Mr. Biggs was once the no-brainer option for Sunday afternoon meals but that is no more. This is a pretty straightforward analysis of one of the reasons the fast food giant went under. If you have ever eaten at any diner recently, you should be familiar with the “eat-in or take-out?” question that servers ask to ascertain what how your order should be packaged. Mr. Biggs’ downward spiral began when smaller and newer outfits started asking customers that question that seemed so unnecessary at the time – something the fast food giant was not doing; at least not yet.
This traditional Mr. Biggs experience entailed either going to an outlet with your family or breezing in on your way to work, and getting your food served in disposable plates and plastic cutlery. Kids had no problem eating with plastic cutlery because the spoons and forks were just the right size for them. Most adults had no problems with the forks because, technically, fork sizes don’t matter. The disposable plates were not as much an issue as the spoons were and anyone who has been forced to eat at snail speed knows this feeling of anguish.
A lot of disgruntled customers complained about this to the servers/waiters and got no reasonable response or change. Two important things to note; firstly, the customers complained to the waiters because, at the time, Mr. Biggs had no channels for customer complaints and suggestions. Secondly, the customers complained to the wrong persons. The waiters were not in any position to effect any real change at the time and it was logical to assume that even if the servers relayed the customers’ concerns to the management, the management simply ignored them. Needless to say, lots of customers were lost to smaller brands that have grown to be huge names in the fast food sector and Mr. Biggs’ name and the goodwill attached to it could do nothing to salvage the situation.
Mr. Biggs did not really lose to competition, Mr. Biggs lost to itself. The importance of creating channels for effective customer feedback reception cannot be overemphasized. Apart from the direct benefits of knowing what the customers want [and do not want], there is the advantage of increased customer loyalty that is usually the result of the perception that the business holds their (the customers’) opinion in high regard. The more customers feel that a business is there to fulfill their needs and solve their problems, the easier for them to see themselves in a central position and that is exactly how to run and sustain a business.
Often ignored is the important fact that potential customers get a lot of their information about a business from the feedback they can get about it from previous customers. Creating a channel for people to vent ensures that they do not vent to potential customers who will eventually turn away from patronizing you because of the negative feedback they got. Listening to all channels and measuring the sentiments towards your brand are very important to ensuring that the customers get the best experience and also recommend your services to others. As in the Mr. Biggs case, the unsatisfied customers had no proper channel to give effective feedback so it will not be far-fetched to assume that apart from ranting to the servers, they also ranted to other customers and would-be customers.
One will ask; why was it so hard for them to establish a communication channel and adopt suggestions from their customers? The problem was a structural one. Mr. Biggs outlets were run by franchise partners who had to operate within the strict conditions of the franchise agreements. This structure was plagued by bureaucracy which made reviews almost impossible, or in easier situations, very cumbersome. This meant that the branch managers could do absolutely nothing to effect any change that would have pacified the customers since it could be seen as non-compliance and could cost them the franchise. As odd as it seems, a lot of branches that closed before the decline were shut down due to non-compliance issues. Mrs. Ethel Mba, Marketing Manager, UAC Restaurants Limited, confirmed the shutting down of several outlets saying, “Restaurants are run by franchise partners and we have to ensure that activities around them are in conformity with the company’s brand. In a situation we don’t see such, we might be forced to temporarily close the restaurant, either to upgrade or do a facelift.”
Also, Mr. Biggs was famous for its meat pies (millennials just took a deep breath of nostalgia) and Jollof Rice. There was no debate as to what joint could give the best tasting pastries at the time but this was until Tantalizers came along and included Nigerian dishes in their menu. This became a problem for Mr. Biggs when they tried to include Nigerian dishes in their menu too. More often than not, businesses that are strong household names in certain products lose credibility when in their bid to expand to more products, quality of their flagship products get watered down. As soon as Mr. Biggs started having Nigerian dishes on their menu, the quality of their pastries took a nosedive – and since they couldn’t make Nigerian dishes as well as their competition, their revenue went down with the quality.
While many have argued that other factors like inconsiderate pricing, and poor customer service were also reasons why the franchise went under, it is important to note that all these problems were secondary as they could have been solved if there was an effective system for communication set in place – making communication the primary cause of the demise.
How well is your business communicating?