CMO Roundtable: Creating An Exceptional Customer Experience
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CMO Roundtable: Creating An Exceptional Customer Experience

CMO Roundtable: Creating An Exceptional Customer Experience

How do you create an exceptional customer experience at your brand that attracts loyal customers and sets you apart from the competition?


Nick Bergelt, Chief Concept Officer, Stoner's Pizza JointNick Bergelt
Chief Concept Officer
Stoner's Pizza Joint

Approximately 3 billion pizzas are sold each year at hundreds of thousands of pizza concepts. So it was vital for us to create a best-in-class customer experience that would differentiate us. Stoner's Pizza Joint was founded as a small, family-owned concept, and we've made it our mission to maintain that local pizza shop vibe as we grow and evolve.

Studies have shown that coupons are critical in attracting first-time guests, especially in the pizza segment where concepts are a dime a dozen and price points vary greatly. With customer acquisition costs in the restaurant space being pretty high, we've found that coupons or free incentives are an efficient way to get exploratory customers in the door initially. But it's up to us to create an experience that will motivate them to return. Our own research has shown us that we need to market three positive guest experiences. If we do that successfully, it will give us a 70 percent-plus chance that those customers will become lifers.

These stats are the foundation of our marketing mix, and an integral piece of our hospitality training for our staff. We empower all staff to identify first-timers at the point of purchase--and then "surprise and delight" them with a free offer to try one of our desserts if they didn't elect to try one. When they return to redeem that free dessert, we surprise and delight them again by offering a free appetizer at their next visit. This small investment helps us create those three critical positive customer experiences that, ultimately, will drive them to become lifers. We do this through three approaches: great pizza, driving them to try other items, and providing a differentiated, hospitality-driven experience.

We believe the relationships we cultivate with our customers are the crux of our success, and we've based our culture on the fact that customers return 49 percent based on what we do and 51 percent based on how we make them feel.

We know that our success and growth are the direct result of word-of-mouth referrals, so we strive to create the best experience possible for our customers at every touch point, even when they're dining off-premises. For us, this means making real connections, propelling our internal growth with a hospitality-driven culture, and becoming the best at developing these relationships within our communities. Further, we believe that if our growth is driven with authenticity and a moral fiber that permeates all decision-making, we'll drive unparalleled guest frequency and loyalty, which will lead to a sustainable and strong economic model that wins out over time.


Marcel Nahm, Vice President, Marketing, Auntie Anne'sMarcel Nahm,
Vice President, Marketing
Auntie Anne's

For Auntie Anne's, creating an exceptional experience starts with a deep understanding of our guest and their snacking journey: their needs and desires, pain points, and the choices they have. We're an impulse purchase, not a destination. We rely on foot traffic--that's why you find us in places like shopping malls and airports, but also increasingly in more non-traditional locations like urban streets, universities, and amusement parks. We have a very limited opportunity to convince passersby to stop, and the competition with other snack and food brands is intense.

When "Auntie" Anne Beiler opened her first pretzel stand in 1988, she created the Threefold Philosophy: a fresh, hot, golden brown soft pretzel served in a sparkling clean store with friendly, courteous customer service. While many things have changed in the past 30 years, it is important to recognize what has not changed. Commitment to great quality products, cleanliness, and outstanding customer service are core to Auntie Anne's, but that's only part of the picture.

We have to offer products that resonate with today's consumers. We know our guests are on the go and often with friends and family, so we offer products like Pretzel Nuggets that are convenient, portable, and shareable. Consumers also desire freshness, so all our pretzels are made with simple, easy-to-pronounce ingredients and rolled, twisted, and baked right in front of our guests. You can't get fresher than right out of the oven.

While our Original pretzel remains very popular, we know our guests also crave things that are innovative, fun, and Instagrammable. We meet this need by deploying a steady stream of LTOs, which help us stay relevant and differentiate us in a very competitive space.

While we rely on foot traffic, we also recognize that our locations, often within larger venues, aren't always the most convenient for our guests. We've addressed this by, as we say, bringing pretzels to the people. Catering, third-party delivery with partners like Grubhub, even food trucks that bake on-site at events are ensuring that our brand is convenient and relevant. We want to make sure our guests can enjoy a freshly baked pretzel anytime, anywhere. We also leverage technology to increase convenience for our guests through online ordering, a mobile app that provides rewards and information, and digital menu boards that enhance the in-store experience.

By delivering all of this--an exceptional product, unparalleled service, clean stores, innovation, and convenience--we're able to create a guest experience that engenders loyalty and distinguishes Auntie Anne's from the competition.

Published: May 11th, 2019

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