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Retail isn’t the only industry focused on creating exceptional customer experiences. Every company that wants to succeed needs to keep customers happy and engaged.

At the 2016 SAP Retail Forum, Tripp Sessions, Former Chief Digital and Technical Officer, TGI Fridays, shared a few customer experience success stories from the hospitality industry and how they can apply to retail.

Tripp Sessions, Former Chief Digital and Technical Officer, TGI Fridays

Sessions opening slide contained just two words: manufacturing serendipity. We all know what serendipity means, and how great a serendipitous moment can feel, but what does it look like and can it be created?

“Serendipity looks like, meeting my wife on a street corner in Manhattan the same day I was supposed to marry someone else,” said Sessions.

Sessions explained how brands need to create situations that enable special things to happen. They need to think of ways to set customers up for unique and memorable experiences when interacting with the brand - and it doesn’t have to be product centric.

“Our job as retailers is to maximize the probability that when someone walks into our establishment they will experience a special moment,” said Sessions.

Easy is hard work

So what do those special moments look like? And how do you make them happen consistently if you have hundreds of locations around the world? That’s the challenge, the hard work, Sessions says.

He then revealed an interesting fact about the company. “TGI Fridays exists because the founder wanted to meet flight attendants,” joked Sessions. A funny but true story.

The brand has evolved significantly over the years. The fraternity party vibe it had in the 60’s has made way to a more family friendly atmosphere. So the company decided to inject more of its true roots into the customer experience and teach a whole new generation what TGI Fridays is all about.

“We had to ask ourselves some pretty fundamental questions,” said Sessions. “We are brick and mortar, and food is commoditized, so what should we do?”

The answer was to create environments and situations that make fun and unique things happen for customers.

“We came up with some crazy ideas,” said Sessions. “We figured out a way to digitize beer pong so people could use their phones to play. We also built credit card roulette into our normal payment feature.”

These innovations didn’t change the food and beverages served but they brought the experience of drinking and dining at TGI Fridays to life.

Data is your friend

TGI Fridays also combined its own customer data with public data from social media to enhance the customer experience.

“The most important thing in a bar is the bartender, and that bartender knowing who you are,” explained Sessions.

But at large national chains like TGI Fridays, it’s impossible for bartenders to know all of the customers, especially if it’s a loyal customer from another town. To solve this problem, Sessions and his team leveraged the SAP Hybris platform.

“We did a mash-up of the customer data in our loyalty database with first party data from social media check-in platforms, like Foursquare and Facebook,” said Sessions.

That enabled two things. First, they could now see when loyalty customers checked in at a TGI Fridays. Second, they could send a text message containing the customer’s profile picture and information about what food and drink they like to the bartender and GM on duty. 

“A loyalty customer could walk into any one of our locations and the bartender could say, hi Tripp, glad you made it, here’s a pint of your favorite IPA,” explained Sessions.

Sessions finished up with some guidance to think about when working on a customer experience project:

  • Fast is better than slow: Rapidly iterate and bring new ideas and concepts to market quickly, even if they aren’t perfect.

  • Data is your friend: Look beyond your own data. Reach out to the vast number of partners out there.

  • Easy is hard work: Creating something that is seamless and easy for customers to use the first time they see it takes a lot of effort.

  • Have fun: Because it will show through your work.

  • Don’t be creepy: Things can get creepy fast. Make sure that what you do is on point and drives value, but isn’t creepy.

That’s great advice for a company trying to improve the customer experience in any industry.

To learn how SAP helps Retailers thrive in the era of Digital Transformation, please check out Retail is Live


Related content:

Three Ways to Turn Innovative Ideas into Reality


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