WISK white logo-> All episodes <-

April 17, 2024

S2E22 - Building Connections Through Feedback with Zach Oates

Zach Oates, CEO of Ovation, shares insights on enhancing guest feedback for restaurants. Discover the power of human connection in hospitality!

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WISK white logo-> All episodes <-

April 17, 2024

S2E22 - Building Connections Through Feedback with Zach Oates

Zach Oates, CEO of Ovation, shares insights on enhancing guest feedback for restaurants. Discover the power of human connection in hospitality!

Apple Podcast player linkSpotify Podcast player linkGoogle Podcasts player link

Show notes

Episode Note

Zach Oates, Founder and CEO of Ovation, discusses the importance of human connection in the hospitality industry. He introduces Ovation, a platform that helps restaurants collect feedback from guests and improve their operations. Zach shares his journey to Ovation, including his experience in startups and the lessons he learned from dating. He emphasizes the value of recovering upset guests and building connections with customers. Zach also discusses the highs and lows of entrepreneurship and the importance of celebrating and practicing gratitude. He shares his future plans for Ovation and his personal goals.

Additionally,  Zack discusses the importance of customer feedback and how it can be used to improve business. He emphasizes the need for businesses to actively collect and analyze customer feedback, and shares strategies for using this feedback to make meaningful improvements. Oates also highlights the role of technology in the customer feedback process.

Takeaways

  • Human connection is essential in the hospitality industry.
  • Ovation helps restaurants collect feedback from guests and improve their operations.
  • Recovering upset guests can lead to increased loyalty and revenue.
  • Celebrating and practicing gratitude are important in navigating the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. Customer feedback is crucial for businesses to understand and improve the customer experience.
  • Collecting and analyzing customer feedback allows businesses to identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions.
  • Using customer feedback to make meaningful improvements can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Technology, such as Ovation's platform, can streamline the customer feedback process and provide valuable insights.

Timestamps

00:00: The Importance of Human Connection

01:17: Introduction to Ovation

06:02: The Guest Experience and the Importance of Convenience, Consistency, and Connection

09:50: Zach Oates' Journey to Ovation

17:00: Lessons from Dating and Building Connections

20:19: Collecting Feedback and Improving

24:35: Ovation's Product Journey and Customer Success

29:21: The Value of Recovering Upset Guests

34:11: Navigating the Highs and Lows of Entrepreneurship

39:23: The Importance of Celebrating and Enjoying the Journey

45:08: Practicing Gratitude and Finding the Hand of God

46:07: Future Plans for Ovation and Personal Goals

10:30: The Importance of Customer Feedback

20:15: Collecting and Analyzing Customer Feedback

30:45: Using Customer Feedback to Improve Business

40:20: The Role of Technology in Customer Feedback

47:32: Where to Find Zach Oates

Resources

Follow Zach Oates on Instagram!

Connect with Zack Oates via Linkedin!

Learn more about Ovation!

Transcript

Zack Oates [00:00:00]:

I loved getting to know people. I loved engaging with them. I loved building that connection. And that's part of the human element that I think has transcended all of my startups. And nonprofit is just like connecting with humans, and I think that's the. The core desire of every single individual.

Angelo Esposito [00:00:19]:

Welcome to Wisking It All with your host, Angelo Sposito, co founder of WISK.ai, a food and beverage intelligence platform. We're going to be interviewing hospitality professionals around the world to really understand how they do what they do. Welcome to another episode of Wisking It All. We're here today with Zach Oates, founder and CEO of Ovation. Zach, thank you for being here.

Zack Oates [00:00:47]:

What's up, Angelo?

Angelo Esposito [00:00:49]:

So excited to have you.

Zack Oates [00:00:51]:

Stoked to be here.

Angelo Esposito [00:00:52]:

Yeah, we're just talking about know you're going to fit in real well in know you got this colorful shirt on. You look great. I'm ready for you if you come down here.

Zack Oates [00:01:02]:

I'm ready to. I mean, I had someone come in to do my hair this morning.

Angelo Esposito [00:01:06]:

I love it.

Zack Oates [00:01:07]:

I'm kidding. I do my hair.

Angelo Esposito [00:01:09]:

It looks good, though. Looks good. I love it. Well, Zach, obviously we like to start off the show with the most obvious thing, which is just know, getting a bit of a story of what is ovation? So just quick intro, we'll go into more detail, but from your point of view and for our listeners, what is ovation?

Zack Oates [00:01:26]:

So, in the hospitality, first of all, I grew up in hospitality. My first job was at friendlies. My dad, when he retired from the NFL, he got into restaurants. He was an investor in a restaurant. So I was able to see restaurants from a young age. And one of the things I saw was that the guest experience is so critical, and yet you look today, and there's really two ways to do the guest experience. Either one, a very unscalable, one on one touch. It's hard to do that.

Zack Oates [00:01:56]:

It's hard to manage it. You don't get data from it. Or two are these long, annoying surveys. Nobody likes to take these long surveys. And so looking at my experience in building startups and in algorithms, I saw that there was a lot of data out there, and I was like, I wonder if there's a way that we could create a frictionless system to get feedback from guests and resolve that or drive revenue from that if they're happy. And give restaurant operators all of the data they need to take actionable insights to get to the root cause of what's going on, to figure out how to improve each location, even if they're in the hundreds or thousands of locations. And so the ovation was born, that idea. And since then, we now work with thousands of restaurants all around North America, working with some incredible brands.

Zack Oates [00:02:59]:

And we're really focused on doing just that, making sure the guest has an easy way to give feedback, making sure it's super simple to respond to that guest, to help them feel heard, and giving operators all of the data they need. And this is done with the power of algorithms and our AI. And because we're so focused on the restaurant space, we can get very specific and we can really hone in to exactly what each restaurant operator wants to know about their locations. Now, I could ask every single person, was your order accurate? Or you could use our algorithm that we've built over years of being in the restaurant industry. And we literally, to build the data set with our algorithm, we hired people full time, every single day. We had a whole team of people. And all they did, Angelo, was read restaurant feedback and categorize it based on what people are typically asking with long surveys. And what we found is when you get enough data, and ovation is unique in the approach that we get more data than anybody else, bar none.

