How TGI Fridays uses VOC data to build personalised VIP experiences

From AI chatbots to timely personal messages, Sherif Mityas - Chief Experience Officer, tells us how TGI Fridays caters for a VIP customer experience

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Sherif Mityas

Customer Data and Analytics

Ahead of his session in CX Network Live: Customer Insights and Data Analytics, Sherif Mityas shares his insights on how TGI Fridays personalises customer experience and how data is being used to delight customers and remove points of friction. 

CX Network: Getting to know the customer is vital in the dining sector. How does TGI Fridays practically tackle this task? 

Sherif Mityas: At TGI Fridays, getting to know our guests is about understanding how, when and what they think about when considering food or beverage occasions. Are they going out to lunch, or are they going out for family Friday night meals, or are they going out with co-workers during happy hour?

Read: How to use data to create the ideal customer experience

Additionally, what do they like to eat and what their taste preferences are. Do they like cocktails or wine, or do they prefer ribs or salads? It is about really trying to put together a really very complete profile of who our guest is. Ultimately, this allows us to tailor how we engage with our customers when they’re out for a food and beverage occasion.

CX Network: How are you using that data to delight customers and remove points of friction?

Sherif Mityas: We personalise our content as we know more about the customer on a personal level. In today’s digital world, we can hone in on a customer’s food preference, allowing us to tailor our marketing and communication efforts. For example, if one customer has a particular preference for ribs, we will not send any communications about salad, as there will likely be less engagement.

We can do this through our text and email channels. To help facilitate the engagement, we also utilise AI powered bots that have discussions with guests on Facebook, Twitter and Amazon Alexa.

Another element of personalisation is time. If a customer orders every Friday at 6pm, the AI tool can send a very specific message on Friday before the usual order time with their likely items already in their online basket for the guest to complete.

It can be as something as simple as an intractable thumbs up or thumbs down. Ensuring timely and personal communications is how we’re creating a frictionless experience and increasing our customer loyalty. When we can anticipate customer needs and make their order interaction a little easier, we reinforce that customer bond.

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We may extend these features and capabilities to our physical restaurants in the future. Imagine a scenario where a host or hostess has a wearable device in their ear that is synchronised with our phone application. If a customer has the application installed and walks into a restaurant, the server will have the data available to greet the customer by name.  Additionally, the server can ask if you want your favourite drink or meal based on the specific guest’s profile.

That level of personalisation and creating a VIP-like experience is now possible with the latest technology and data gathering systems.

CX Network: How does voice of the customer data influence the future of customer journeys?

Sherif Mityas: When we started listening to the voices of our customers, collecting the data, understanding and mapping out how customer journeys differ from one another, it became easy to spot the points of friction that we’d inadvertently created.

I’ll give you two examples. The first is waiting for the check. There are few things inside a restaurant that can kill an experience more than waiting for a check so you can leave, but the solution is simple. We all have phones, and you can pay for transactions on your phones for an array of things, so why not extend this to the restaurant space? All one has to do is press a prompt and they are free to walk straight out–entirely removing a friction point.

Another friction point flagged by our customers is re-ordering drinks. There are often times where you’re waiting for your food, you’ve already finished your first drink and you want a second. Now you can order on your phone without having to wait for the server. It’s a win-win, because it puts the guest in control and drives incremental revenue for the brand.

Re-ordering drinks can be a much simpler process through an app. Source: TGI Fridays

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The customer experience is always better when it’s on the customers terms and they’re controlling their own path. When you think about replicating this at every pass, there is an opportunity to create differentiated experiences for our guests.  

CX Network: Convenience is a crucial element of customer experience, especially as a lot of customers are time poor in today’s society.

Could you elaborate on how TGI Friday's is using sophisticated technology, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), to delight and personalise experiences.

Sherif Mityas: We have several AI tools that we use for processes such as marketing engagement, sending out personalised messages, re-order messages, reminder messages, and content messages to our guests; these are all AI driven.

In addition, we use AI for our bots, on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Alexa and Google Home which direct our guests through the funnel. With these technologies, we can engage our guests and create revenue streams that have an innate stickiness and ability to instill loyalty from our guests.

There is more to do in this regard. We’re currently testing an AI powered virtual mixologist inside our restaurants. Imagine coming into a bar on a Friday night and interacting with a tablet or app that will, based on your taste preferences and food pairing, create a bespoke one of a kind cocktail. That’s personal.

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This goes beyond a secret menu, it’s your menu. This is what will separate us from the competition as there are a thousand pubs and bars out there, but only one place that will make you a one-of-a kind drink. I know where I would go.  

CX Network: What in you opinion is the biggest data mistake to make in the realm of customer experience?

Sherif Mityas: The biggest mistake is thinking you need to have all the data! When we first started TGI Fridays, everyone told us: 'you have to collect all the data, create the data links and put all the data into one system'. There was the assumption that more data was better, but this is false. More data is just more noise, it’s not relevant and it’s expensive.

Instead, it’s about collecting the right data,  the data that will create a difference in the action you want to deliver. Data that will inform your AI tools to create a better, relevant and more personalised message.

CX Network: Looking ahead to 2020, how you think the customer experience landscape will develop in how companies are delighting their customers.

Sherif Mityas: Customer experience and personalisation will become synonymous. Initially, it was about discerning what you want customers to experience when they walk into your store or visit your website. However, right now and for the next couple of years, the focus will be on personalisation. If you don’t offer a relevant and personal CX you will lose that customer to a competitor.

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The word “personal” has become the most important word in customer experience. One size fits all no longer exists.

CX Network: From an organisation’s perspective, it can be labour intensive.

Sherif Mityas: It is quite a task, but with the right technology it is doable. With AI and machine learning, you can achieve personalisation at scale and the rewards are vast if you can execute it well. We serve half a million guests every day, we couldn’t personalise without utilising technology.

CX Network: Your session at Customer Insight and Analytics will delve into return on investments in the CX space. How do you approach ROI with CX projects?

Sherif Mityas: Metrics always need to be attached when you're looking to move the needle. I need to see where that extra dollar went, did the strategy engage with the guests, were guests more responsive?  You can tie engagement and experience with future sales.

"You have to remove yourself from the myth that everything you do has to create a dollar tomorrow"

That’s not how guests operate. There is lead time for these actions and you have to abide by the premise that being more connected to your consumers is always better. Remember, if they’re not connected with you, they’re connected to a competitor.  

You may not get that dollar back tomorrow, but driving loyalty from your engagements will ensure that you’re not giving up that dollar next week. That is the lifeblood of any B2C brand.

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We start every day with zero customers. You can’t just open the doors and hope people walk in. Hope isn’t a strategy. You need to build the engagement, connections, and stickiness so you know when you open those doors people will be there. You can only achieve this with the customer experience. Anyone can serve burgers, ribs and beer, but the reason people come to TGI Fridays instead of other places is the outstanding experience.

Brands that don’t mature to take on that mindset and accept that some customer experience initiatives will have longer lead times will put themselves in a very dangerous position.


Adam Muspratt
Content Producer
IQPC Digital