The Seven Pillars of Customer Centricity

Outback Steakhouse, Panera, Chick-Fil-A top foodservice ranking

CINCINNATI -- With the release of it first Customer Centricity Index (CCI), dunnhumby, a leading customer science company, is measuring how well retailers are responding to the needs and wants of their customers through the eyes of their customers. The dunnhumby Customer Centricity Index weighs customers' perceptions of retailers against "The Seven Pillars of Customer Centricity," or primary business areas most critical for achieving a long-term customer focus.

The report and ranking focuses on the restaurant industry with a deeper look into three primary categories: Casual Dining, Fast Casual and Fast Food. Outback Steakhouse and Panera Bread score at the top of the Food Service Retail ranking overall as well as within their respective categories, Casual Dining and Fast Casual. Chick-Fil-A came in at No. 7 on the overall Food Service ranking, but ranked the highest within the Fast Food category.

Top-Scoring Foodservice Retailers:

  1. Outback Steakhouse
  2. Panera Bread
  3. Texas Roadhouse
  4. Olive Garden
  5. Chili's
  6. Red Lobster
  7. Chick-Fil-A
  8. In 'N' Out Burgers
  9. Cracker Barrel
  10. Applebee's

dunnhumby found that companies with higher CCI scores also tended to have higher long-term comparable sales growth over a two-year period.

"Restaurants face more operational challenges in becoming customer-centric organizations than other categories of retail as franchise models often make it difficult to consistently deliver the same customer experience across outlets and, ultimately, build long-term loyalty with customers," said Euan White, senior vice president of consumer markets at dunnhumbyUSA, Cincinnati. "Our research shows that customer centricity is a key indicator of business health and potential for growth. It also shows that food retailers that understand what drives a customer to their brand are leveraging that insight to differentiate themselves from the competition and drive sales."

The firm rated more than 100 foodservice retailers by their customers via an online survey over a nine-month period, and it asked them to rate each retailer on more than 40 customer-centric attributes based on the Seven Pillars of Customer Centricity. Retailer scores are based on a weighted average of those results that link the various factors of customer centricity to loyalty and likelihood to recommend. It classified respondents as customers of a retailer based on trips occurring at the retailer in the past three months.

The Seven Pillars of Customer Centricity

  1. Experience. Making the customer experience easy, enjoyable and convenient. High-scoring companies make customers so happy they want to share positive experiences.
  2. Loyalty. Rewarding and recognizing customers in a consistent way that is relevant to how they want to be rewarded. High-scoring companies reward customers in the ways that are meaningful to them.
  3. Communications. Personalizing the message to customers based upon what they buy and in a way they like. High-scoring companies provide tailored, relevant communications based on customer preferences.
  4. Assortment. Having the right products and a strong variety to meet customers needs. High-scoring companies don't have the widest selection of products, just the ones their customers want.
  5. Promotions. Leveraging promotions on the items that are most appealing and often purchased by current customers. High-scoring companies promote the products that matter the most to customers.
  6. Price. Providing prices that are perceived to be in line with what the customer is looking for on the products they purchase most often. High-scoring companies don't have to be the price leaders, but need to have pricing customers perceive as fair.
  7. Feedback. Hearing and recognizing customer concerns. High-scoring companies create a two-way conversation.

Key findings from the dunnhumby Food Service CCI:

  • A strong customer experience, personalized communications and a tailored assortment mix that meet customer needs had the strongest impact on customer centricity and higher CCI scores/rankings.
  • Across all foodservice categories, price was important to customers but was less about "lowest price" and more heavily tied to perceived value. For example, Outback Steakhouse's CCI score for price was slightly higher than competitors with a similar or lower price point. This indicates that Outback customers perceive a stronger value for their purchases than at competitive restaurants.
  • Casual Dining and Fast Casual retailers were rated higher than Fast Food retailers by customers in terms of experience and opportunities for them to give feedback and interact with the company; therefore, Casual Dining and Fast Casual restaurants overall tended to have higher CCI scores than Fast Food.
  • Outback Steakhouse, No. 1 on the Food Service CCI, scored high in assortment and feedback but excelled within both Food Service and Casual Dining in experience. Insights from customer responses reflect the quality of the brand experience and how it translates seamlessly across the way the brand is marketed and the products they serve.
  • Panera Bread, the Fast Casual category leader, scored higher than competitors in each of the seven pillars and significantly higher in loyalty. Customers indicated an appreciation for the retailer's personalized rewards and surprise and delight features of Panera's MyPanera loyalty program.
  • For the Fast Food category leader, Chick-Fil-A outscored competitors in experience, communication, feedback and assortment. Customer responses indicated that their customers were passionate for the brand, the quality of the food and the variety of their assortment.