How Wendy's CX team is cooking up better social and digital service

Customer experience team at the US burger chain shares how it has evolved customer service from 4 to 11 channels and made an ally of marketing along the way

Front-end collaboration with cross-functional partners, closing the feedback data loop and hiring people who want to be customer-led are the keys to successful customer service evolution.

That at least is the secret sauce for the customer experience team at US burger chain, Wendy’s, who took to the stage at Salesforce Connections this week to share how the brand transformed its customer service management programs in order to better meet customers in the channels they want to engage through.

Customer experience coordinator, Kate Bentley, and CRM platform manager, Oana Polanco, said the company set out the task of better servicing customers and boosting engagement four years ago. This saw Wendy’s bring its contact centre in-house and started investigating which channels it should be offering support to customers through.

“In the age of paper, we used to have cards in a restaurant and customers would give feedback, positive or negative. The paper was shoved into a box and the general manager maybe looked once a day, week or year. There was no way of seeing or gathering that data or finding out what customers really thought of us,” she said.

Yet it didn’t matter what channels the Wendy’s team thought was important; it was about what customers think a brand should be offering to them and the channels they want to engage through, Polanco said.

“We needed to be where customers were, such as Facebook and Twitter. We were in those channels from a marketing perspective, and have a strong presence,” she told attendees. “We’re a fun brand to engage with - we even engage with other brands. But we were not doing a great job from customer service perspective.”  

For instance, Wendy’s was asking customers on social to send an email to the team. “That’s an imperfect experience because you’re being taken you out of your channel of choice,” Polanco said.  

Phases of evolution

Wendy’s embarked on a deliberate channels evolutions strategy. It kicked off with phone and SMS messaging, becoming one of the first brands to do SMS service at scale by rolling out the Haywire platform, the forerunner to the LiveMessage product in Salesforce.

“We had tight integration through the Salesforce Cloud, so we were able to respond to customers immediately, build cases, send these to field agents and get issues resolved quickly,” Polanco explained. “It was instant, which is so wonderful from a connections perspective.”

Polanco pointed to a customer who messaged Wendy’s saying they had been served cold fries at one of Wendy’s franchise restaurants.

“We engaged, identified the customer and their location, and one of our agents called the restaurant and told them there was an opportunity to make a bad experience a good experience,” Polanco said. “The store replaced the fries and gave the customer a free frosty. The customer was blown away by our immediacy.”

As Wendy’s added in more channels, it was vital to ensure consistent experiences in all channels. This saw the team bring in DEG’s Social Customer Care for Salesforce, keeping within the one platform offering.

“We had already integrated Salesforce with our alerts system for restaurants. Now we have keywords set-up in social studio automatically pushing cases to use then to appropriate customer care advocate,” she explained. “Then we have priority rules set up. For example, if someone has a foreign object in food, we may want to treat that with higher priority than cold fries. So we have routing in place for the social channels as well.”

The third phase was bringing in feedback on mobile app reviews. “We’re not just getting app feedback, it’s restaurant feedback too,” Polanco said. “We’re Wendy’s – everywhere our logo shows up is a place for customers to give feedback and for us to provide responses.

“We also noticed customers give feedback not to get something back necessarily, but because they want the restaurant to be better in the long run. They’re making an investment in that local place personally.”

This was followed by the launch of Salesforce Live Agent to provide live chat within the Wendy’s mobile app. “We wanted to try it [live chat] out, but we didn’t stick in website and have everyone jump to that right away, as we couldn’t estimate volume. We decided to try this in the mobile app,” Polanco said.  

Challenges and means to success

In all, Wendy’s has gone from four channels to 11. Growing through so many channels isn’t something that can be done flawlessly, Polanco admitted. One constant issue is how to ensure uniform experience for resolution for all customers across what is a franchised-based company.

“Each franchise runs their own business – they decide how and to what degree to resolve a customer issue. We can’t dictate the resolutions, so that’s a big challenge,” she said.

While many use customer satisfaction as a key metric in contact centres, Polanco said Wendy’s is more interested in volume. “Our success is based on how many customers we make happy and how many we service,” she said.

Wendy’s saw an increase of 140 per cent between years one and two, not surprising given it was shifting from pilot mode to a full systems launch. Now at the end of the third year, volume numbers are steadying to between 50 and 60 per cent.

Volume has also firmly moved to digital channels. In 2015, 25 per cent of customer service was undertaken via digital; in 2018 this was 40 per cent. Polanco expected it to rise to 60 per cent in the next year thanks to chatbots and other emerging digital technologies.  With both digital and social, response times is another key metric.

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Marketing and CX as allies

Bentley said front-end collaboration with cross-functional business partners across the organisation was vital to success.

“It’s very important to communicate well, freely and openly with all partners in the organisation,” she advised. “We work closely with R&D, QA, marketing. We know what marketing will push out before other people in the organisation, and we know what limited time offers are coming.

“It’s about making sure advocates have the best possible chance to satisfy customers and sound knowledgeable when a customer contacts us. If advocates aren’t trained on front end, they can’t service a customer when they’re calling or texting.

“You need to ensure open, communicative relationships with your business partners.”

On the back end, another key to success is closing the loop. “The data we collect is significant – we talk to lot of people every day. What do we do with that data? We provide detailed reports to business partners across the organisation,” Bentley said.

These look at limited time offer take-up and highs and lows, plus what customers like and don’t like. Research partners then take that insight to feed into the business.  

It’s also driving marketing initiatives. “Sometimes a commercial doesn’t go well with customers. We give that feedback to marketing, and dive into the detail,” Bentley said. “It’s good campaign effectiveness for them, and also provides valuable insight what the customer sees along different points in their journey.

“We’re not here just to deal with customers and shove them out the door. We are a great source of data, and we know what customers truly think.”

Thirdly, meeting modern customer service needs relies on having outstanding people, Bentley said. “We look for caring people that are nurturing, and who can connect with someone on person-to-person basis.

“Customers are talking to Wendy’s, so we need the persona and the right attitude to shine. If it’s over the phone, the customer should hear a smile. If it’s social, we’ll use appropriate sassiness when it’s called for.”  

As an example, Bentley noted Wendy’s quips back on Twitter to competitor and pancake QSR, IHOP, when the company swapped out the ‘p’ in favour of ‘b’ and rebranded itself international house of burgers.

“We wouldn’t be like that with a customer having issues, so our people need to mindful of voice as a brand and respond to customers appropriately that way,” she said.  

That’s also possible because marketing and service teams are tightly aligned from a social perspective, Polanco said.

“Not only do we stay in tune with what’s happening on promo side, we also want to know what a customer is being exposed to no matter where they are – advertising, social, a coupon in the mail, what’s on the service representative’s t-shirt and callouts on the menu board,” she said. “We want to know what the touchpoints are and how can we speak intelligently about those campaigns and offers, as well as resolve issues.”

Making this a reality is regular meetings between service and marketing to anticipate potential issues customers might reach out about. “Some are very unlikely, but we will map everything out and figure out what Wendy’s response needs to be,” Polanco said.  

“That’s about tight alignment, knowing the right people and bringing in those people regularly to share knowledge on both sides.”

-Nadia Cameron travelled to Salesforce Connections as a guest of Salesforce.

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