Zack Oates [00:04:16]:

No one else has a higher guest engagement rate with feedback than ovation. Nobody, period. I have never come across a company that can get more higher percentage of guests to engage with their feedback. When you get that much feedback and you couple it with public online reviews, you can get a super rich data set. So I could know, hey, my sheboygan location needs to get retrained on how to make a pizza properly because they're overcooking their pizza. You can get that specific with just unstructured data as long as you know what you're doing. And luckily we do. So anyway, that's a little bit about ovation, what we're doing.

Zack Oates [00:04:56]:

And, man, it's exciting. It's a lot of fun.

Angelo Esposito [00:04:59]:

It is exciting, and we'll definitely dive more into it. It's funny, one thing you mentioned right away triggered a thought, and it's funny to touch on. WISK real quick is kind of on the boring side of things. Back a house and boring but necessary inventory costing, all that. And one of the things that comes up, and you nailed this point about, what do you do with the data? And on the inventory side, in the early days, we used to meet people, oh, we do it on pen and paper. We do it on excel. I'm like, okay, you do it. So it's better than not doing anything.

Angelo Esposito [00:05:25]:

What do you do with it? Nothing. We just do it because our boss tells us we got to do it. But it's like, what's the point? If you got an inventory report and you're not doing anything, you're not helping yourself order better, you're not helping yourself understand what's your dead stock or what's the point? And I think you nailed it. There is, even for people who have potentially send surveys, if no one has the time to distill that data and do an action, in a sense, what's the point? Right? So I love that you mentioned that.

Zack Oates [00:05:52]:

Yeah. Because if you think about the guest, and this is something that maybe I'll just give this one last piece, we could jump in. I always tell people that when you're looking at the guest experience, the very first thing you need to do to get people to come in a couple of times is you got to be convenient. And convenience is actually the factor of expectations versus effort. That's what convenience is about. Is it convenient to go to the french laundry? No, but why do people go, sorry, is it a lot of effort to go, yeah, but the expectations are so high that it surpasses that convenience threshold. Right. So as you look at it, what are the expectations? What are the effort? Those two factors play to convenience.

Zack Oates [00:06:40]:

You've got to be convenient. You've got to be in a good place. You got to have a good online ordering system. You got to have a good looking brand. You have to set the expectations to exceed the effort to get somebody to come in once or twice. Now, if you want somebody to come in a few times, you got to be consistent. You can't have a great chicken sandwich one day and a crappy chicken sandwich the next day. Because if they come in a couple of times and they have two drastically different experiences, chances are they're not coming in that third time.

Zack Oates [00:07:09]:

But that's only going to get people in a few times. Angelo, if you want to get people to come in for a lifetime, if you want to create the type of five star, know, it's my birthday party, ordering, office party catering kind of loyalty, you need more than just convenience. You need more than just consistency. What you really need is connection. And when you can build that connection with a guest and to help them feel important, you have won a fan for life. Because we need to take our minds out of the fact that we are serving customers. And I like it when people say, we don't have customers, we have guests. I think that's good, but I want to take it one step further, Angelo, we don't have guests.

Zack Oates [00:08:05]:

We have humans who happen to be eating our food. And what I mean by that is you can't think of them differently because they order on Doordash or because they walk in or because you see them on the street or because you meet them at a party or because in the case of you and your wife, you at a wedding, right? It's all about human connection. And so if you think about that, then you could realize, okay, wow, this Angelo guy is really pissed off that I missed his fries. Like, Angelo, calm down, right? Because Angelo gets on this crusade where he's leaving a review on Yelp and leaving a one star review on Google, and he's emailing in and he's Instagram story about how pissed he is. It's like, angelo, we missed your freaking fries. It's $2. But what is Angelo wanting? Angelo feels like, man, this just is showing that this restaurant doesn't even care about me. How do you not care about me? I should be important.

Zack Oates [00:09:05]:

And so it's not about the fries. It's about how they feel. And that's what ovation is all about, is helping to drive that connection, to measure that consistency, and to improve the reviews so that way you can exceed, raise up the expectations and more people are coming in.

Angelo Esposito [00:09:27]:

I love that. Really well said. And a big curiosity of mine is always understanding how people got to where they are today. I love chatting with entrepreneurs. I love chatting with people in the hospitality space. Those two combine is even better for me. But in general, I love chatting with entrepreneurs, and I love to understand the story behind. And you kind of touch on it.

Angelo Esposito [00:09:47]:

But I just wanted to go a bit deeper. If you want to just share a little. I know you mentioned, hey, you've always been in restaurants. You dropped a bomb about your dad being in the NFL, so I didn't know that. So I'd love to hear about that. But I'd love to understand a bit about your experience leading up to know what did life look like and when was your, aha. Moment of, like, we need to do this better?

Zack Oates [00:10:05]:

Yeah. So I had previously started a nonprofit, and two other startups sold those. The nonprofit had run its course. It was a really great experience. But what I realized from all that is, oh, wow. Like, I could do can, as Steve Jobs puts it, you push here and something happens over there, and you can make an impact on the world. And I thought that was really cool. My first startup is I developed an algorithm to translate unstructured social media data into gift recommendations.

Angelo Esposito [00:10:36]:

Right?

Zack Oates [00:10:37]:

Sound familiar? It's like unstructured feedback data into restaurant operations improvement. Right. The concept of that algorithm has remained the same. But anyway, I ended up selling that algorithm, and when it comes down to it, I was like, wow, this is really fun. But, man, startups are hard. Man, this is a lot of work. So I went and I got my MBA because I'm like, maybe I can just go get a job and be happy. I did that.

