Customer Experience Tech Yields Major Growth for Smashburger

By Jeremy Morgan, senior vice president marketing & consumer insights, Smashburger | October 08, 2012

Known for premium, handmade burgers and an extremely loyal base of “Smashfans,” Smashburger (www.smashburger.com) has emerged as one of America’s hottest new restaurant chains. Over the next four years, Smashburger is scheduled to leverage its recipe for great burger experiences to grow its 164-unit chain to more than 450 locations across the nation.

With that growth plan in place, it became apparent that the most daunting challenge for Smashburger would be scaling current success to new markets and geographies. Hitting growth targets without sacrificing key brand characteristics would require Smashburger to find solutions to a trio of growth challenges.

Quality. It was a given that the brand’s high quality standards had to be maintained at every Smashburger location, no exceptions. To accomplish that, Smashburger needed a resource that would enable the sharing of best practices, from high-performing locations to new and under-performing locations.

Localization.
Each Smashburger region customizes its menu with a unique burger and signature flavors geared to its geographic area. As the chain eyes rapid expansion, managers would need access to local customer feedback insights and improvement plans that are relevant to their guests.

Brand Consistency. As new locations come onboard, every location manager would need to be resourced and instructed on how to deliver the “perfect guest experience” that Smashfans have come to expect from the franchise.
To address its expansion challenges, Smashburger selected Empathica Local (www.empathica.com), a Customer Experience Management (CEM) product designed to help brands deliver consistent customer experiences across multiple locations.

Smashburger was drawn to the Empathica Local solution because it provides the ability to improve guest experiences by making better use of customer communications and feedback. Rather than simply gathering raw feedback data, Empathica Local translates feedback into operational improvements — driving higher quality brand experiences and positive word-of-mouth.

At the local level, the new solution gives multi-site Smashburger managers a way to distill guest feedback into localized actions. Location managers can receive quick feedback highlights and action plans that specifically target improvements at their respective locations.

Since the Empathica Local solution facilitates the social sharing of best practices, Smashburger is also able to equip location managers with a living library of the practices that have succeeded at the brand’s top locations. This enables Smashburger to deliver insights about how managers can apply best practices at their sites, ensuring brand consistency and giving location managers the tools they need to create perfect Smashburger experiences.

The social domino effect
In addition to Empathica Local, Smashburger implemented GoRecommend, Empathica’s social media advocacy application. While Empathica Local focused on improving the quality of the Smashburger experience, GoRecommend helps transform legions of Smashfans into brand advocates who share positive word-of-mouth about the Smashburger experience with people via social networks.

The results of Smashburger’s implementation of the Empathica Local and GoRecommend solutions have been remarkable. So far, these applications have delivered several measurable outcomes for the brand. During the initial rollout period, the Empathica Local solution delivered a 5.5 percent increase in guest satisfaction scores compared to a one percent improvement at control locations. Smashburger pilot locations achieved an eight percent improvement in focus areas within the first two months of using the solution. The GoRecommend application has helped Smashburger generate upwards of 12,000 social media recommendations, resulting in more than two million impressions on friends’ and followers’ social media newsfeeds.

Most importantly, Empathica Local and GoRecommend equip Smashburger with the tools it needs to successfully navigate an aggressive growth strategy. By proactively leveraging the benefits of customer experience management technology, the brand has been able to achieve rapid expansion while maintaining the quality of Smashburger’s legendary guest experience.

Jeremy Morgan is the senior vice president of marketing and consumer insights at Smashburger. Morgan has seven years of strategy experience in retail and business to consumer brands. He is also the vice president of strategy of Consumer Capital Partners (CCP).     


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