Predictive Analytics and The New Reality

At the recent MURTEC Restaurant Next event, RMS Chief Strategy Officer Joel Davis shared his views on using data to enhance customer service, loyalty and revenue

Davis, who leads RMS’ analytics and data strategy discipline, shared insights on WHY and HOW data matters now, given these pivotal times. His counsel? The data types and timeframes to rely on have changed. Data’s importance hasn’t.

Davis cautioned brands not to fall in line with the common belief (born out of very real and understandable frustrations) that none of their data matters because customer behavior has so fundamentally changed. In fact, says Davis, data is more useful than ever.

Not only is data more useful than ever, he goes on to say, but brands have enough of it.

“Brands are asking ‘Do we have enough data?’ because of a concern about the relevance of past data,” Davis said. “The answer is yes. If there was ever a time to dive deep into customer behavioral data, that’s now. But brands may need to use it in different ways. And pandemic or not, brands need to carefully consider which decision support models will guide their decisions — and prioritize those models and the data that support them.”

In short, brands need to be ready to shift at a moment’s notice. And everyone up and down the org chart needs to know how they will make decisions and what data they’ll base those decisions on.

Notes Davis: “The half-life of data these days is drastically shorter. You can’t assume that what held true two months ago still applies today or will matter tomorrow. If consumer patterns could be predicted by 6 to 12 months based on the past, it’s more like three to six weeks now. We must deploy analytics faster than before.”

For example, consider Florida, which allowed full capacity for dining in, in late September. “Even if this feels like back to normal,” said Davis. “we are still seeing shifts in demand on a week-to-week basis. And if restrictions change, people will reshuffle and modify their habits, creating yet another new normal.”

Building an environment where the business can rapidly learn what the customer is doing now — not what they’ve done over the past three years — will be key for predicting what the customer will do in the next three weeks. Some brands are already doing that. For instance, Davis says, a global QSR is using analytics in both Front of House to make automated recommendations at the drive through, and Back of House to manage and benchmark their financial data. This allows them to quickly get on top of new trends and ordering patterns to understand where they have cost savings versus their peer group.

What is the result of all the changes brands are making due to COVID? More data. Take those QR codes popping up on tables everywhere. They aren’t just a way to put diners at ease and save staff time cleaning reusable menus. They also provide more data points that can help brands further optimize the client experience.

If you don’t use all the data immediately, don’t worry, he advises. This isn’t fishing. You don’t have to catch and release. For example, even if you don’t have a system to integrate behavior patterns around QR codes, keep collecting the data. The opportunity for insights may arise in the future.

Finally, not everything pre-COVID is irrelevant. Take the customer satisfaction survey. It’s been a useful communication exchange for decades. But in 2020, you may not need the questions about restroom cleanliness and parking amenities. Instead, you may need to know if your staff was masked. So keep the survey, but change the questions to get real-time feedback that’s relevant to the situation your guest faces now.

RMS is constantly at work examining how we can use our expertise, data insights and technology to help support the restaurant and hospitality industry. We have new studies in the works, including additional insights about QR codes, technologies like natural language processing (NLP) and edge computing. Sign up for our newsletter and customer insights so you won’t miss a thing.

And if you need our assistance creating your own data plan, we are here to help.

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