Zack Oates [00:11:03]:

And then I did consulting for four years for both an international nonprofit as well as Fortune 50 companies doing guest experience consulting. And I was like, man, if startups are hard, this is not fun.

Angelo Esposito [00:11:23]:

Take your poison. Right?

Zack Oates [00:11:25]:

Yeah, exactly. So I was like, you know what? I'm going to go back into startups. And this is an idea that I had been working on and talking to people about for a long time, doing a lot of customer research, because every other feedback company, what do they do? They start with the person that's going to buy it and says, hey, what data do you want? Okay, great. Let me cram that down your guest throat and get them to give it to you. I started with a guest and I started interviewing people and just started saying, how do you want to give feedback? Why do you give feedback? What does that look like for you? How do you want to feel after you give the feedback? What do you want to happen with it? And realizing, let's start with the customer and let's see what they want. And then let's go to the manager. Okay, when feedback comes in, how do you want to be able to respond to it? Do you want to respond to it? What does that look like for you? How do you manage this? And then we went to corporate and went to these larger brands and we said, okay, what type of questions do you want to ask? How do you want to get visibility into the locations? And so by going the exact opposite way of every other feedback company, we've been able to create a different approach to what feedback is. And that to me, that journey of seeing these fortune 50 companies, how much money they were investing in, the customer experience, I mean, millions and millions of dollars.

Zack Oates [00:12:52]:

And I'm like, there's got to be a better way. And so by creating ovation, I was able to create a system that was able to reach a lot more people and be a lot more attainable. So you don't have to have an entire giant department, just of data scientists to pool through the 0.1% of customers that are completing your dumb survey. You know what I mean? You could have something much easier, much more attainable. And that was the impetus. And one of the things that, for me, one of my life mantra is to choose to live an extraordinary life where an ordinary one will always be waiting. Right? There's always going to be that ordinary there. And one of my biggest missions in life is to build value.

Zack Oates [00:13:38]:

And I just love that we're able, at ovation, to build some incredible value. I love getting these emails, these text messages. I get tagged on LinkedIn all the time of people just posting about how ovation has helped them and their man Angelo. Like nothing. Nothing gets me more excited than awesome, man.

Angelo Esposito [00:14:02]:

Being an entrepreneur, I can attest to that feeling of, like, building something out of nothing, I think is super gratifying. And then having someone use it is like step two. But then step three, to your point, is having them love it. I kind of see it in three stages. Step one, wow, something out of nothing is real. Step two, it's like someone's using it. Cool. There's some value.

Angelo Esposito [00:14:21]:

And then step three is like, wow, they actually like it.

Zack Oates [00:14:24]:

Which is like, I remember. So when I launched that first company, that algorithm that I did with the gifting algorithm, we launched it. I was at Techcrunch disrupt in San Francisco. I'd never really been to a trade show before, and it was just bonkers. I mean, we got so much love at Techcrunch disrupt. So many people were so interested. And then we actually got featured in Mashable. So Mashable did a whole piece about us, and that was crazy.

Zack Oates [00:14:55]:

I mean, like, the site went down. I had the CMO of Sears and Zappos, and I had Disney executives reaching out to me to be like, hey, I want to see this. And then it was cool. This guy tweeted at me from India, and he was like, when we got our site back up and he's let you. I just wanted to say thank you for your website. I found the perfect gift for my girlfriend that I was stumped on, and so just thank you. And it was like, holy cow. Like, this guy in India is using this algorithm from this kid in Utah.

Zack Oates [00:15:35]:

I was living in Utah at the time and launched, uh, San Francisco. It was just like, all these crazy things that just really got me stoked to see. To your point, not only did we launch it, not only are they loving it, using it, but they're loving it. And then I remember I was in a meeting, I get a phone call, and they called, and they called back, and they called back. So I stepped out and I took it and I remember I was in the parking lot and I was like, hello. They're like, hi, this and such and such. This is so and so with such and such magazine. And we wanted to do a piece on you and your company.

Zack Oates [00:16:14]:

And I was like, oh, okay, can we set up a meeting? I was like, yeah, sure. Great. This is when I could do it. I was like, wait, by the way, you cut out what magazine? And they were like, oh, this is Wired magazine.

Angelo Esposito [00:16:26]:

And I'm like, wow.

Zack Oates [00:16:30]:

What? Wired magazine? They're like Wired magazine. I'm like, oh yeah, cool, cool. I hung up the phone, I'm like.

Angelo Esposito [00:16:38]:

You got to downplay on the.

Zack Oates [00:16:40]:

Oh yeah, totally, totally. I could fit you in between the New York Times and the was just, it was a cool moment of truly seeing that Steve jobs thing of like, you do something and the world reacts to it.

Angelo Esposito [00:16:55]:

That's so cool. That's so know, taking a step back. Obviously I was doing a bit of research online and one thing that came out that I had to ask you. So hopefully it's not an annoying question, but I know you had a story on how you went on 1000 dates before meeting your wife. I have to ask you about that and how that shaped your perspective on relationships, both personally and probably professionally too, right?

Zack Oates [00:17:19]:

Oh, totally. I mean, I do a session, so I do a lot of public speaking. And one of the sessions that I do is called dating your customers. And it's about how do you become a great first date, a great second date, a great relationship with the customer. But that whole concept though is based off of my experience in dating. So to your point, I went on over a thousand dates before I got married. I had a blog about it. I used to do like a YouTube series where I'd get into a hot tub and talk about dating.

Zack Oates [00:17:54]:

Like the ultimate of just weirdness douchery. So I had this blog, had these videos, and then a publisher reached out to me and was like, hey, have you ever thought of doing a book? And I'm like, oh yeah, I had. So I ended up doing a book with this publisher and it's called dating never works until it does. And it's 100 lessons from 1000 dates. And I think they're on their 6th printing of that book right now. So it's been great. It's our date night budget that we use and it was a fun experience to do it and to put these life lessons that I've learned from my experience as well as learning from others about dating now. I'll give you the punchline to it, Angelo.

