by George Nott

CIO50 2017 #25: Christian McGilloway, Retail Zoo

Nov 21, 2017
Technology Industry

An unsatisfied customer will tell 10 people about their bad experience, goes the old marketing adage (these days it’s closer to 24). Most are unlikely to tell the business.

“More often than not brands wait for customers to complain, but what about those who don’t take the time to get in touch and stopped coming? Or worse, tell their friends about a negative experience?” asks Christian McGilloway, chief technology innovation officer at Retail Zoo, home to Boost Juice Bars, Salsa’s Fresh Mex Grill, Cibo Espresso, and Betty’s Burgers.

Boost Juice previously relied on a mystery shopper program, and it was this single experience by one individual was how the brand benchmarked its stores for customer experience.

“Over time we came to realise that the math just wasn’t adding up, with over two million smoothies being served every month but only 270 pieces of feedback, something had to be done to gain a true understanding of the customer experience,” McGilloway, who has been with the company since 2013, explains.

The solution came through adding a star scoring feature to Boost Juice’s popular app, through which more than half of its customers access loyalty cards and vouchers.

The app now sends a notification to customers after every third purchase, inviting them to rate their experience, the whole process taking a matter of seconds. The responses connect to Boost’s back end systems via Zendesk’s Rest APIs, filtered into an internal BI platform.

The company has been able to save a significant sum on the mystery shopper program.

“However, the true saving on the project is through the efficiency which Boost can react to customers,” McGilloway, who was promoted to his position from the Head of Digital role in May, says. “Boost is able to address any issues customers have and make it up to them within 15 minutes of the experience.”

And having gone from 270 pieces of feedback per month to more than 20,000, the company can better respond to complaints; sending low rating customers a free drink voucher and enabling franchisees to make improvements.

Getting fruity

McGilloway and his team of nine has also been responsible for rolling out a series of chatbots as part of a marketing campaign for a new Boost smoothie. Playing into Boost’s cheeky humoured brand personality, and target audience, the chatbots conversed with users before presenting them with a voucher.

The team built its own PHP API to communicate with the Facebook Messenger platform. This two-way communication platform was stored on Heroku and because of the scalability of the server it allowed the ability to handle millions of server calls effortlessly.

Google Firebase was chosen to store chat sessions and barcode hashes because of its speed of the data delivery, this was further optimised by storing all of the data in JSON format to keeping everything clean and lightning fast.

Five Cron engines were developed to enhance the experience so customers felt they were chatting to a real person.

“By being first to market to play with this technology and using it in an engaging manner it allowed Boost to build a stronger brand affinity with users and drive sales. The fruit-bots mimicked how Boost’s target demographic interacted on Tinder, asking several open-ended questions back and forth, before making an excuse on why it had to go and leaving the customer with a voucher,” McGilloway says.

Pivot with the customer

McGilloway considers himself fortunate to work for a company where digital innovation is a key pillar in reaching its demographic.

As Boost Juice founder, Shark Tank star Janine Allis put it: “Christian has been instrumental in the digital revolution of Boost and we believe this space integral to our businesses future success.”

But that doesn’t mean embracing technologies for the sake of it.

For example, Retail Zoo has taken a close look at wearables (the Boost app already interfaces with the Apple Watch and Android wearables) but when the team looked at porting the ordering platform to them, “it felt too forced,” he says. Two years ago Boost launched a click and collect app, but online ordering didn’t hit a critical mass among customers.

“How much of this innovation is for the sake of company board reports and our peers?” he asks.

For him, it is the customer that drives the direction of future moves.

“The only thing that I can say with confidence is that the customer is always right and data is the voice of the customer. We have to innovate, take chances and not be afraid of failure,” he says. “However any CIO must be ready to swallow their pride and pivot to embrace and react to this failure to read their customers’ needs.”

The click and collect app has been pivoted into the five star feedback feature instead.

“It is through this continuous development and testing with our own consumers that gives us the results on whether we continue to pursue and integrate technology and systems and not what an article in CIO or Wired Magazine says,” McGilloway explains.

“As a result are now going to pivot yet again with the app by developing the mobile communications aspect through integrating beacons, machine learning and reviewing our loyalty offering. We are in the process of gamifying our loyalty offering and have the app vehicle to do this. We know where people are, what they are purchasing in store and through machine learning and gamification we will be able to deliver challenges to users on their device to increase their frequency of purchase, regardless of if it is purchased through the app or instore,” he says.