Staff shortages are damaging customer experience
The cracks caused by staff shortages are really beginning to show, according to new consumer and hospitality staff research by KAM Media for pointOne, which reveals that customer experience, particularly in QSR, is being damaged by the current crisis.
In their survey of 500 QSR customers and 100 frontline staff, nearly two in three customers had noticed venues they have visited being short-staffed over the last three months and one in five said they'd waited longer to be seated and served than normal.
Staff too are beginning to feel the strain, with 59% of staff admitting that customer experience is suffering in their venue due to lack of staff. The research suggests that the knock-on effect of shortages is also leading to an overload of work on existing staff and subsequent stress and dissatisfaction, with an alarming 64% of staff saying that working in hospitality is less enjoyable now than it was pre-pandemic.
Far from feeling threatened by it, venues embracing time-saving technologies would improve their job satisfaction, says 64% of hospitality staff. 94% of them are confident that technology can help them do their job.
Blake Gladman, Strategy & Insights Director at KAM, said: "Given current staff shortages, tight budgets and supply chain issues, the pressure is really on for operators to ensure that their staff have the time and space in which to ‘look after' the fundamental customer demands and consistently deliver the experience their customers expect. Staff obviously only have a finite amount of time so it's critical they are focused on the areas which will deliver the greatest return. Quality and relevant training, great leadership, and company culture as well as emerging technology are all critical enablers here."
Steve Rolfe, founder at pointOne said: "Hospitality has taken a hammering since restaurants were forced to close their doors last March and since then the need to quickly adjust operations has been relentless. As we emerge out of this pandemic with the latest pressures of staff shortages, it may not feel like the ‘light at the end of the tunnel' moment we were looking for, but this could be a timely fork in the road for many operators. It offers a fantastic opportunity to completely re-evaluate their operation and implement automation tools that can free up employees' time for the part of the job they really love, which is giving the customer a great experience."
The demand for the ‘human touch' and connection is still absolutely at the heart of a memorable customer experience and in fact has grown in importance post-pandemic, even in a QSR environment; more than 40% of customers saying staff friendliness and also knowledge is even more important to them now compared with 20 months ago.
Customers are desperate for service with a smile with 1-in-3 wanting staff to pro-actively engage with them, even in a QSR environment. However, more than 1-in-10 just want to be left alone while in a venue, with minimal contact with staff. Customers who want the most interaction from staff are women (compared with men), customers with children and perhaps surprisingly Generation Z; only 7% said they prefer to be left alone by staff compared with 17% of over 55 years olds.
Gladman comments: "Outstanding customer experience demands a human touch. It requires empathy, flexibility and passion. These skills can be harder to train and take a greater level of emotional and intellectual knowledge to deliver effectively. Operators need to create an environment in which these skills can flourish. The danger of having too many processes and menial tasks for staff to deal with is that they can negatively impact the capacity for them to connect with customers."
Rolfe comments: "We know that hospitality is not the most desirable career path for many, a challenge the industry must conquer, but knowing that a better use of tech can ultimately take away a lot of the tasks that are less desirable and make a career in hospitality about actually delivering hospitality to customers is a valuable thing."
The independent research commissioned by pointOne has been published in a white paper, People + Tech: A New Era of Customer Experience in QSR, available to download here.