Zack Oates [00:18:38]:

Save yourself the $14. And here's the book. So, the hundredth piece of advice in the book is, don't take other people's advice with dating, because the whole concept is, give love a chance. Give love a chance. And two, do what the best version of you would do. If you took the previous 99 lessons in that book and you lived every single one of them, well, guess what? They'd be dating me, not you. And so it's like, do what the best version of you would do. And I think that's a good lesson, not just in dating, but in life and in business.

Zack Oates [00:19:14]:

What is the best version of your brand? What would they do in this situation, and how do you institutionalize that? And I think that's really what it comes down to. And building the importance of building connection and building it quickly, I think, is something that I learned a lot about in my dating career, which was long and expensive and very little benefits. But it was so much fun to meet people, and I loved getting to know people. I loved engaging with them. I love building that connection. And that's part of the human element that I think has transcended all of my startups. And nonprofit is just like connecting with humans, and I think that's the core desire of every single individual. But it's just hard to do sometimes.

Angelo Esposito [00:20:07]:

Fair. And I got to ask you this. Did you have a way to collect good feedback on those 1000 days? Do you know what?

Zack Oates [00:20:15]:

That's actually a great question. So I don't talk about this very often, but I do talk about it in my book, where when there would be a breakup conversation, I literally would ask, okay, so now that log into.

Angelo Esposito [00:20:31]:

Ovation.

Zack Oates [00:20:33]:

On a scale of one to five, how good of a boyfriend was I? But I would ask people when things were kind of done, and especially people that I really respected, right? Because there were some people that I dated where it was kind of like, all right, we're parting ways because this just turned out not to be a good fit. So your feedback is not super important to me. I'm not your demographic. You're not mine. I'mcDonald's and you're looking for Ruth's. Chris. Both are fine, but we're just not for each other. Right.

Zack Oates [00:21:02]:

So I would ask him a lot of times to say, hey, now that things are done, do you mind if I just kind of switch gears and be selfish for a second? Can I just ask you, what could I do to improve?

Angelo Esposito [00:21:13]:

That's amazing.

Zack Oates [00:21:14]:

And I asked that question to every single person who broke up with me, pretty much.

Angelo Esposito [00:21:18]:

That's amazing.

Zack Oates [00:21:20]:

And that was really helpful. So whenever I got dumped, it was always like, okay, now here's our one on one. I would love to get some.

Angelo Esposito [00:21:30]:

What was the reaction? I imagine it must be kind of like, I mean, you probably got really good at it, but the reaction on the other side must have been like, this is weird. No one's ever asked for feedback before. I feel like it's not that common. Right?

Zack Oates [00:21:42]:

No, that's true. I got a lot of people who would. They weren't quite sure how to respond to it. But it was really funny, though, because I remember one person, I was just like, I had been kind of wanting her to break up with me. I was just too chicken to break up with her. And so I made up some lie about how I hated Christmas. And so we had this whole conversation, and then she just, by the end of it, she was like, look, this isn't going to work out for her. It was the brick that broke the camel's back.

Zack Oates [00:22:12]:

And I'm like, you know what? I got to be honest with you. I was like, I actually do like Christmas a lot. I think I just wanted you to break up with me. And she's like, you have issues. I was like, can we talk about that? Can you tell me more about my issues?

Angelo Esposito [00:22:28]:

Oh, my God.

Zack Oates [00:22:29]:

Anyway, yeah. So feedback, and I still do it with my wife. I mean, we do what we call hot tub Sundays. And we get in the hot tub and we chat about the day. I say, here's what I appreciate about you from this week. She says what she appreciates about me. I ask her, what can I do to improve? She asked me, what can she do to improve? We go over the schedule, finances, and any goals that we have. And so we do those five things every Sunday that I'm home.

Zack Oates [00:22:56]:

And we've done that since we got engaged and just having that quick feedback loop, right? It's not 100 questions I'm asking her. It's just, what could I do to improve? And if there's something, she could tell it to me, right? Because that's the one thing about long surveys, too. You take a long survey, what's the likelihood you're going to take that same long survey the next week?

Angelo Esposito [00:23:16]:

Oh, yeah. You're like, forget it now.

Zack Oates [00:23:19]:

But if it's a really quick survey, it's two questions. What we're finding is people are willing to give feedback really often.

Angelo Esposito [00:23:26]:

Absolutely.

Zack Oates [00:23:26]:

But you just have to make it frictionless. And so that's the one thing is I feel like too many relationships rely on these big, drawn out conversations of, okay, can we sit down and talk? Just talk every week. Just have that little conversation, and as little things come up, they'll let you know. And if not, then sounds like you need to have a bigger conversation. Right?

Angelo Esposito [00:23:49]:

Yeah, it makes a ton of sense. And it's funny. It's kind of like, I think of it almost as, like, taking at bat, so to speak. And it's almost like if you do it every week, it's a lot easier to course correct. If you do it, like, once every six months, you're like, oops, then you're.

Zack Oates [00:24:05]:

Already in the rut.

Angelo Esposito [00:24:07]:

Yeah. You're like, oops, I'm off by 200 miles on my ship. Versus if you're looking at it every week, you're like, all right, we're a bit off, but we're heading in the right direction.

Zack Oates [00:24:15]:

Exactly.

Angelo Esposito [00:24:16]:

That's awesome. Going back to Ovation. I love the idea, the human element, getting that feedback, making it frictionless. What does it look like? Maybe just to jump in. I'm curious to know from the restaurant's point of view. They're like, okay, this sounds interesting. And we have a lot of restauranters, obviously, that listen to this and on our newsletter as well. So for the people listening, and they're like, oh, this sounds interesting.

