system.

Time Consuming

The first is that they’re just time consuming. Comment cards need to be designed, printed, handed out and then collected again. The information on them then needs to be tabulated and manipulated in Excel in order to prepare meaningful management reports. We’ve spoken to restaurant managers that literally spend hours a week doing this.

Low Response Rates

The second issue is that response rates on paper comment cards are low. Nobody really likes filling them out, especially if they’re long and tedious… who has the time to think about and answer 30 different questions when they just want to get their bill and leave? Surveys asking me for all sorts of personal details also put me off. How do I know that they’ll use those details in a manner that I consider ethical? I don’t… Instead, I expect to start receiving unsolicited SMS messages and emails that I can’t opt out of. Frontline staff members are the most well-positioned to boost response rates by actively asking customers to fill out feedback forms but unfortunately their short-term interests aren’t always aligned with those of the customers wishing to make suggestions or complaints, which brings me to the next point.

Disappearing Feedback

The final problem our interviews with hospitality industry professionals and restaurant owners uncovered was that they are worried that not all negative feedback makes it up the chain of command to the people that need to see it, i.e. them. This makes sense when you think about the situation where a customer is complaining about the level of customer service – he or she might have even singled out a staff member by name. It would be self-incriminating for that staff member to give that comment card to his or her superior so it oftentimes ends up in the bin. At the other extreme we’ve also heard from restaurant owners that believe some of their team members fill out comments cards with very positive feedback and pass it off as coming from customers.

Kanari – Customer Feedback for the Mobile Age

Kanari is a cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that addresses all the above issues and more. It allows restaurants to easily and cost-effectively solicit, collect, track and analyse feedback from their customers by incentivising them to fill out short experience surveys on their smartphones. The data that customers submit is aggregated, tabulated and charted by Kanari and then presented to restaurants in a web dashboard in a manner that is easy to digest and act on.

The whole time-consuming aspect of paper comment cards is, for obvious reasons, eliminated. Kanari takes every new customer feedback submission and automatically updates the analytics and web-dashboard on the fly, giving managers real-time access to all the customer feedback being received by the restaurant.

Kanari also boosts feedback response rates. Our short surveys are designed to be answered quickly and have a high bang-for-your-buck factor… 80% of the feedback for 20% of the time of typical restaurant surveys. In addition to being rewarding, surveys are submitted without any accompanying personal details. This reduces barriers and increases conversion even more.

Finally, because Kanari sends feedback directly from the customer to the restaurant dashboard it can not be intercepted, edited or tampered with by anyone. This gives restaurant owners the confidence that they now have the ability to listen to absolutely everything their customers are saying.

The Future

Our view is that businesses of today, and even more so the businesses of tomorrow, will need to be able to use data effectively in order to be successful in increasingly competitive marketplaces. Our vision for Kanari is for it to be the must-have tool for hospitality businesses that want to paint an accurate picture of their customer experience levels… After all, in a consumer-driven world, customer experience is the driver of financial performance.

We’re currently running a pilot program to test Kanari at Shakespeare and Co.’s outlet at the Al Attar Business Tower on Sheikh Zayed Road so swing by and check it out if you’re in the area. We’d love to hear your thoughts on your experience with the mobile survey interface… We’re trying to practice what we preach so any suggestions you make will be taken into consideration.

The results we’ve seen so far have been very interesting but we clearly have a lot to learn. That’s fine though… while it feels like a sprint it’s actually a marathon, and we have a lot of really cool features in the pipeline that we can’t wait to roll out for you guys.