Angelo Esposito [00:24:38]:

I would love to collect more customer feedback. Can you walk us through the journey? What does the product actually look like? What do they got to do to.

Zack Oates [00:24:48]:

Let's start with the guest. Okay.

Angelo Esposito [00:24:50]:

Sure.

Zack Oates [00:24:50]:

Now, if you order online through one of our 50 integration partners, ranging from Incentivio to Olo to toast all of these online ordering loyalty platforms, we'll send them a direct text message saying, hey, how was everything? Angelo, can you answer two questions about your experience? Really, really simple. And let's say know Angelo didn't order online. Let's say, you know, called in an order for the pizza box, right? Well, here we have a pizza box behind me, and on the pizza box, there's a QR code, and it says, how'd we do? Two questions with a QR code. That's it. Really simple. Let's say that you're dining in. Maybe there's a flyer on the table. It says, how'd we do today? Two questions to enter for $100 gift card or a sticker on the table.

Zack Oates [00:25:42]:

Let's say that you call to complain. Well, option three could be send me a text message to give feedback. Right? Because we have our own phone systems call to text solution. Let's say you go online and you click give feedback. Well, boom. The two question Ovation survey will pop up based on the location that you picked. And so whether or not Angelo orders, whether or not he's calling in to give feedback, going online to give feedback, scanning a QR code in store, on a box, on a flyer, getting a text message, no matter how it is, you get to a landing page. And it's really simple.

Zack Oates [00:26:23]:

It's branded with five emojis ranging from an angry face to a happy face. And saying, how was your experience today? If you give a happy face, then we do things that are going to drive revenue. You could put that person into a text marketing drip campaign to get them to come back in and spend more. You can get them to leave reviews, you can get them to buy gift cards, place catering orders. So we have a whole system designed to funnel those happy guests into driving more revenue. Now, if they didn't have a great experience, anywhere from angry to like, I'm not so happy. We ask them what happened? That feedback goes directly to the restaurant, it could go to the manager, it can go to someone at corporate, or it could go to the Ovation team that could handle that for you. And then in two clicks, we have a response AI that you literally click a button and it'll read the guest feedback, knows who they are, knows who's answering that guest, and create the perfect response to click to that upset guest to invite them to come back.

Zack Oates [00:27:27]:

You don't even have to give them a coupon to come back. Most people just want to know that you hear them. And then what we do is now the CEO of this multi unit restaurant chain logs in. And in the Ovation backend system. Our algorithm takes all of that feedback from public and private reviews, from Ovation, from Google, from TripAdvisor, from Grubhub, and we crunch that all down into 34 actionable categories so you can get to the root cause of what's causing things to go well and what's causing issues. And then you could take action and track the trends, set goals to track the trends and make sure that things are improving. We also are launching, actually, by the time this comes out, it'll be launched sentence structure. So we'll say, here's a couple of sentences of what's going well at your locations.

Zack Oates [00:28:21]:

Here's a couple of sentences of what needs to improve at your locations. And so now what's actually happening here is corporate gets all of the data. They need to make specific operational improvements and to track what's actually happening. To have that visibility, managers have a much better beat of what's happening because we're actually sending them daily and weekly emails. So even if you have us responding for you, your managers can get the daily and weekly emails of what's going well and what isn't, what's all the feedback, what are all the reviews? So they can see what's going on, and then the customers, you're able to build that connection. So what actually happens, on average, is our customers will get 226% more five star reviews. Their online rating will bump up by half a star. They're engaging with 24 times more guests than they were engaging with before Ovation.

Zack Oates [00:29:19]:

And as a result of all of this, revenue goes up. We did a case study where we put in the same city. We picked half locations with Ovation, half locations without Ovation. After four months, the non Ovation locations had a 7% dip in revenue. The Ovation locations had an 11% increase in revenue.

Angelo Esposito [00:29:37]:

Wow.

Zack Oates [00:29:38]:

So it drives revenue, and here's why, Angelo. The average guest comes back 30% of the time in a given year. Very, very low 30% retention rate is industry average. An upset guest has a 13% retention rate. If you use Ovation response AI to respond to that guest, they don't have a 13% retention rate. They don't have a 30% retention rate. They have a 68% retention rate. The average guest comes in once every eight months.

Zack Oates [00:30:08]:

A recovered guest comes in once every 1.7 months. They spend $5 more per visit. And while the average guest has a 1% chance of leaving a five star review, the recovered guest has a 12% chance of leaving a five star review. So when you look at the value of recovering an individual guest, it's astronomical. I mean, it's, like, 23 times more valuable than your average guest is a recovered guest. And the machine that Ovation does is just bringing in these guests over and over and over again and building that connection and creating these lifelong fans. And that's really the crux of what they see and what they get at the end of the day, right? We want them to connect with their guests to improve their operations. And if you do that, I promise you, revenue increases.

Angelo Esposito [00:31:07]:

That's so cool. It's funny, because you always hear the saying, it's better to keep or it's cheaper to keep a customer than to get a new customer. But I think here, there's that third dynamic where the best case is to keep the customer but it almost seems like the better case is to keep or to win back an angry customer. Almost. Right. It's super interesting.

Zack Oates [00:31:26]:

It's something called the service recovery paradox. I mean, there have been dissertations written about this. An upset guest, properly recovered, is going to be more loyal than a guest that never had an issue in the first place. That has been proven over and over and over again, and it's proven in the Ovation data, but we've been able to give actual numbers and data to it that it literally goes from 13% to 68%.

Angelo Esposito [00:31:50]:

That's so cool. I love that. That's amazing. And so, typically, do you guys exclusively work with multi units, or do you have single venue locations or smaller groups that also can take advantage of Ovation? Who do you guys really kind of work well with?

Zack Oates [00:32:07]:

Yeah, someone who is a tech savvy, progressive single unit operator. Great. Come in. We'd love to work with you. Right. It's a very self serve product. It works really well. But our specialty and where all of the operational data really drives things home is with multi unit restaurants, where there's just no visibility into what's going on.

Zack Oates [00:32:33]:

I can't drive to ten different restaurants in a day to check in on everyone. But when Ovation is there, you've got the entire customer base giving you updates on what's going on in real time. And so we have customers that even though they have 2030, 40 locations, they still get every single piece of feedback to their phone because they care that much about the guest experience. We work with national brands, some of the biggest logos in the world. I promise you, you know them, but we're under NDA because we're their secret weapon. And some of these brands that they're so proud of how much technology they build internally that they don't like to even share the vendors they work with. But we're the secret weapon. We're one of the very few vendors that some of these large brands have allowed to integrate in with their system because it's just so core to what they do.

Zack Oates [00:33:31]:

So, yes, we work with the mom and pops. Typically, it's like you've got to already have a tech stack. You've got to really be good about the tech aspect of things. And for the multi units, if you care about the guest experience, there shouldn't be another option other than Ovation. If you don't care about the guest experience, that's totally okay. Doesn't mean that you have a bad brand, but just maybe a long survey will work better for you.

Angelo Esposito [00:34:01]:

There you go. It's super fascinating. And I'm curious from the inside, right? So from the Ovation side of you guys building the tech, building the startup, right? Like ups and downs, as I'm sure every entrepreneur has. But one of the things in building a solid SaaS company is the customer success side, the implementation team and all that. So I'm curious internally, because you guys are so good at, your tool is so good at getting feedback, I'm curious, how do you guys manage the internal side of that? So, like onboarding customers, making sure they're happy, getting feedback from your restaurants that are using the app. I'm curious to learn a bit more about that.

Zack Oates [00:34:41]:

Every customer of Ovation gets a, every Ovation user gets an email daily with, here's a summary of what happened yesterday and weekly of here's what happened this week. And in that email, we ask for feedback. So we ask every single user, every single email to give us feedback. And so we have a pretty tight loop there. And then when it comes to our customer satisfaction, I tell our team all the time, we are not a technology company selling into hospitality. We are a hospitality company selling technology. And I think that differentiation is really important because I want to make sure that they feel like they're coming into our restaurant, we're helping them out. We are there to check in on them.

Zack Oates [00:35:32]:

We love doing table touches, so to speak. Like, I pop into demos all the time just to say, know, I look at my head of CS and our CS team and when I see that they're meeting with customers, I pop in all the time because I care. Just as if I were walking around the restaurant saying hello to people, I got Danny Myers book setting the table right back, right? Just as he would go around the table, talk to people, I want to pop in on these meetings and say hello. I'm constantly texting people because I truly, truly care. And that goes from the top down. At Ovation, we care, right? We care about people's success. We care about restaurants doing better, we care about building value. And if we're not building value, we're not happy.

Zack Oates [00:36:21]:

And so there was a customer who, things are going fine, they weren't mad, but I was so dissatisfied with how things were going, so I flew across the country just to meet with them. And even though they were like, oh, yeah, we really appreciate it, but you didn't need to do this. We're happy with Ovation. I was like, if you're happy now, you just wait. And a few months later, they're like, raving about Ovation, and that's the kind of thing that I love to see.

Angelo Esposito [00:36:53]:

Yeah, I love that, too. And it's funny because I have a very similar mentality with the really setting expectations and then exceeding them and just, it goes a long way. Like, even for us, we have, when customers come in and they're just like, oh, wow. For whatever reason, onboarding, and I was never onboarded at this other company, but your onboarding is so tight, or, hey, this setup took this long, but this was really cool with you guys. It's amazing. We started doing daily sessions, and someone's like, you're one of the first technology partners I use that just has, like, daily, ask me anything that we just host, pop in, ask any questions, things like that. But I totally agree. It's like, if you can kind of surpass people's expectations, especially, I mean, in general, for any company, I think that's a win.

Angelo Esposito [00:37:33]:

But when working with or in the hospitality space, I think it's even more important because it's kind of in their dna, so to speak. So it's like receiving it back, I think goes a long way. They appreciate speedy responses. They appreciate being proactive. They appreciate transparency. They appreciate these things. And I love that you guys are using all those things to give the customer the best experience they can have.

Zack Oates [00:37:58]:

Right? Yeah. And most people we have hired from the hospitality industry, right? Like our head of partnerships, he ran restaurants, upscale restaurants in New York City for years. Our director of sales, he literally was in the restaurant business. He owned a restaurant, he sold it, and then he came and worked for, like, his first day of sales ever was working at Ovation. But he knows restaurants, he knows hospitality, and that's what matters. I don't need to use sales jedi mind tricks to convince people to use it. I just say, hey, try it out. If you like it and you see it building value, then great.

Zack Oates [00:38:35]:

And 96% of people that try Ovation end up becoming a customer.

Angelo Esposito [00:38:39]:

Wow, that's really interesting. And you know what? There's nothing better than getting. Obviously, you always try to get new sales, and you might do paid marketing, you might do partnerships and all these different tactics, and that's normal. But for me, there's no better feeling than getting customers from customers. Whether it's expanding. Right? Like multilocation. They're so happy they want to expand, or just like, referring friends to me, those are my favorite because they like it so much, they're recommending it, or they like it so much they want to put it in all their locations. To me, that's my favorite.

Angelo Esposito [00:39:07]:

Of course, there's other acquisition channels, but to me, it's also a profitable channel, but it's the most rewarding in a sense, because you're like, we're doing such a good job that they want more of it. That's awesome. And I got to ask you this. As an entrepreneur, obviously, ups and downs generally, right?

Zack Oates [00:39:27]:

You mean like 17 times a day? I remember I was talking, I sat down with an investor one time, and, no, this is a real estate guy and a buddy of mine to lunch, and he does real estate investing. So his deal cycles are pretty long, pretty big. And he was like, how are things going? I was like, oh, well, we signed up one of our biggest deals. We had to let go our head of sales. We brought in a new head of customer success, and we're putting out a cease and desist to someone who's out there spreading lies about us, like, oh, my gosh, it's been a busy month. And I was like, oh, no, that was this morning. That was this morning.

Angelo Esposito [00:40:15]:

I can relate too well to that.

Zack Oates [00:40:18]:

The highs and lows, they come, and they come so quickly. I think the one thing we have five values at Ovation, and our middle one is the only one with a punctuation mark. And it's celebrate with an exclamation mark. And the reason that, even though I put in alphabetical order, the reason that that has an exclamation mark and it's right in the middle is because that's when you need to celebrate. Don't wait until the very end. Don't wait until everything is done. Don't wait until there's no fires in the backyard, because the backyard is always on fire. There's always some kind of problem in the backyard.

Zack Oates [00:40:54]:

And that's okay. It's about making sure those fires don't get to the house. But just because there's something not perfect in the backyard doesn't mean you can't celebrate what's in the front yard, right? And like, yeah, let's get some rocket.

Angelo Esposito [00:41:08]:

So cool.

Zack Oates [00:41:09]:

How'd you. I forget it all the time because when I count with my thumbs. Yeah, I get these reactions, but I think there's different ones.

Angelo Esposito [00:41:20]:

It's happened to me. I didn't know how to repeat it. That's what it is. I did it once.

Zack Oates [00:41:24]:

I'm like, what is this?

Angelo Esposito [00:41:25]:

I saw thumb pop up on the screen.

Zack Oates [00:41:26]:

Yeah, the thumbs up is that.

Angelo Esposito [00:41:30]:

And then I can't reproduce it.

Zack Oates [00:41:32]:

But this one, if you do the heart.

Angelo Esposito [00:41:34]:

Oh, wow.

Zack Oates [00:41:35]:

It comes down there. But anyway, that's okay. It gets me so distracted every time. Don't even remember what I was saying. But one day I was in the.

Angelo Esposito [00:41:42]:

Middle of a conversation like this, and then balloons just started popping up and everyone just started laughing and I distracted everyone. Was it that. There you go. That's what happened. I probably said two. I was like, one, two, we got to really focus on. And it was just like balloons on screen.

Zack Oates [00:41:54]:

Yeah. I think when you're looking at kind of like the celebration, right?

Angelo Esposito [00:42:03]:

Yeah.

Zack Oates [00:42:03]:

I think that's what's so important in the highs and the lows. And the other thing that's so important is, man, we cannot take this home with us. Right? We can't. Our families deserve better. They deserve more than being the whiplash of the highs and lows of a startup. And not that you can't communicate things with them, but just don't bring it home. Don't sit down at dinner and stew over things. The world will be fine sitting down to dinner with your family for 45 minutes.

Zack Oates [00:42:40]:

Right. Just let it be. And I think that's one of the things that is so important with these ups and downs and making sure that everyone says, burn the boats. Right. And I guess I have a more pragmatic approach to it. Angelo. I don't believe in burning boats. I believe in hiding the right.

Zack Oates [00:43:04]:

Because with Ovation, I put a chunk of money aside and I told my wife, I'm not going to be getting paid for a while. But we have this money, and this is the money that we'll live on. And when that money gets to zero, I'll go get a quote unquote real job, as my mother put it, for like the first five years of Ovation, right? But that never happened. And we got down to, we had less than two months. I think we had like a month and a half of money left when Ovation was finally able to start paying us and we cut it really close. But that was game changer, because she was not stressed out during the lows, knowing that, hey, things are going to work out. Because either he's going to go get a job and it might not be as fun, but he'll be home at 515 every day, or he's going to be successful at the startup, and I go, either way, he's going to be happy. So great, let's do it.

Zack Oates [00:44:07]:

And that, to me, I think, is really important way to navigate through the highs and lows of a startup.

Angelo Esposito [00:44:13]:

No? Really well said. And it's so true. I think every entrepreneur can relate. It's just your story about that happened this morning, super relatable. I think it's like the highs are highs and lows are lows, but something I got to do better. And I'm glad you kind of mentioned it, but it's a celebration. It's sometimes that analogy of like, as you're walking up the mountain once in a while, look back and see kind of how far you came, because you're always kind of looking on the next thing and push and put, but sometimes just take a pause, look back, and like, oh, wow, the view is pretty nice up here. And keep going, but enjoy the good times while they're here kind of thing.

Angelo Esposito [00:44:45]:

Always going to be things that fall through the crack.

Zack Oates [00:44:48]:

Absolutely. And maybe I'll give. To wrap things up, I'll give one tactic that I've done this was something that someone challenged me to do this ten years ago, and I've done it every single day since he challenged me to do it, which was write two ways that you saw the hand of God in your life that day. And so every single day I pull up a journal and I write two ways I saw the hand of God in my life. And it has been so helpful to the point of celebrating and celebrating the highs, processing the lows. To me, it's like if you want to see the hand of God, just look for it right now, whatever that is for you. It might not be God for you, but that principle of gratitude and showing, finding things to be grateful for and journaling those things and journaling the things that you've learned has been monumental for me. And I definitely consider myself to be a man of faith.

Zack Oates [00:45:53]:

But even if you're not, journaling has been an incredible way for me to process and discover.

Angelo Esposito [00:46:03]:

I love that. And so I got two last questions for you. Right. One, I got to know what's next for Zach Oates. Innovation. Any exciting projects or goals on the horizon that you want to.

Zack Oates [00:46:19]:

Mean? We've got some incredible new features that we're launching to the product to better help with goals, to better help with reputation management and responding to reviews. We're constantly just obsessively improving the product. And so I'm really excited about that and the AI and making it easier to drive insights out of it in terms of me. Well, in December, we moved into a new house, and so we built a house from scratch. And it's been so cool to be able to move in and see this dream become a reality. And I got a nice hot tub, which was like my very first purchase of the house. I'm just excited to hot tub every single morning. So I wake up at 630, get in the hot tub, and that's my time for meditation and prayer.

Zack Oates [00:47:14]:

And it's beautiful before the sunrise, seeing the stars. And then I love jumping in in the nighttime with my kids. And anyway, I love spending time with my family. So that's what I want to do over the next couple of years is just work on spending more time with my family.

Angelo Esposito [00:47:32]:

I love it. And the last question for you, Zach, where can people find you? So just plug for all our listeners if you want to plug website, your podcast. I know you have a podcast, your LinkedIn. So a couple plugs so people can find you. And our newsletter as well.

Zack Oates [00:47:46]:

Yeah, check us out@ovationup.com. Like a standing Ovation. Your ovationup ovationup.com and you can find me on LinkedIn. Zach Oates Zach with A-C-K-Z-A-C-K. Oates with the Es Oates. And I post a bunch of musings and thought leadership there and interesting things that you can use to help grow your business. And then my podcast is given Ovation, the restaurant guest experience podcast where we talk to industry experts to get their strategies and tactics that you can use to create five star guest experiences.

Angelo Esposito [00:48:19]:

I love it. Zach, thank you so much for being here. Once again, Zach Oates, founder and CEO of Ovation. It was a pleasure having you on and getting to hear about your experiences and knowledge in the industry.

Zack Oates [00:48:31]:

Awesome. Thanks, Angelo.

Angelo Esposito [00:48:32]:

Feel free to check out WISK.AI for more resources and schedule a demo with one of our product specialists to see if it's a fit for.

Meet Your Host & Guest

Zach Oates, Founder and CEO of Ovation

Zach Oates stands out as an award-winning entrepreneur, blending his passions for technology, customer service, and social impact into a remarkable career. From the early days as a soda jerk to founding Ovation, America's #1 guest feedback tool, Zach's journey is marked by significant achievements, including ringing the NASDAQ bell and being named among the Top 100 Entrepreneurs by Vspring Capital. His venture into predictive buying with Imply Labs and its subsequent success with GiveEmThis.com showcases his knack for leveraging technology to meet market needs. A celebrated author and blogger, Zach's insights reach a wide audience, further solidified by his MBA from BYU and his influential voice in major publications like the Wall Street Journal and Wired Magazine. Zach's impact extends beyond the business world into philanthropy, notably through Courage to Hope, aiding battered women's shelters in Ukraine. His personal journey of over 1,000 dates leading to marriage inspired his book on dating, merging personal experiences with professional wisdom. As a speaker, Zach enlightens audiences across hospitality, tech, and startup sectors, emphasizing the importance of building relationships with customers. His life's work exemplifies a commitment to innovation, empathy, and the pursuit of excellence.

ANGELO ESPOSITO, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO OF WISK.AI

Meet Angelo Esposito, the Co-Founder and CEO of WISK.ai, Angelo's vision is to revolutionize the hospitality industry by creating an inventory software that allows bar and restaurant owners to streamline their operations, improve their margins and sales, and minimize waste. With over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry, Angelo deeply understands the challenges faced by bar and restaurant owners. From managing inventory to tracking sales to forecasting demand, Angelo has seen it all firsthand. This gave him the insight he needed to create WISK.ai.

Recent Episodes

S2E22 - Building Connections Through Feedback with Zach Oates

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Show notes

Episode Note

Zach Oates, Founder and CEO of Ovation, discusses the importance of human connection in the hospitality industry. He introduces Ovation, a platform that helps restaurants collect feedback from guests and improve their operations. Zach shares his journey to Ovation, including his experience in startups and the lessons he learned from dating. He emphasizes the value of recovering upset guests and building connections with customers. Zach also discusses the highs and lows of entrepreneurship and the importance of celebrating and practicing gratitude. He shares his future plans for Ovation and his personal goals.

Additionally,  Zack discusses the importance of customer feedback and how it can be used to improve business. He emphasizes the need for businesses to actively collect and analyze customer feedback, and shares strategies for using this feedback to make meaningful improvements. Oates also highlights the role of technology in the customer feedback process.

Takeaways

  • Human connection is essential in the hospitality industry.
  • Ovation helps restaurants collect feedback from guests and improve their operations.
  • Recovering upset guests can lead to increased loyalty and revenue.
  • Celebrating and practicing gratitude are important in navigating the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. Customer feedback is crucial for businesses to understand and improve the customer experience.
  • Collecting and analyzing customer feedback allows businesses to identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions.
  • Using customer feedback to make meaningful improvements can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Technology, such as Ovation's platform, can streamline the customer feedback process and provide valuable insights.

Timestamps

00:00: The Importance of Human Connection

01:17: Introduction to Ovation

06:02: The Guest Experience and the Importance of Convenience, Consistency, and Connection

09:50: Zach Oates' Journey to Ovation

17:00: Lessons from Dating and Building Connections

20:19: Collecting Feedback and Improving

24:35: Ovation's Product Journey and Customer Success

29:21: The Value of Recovering Upset Guests

34:11: Navigating the Highs and Lows of Entrepreneurship

39:23: The Importance of Celebrating and Enjoying the Journey

45:08: Practicing Gratitude and Finding the Hand of God

46:07: Future Plans for Ovation and Personal Goals

10:30: The Importance of Customer Feedback

20:15: Collecting and Analyzing Customer Feedback

30:45: Using Customer Feedback to Improve Business

40:20: The Role of Technology in Customer Feedback

47:32: Where to Find Zach Oates

Resources

Follow Zach Oates on Instagram!

Connect with Zack Oates via Linkedin!

Learn more about Ovation!