Mr Yum - Customers Centricity and Building a Platform
Customer centricity can play an important part in a business’s competitive advantage. It is especially important for startups, given the need to induce customers to try their new products or services.
Mr Yum has built their business around ensuring their customers are successful. This article will explore how customer centricity features in their unique approach and how data informs decisions on customer acquisition and retention. It will also explore how the recent acquisition of MyGuestList could be a step towards becoming an industry platform.
Underpinning this is the importance the founders place on trust with both their customers and team members. Trust has allowed Mr Yum to scale efficiently with effective hiring, high service levels and high customer retention.
Mr Yum’s approach to customer centricity has also been featured in an article with Startmate (link here) that incorporates the views of 9 startups.
Industry Disruption – The Need to Grow Quickly (click here)
A Unique Approach based on Customer Success (click here)
Data-Informed Decision Making (click here)
A Business Defined by Trust (click here)
MyGuestList Acquisition – Building a Platform (click here)
Conclusion (click here)
The Mr Yum Team
Industry Disruption – The Need to Grow Quickly
Mr Yum is a QR-code based mobile ordering and payment platform for the hospitality and entertainment industry.
As described in previous articles (on Mr Yum and Culture), restaurants have typically been slow to adopt technology due to tight margins. COVID has accelerated technology adoption and QR code ordering as venues rushed to include online ordering and contactless payment options. It has also made venues recognise the need to have alternatives to expensive delivery platforms like Uber Eats etc.
The result is a unique time in the industry where:
new restaurants realise the need for technology
existing restaurants want more affordable solutions to major delivery platforms. See a previous article on unbundling and disruption.
customers have built an awareness of QR code ordering and are returning to venues as countries reopen post-COVID.
This benefits more affordable, user-friendly QR ordering solutions like Mr Yum. Keeping pace with this industry growth requires the ability to scale rapidly. Mr Yum’s unique approach has enabled them to do this while emphasising customer centricity and people, which have always been features of the hospitality industry.
A Unique Approach based on Customer Success
The founders’ previous businesses – Neighbour Flavour and Pitchblak
Mr Yum was born out of the founders’ previous entrepreneurial journey with Neighbour Flavour and Pitchblak. Their experiences taught them the importance of designing a value proposition that makes the numbers work for their customers.
This is particularly important for B2B businesses (selling to commercial customers) where customers need to see a return on their investment or believe that the product will help their businesses be more successful.
However, the product is just one aspect of their unique approach. Given the nature of the hospitality industry, the founders have made customer centricity and service central to their model. This includes:
An Aligned Business Model where they only succeed if their customers do.
An Onboarding Approach that sets the customer up for success.
Leadership and Culture that create a team that is there for one another and wants to see their customers succeed.
An Aligned Business Model
Mr Yum charges no upfront fees to cover the initial integration work or subscription fees. Instead, customers pay based on their product usage. Therefore, Mr Yum makes money only when their customers do and is incentivised to ensure they make the best use of their product.
For their customers:
the lack of upfront costs makes it easier to adopt Mr Yum and
the revenue model increases trust as Mr Yum’s incentives are aligned with the success the venue achieves from using the product.
This also allows Mr Yum to focus on a ‘North Star’ metric like Gross Transaction Value (the total value transacted through their platform) that reflects revenue generation and customer experience i.e. the more success customers have using Mr Yum, the more transactions they will put through its platform and therefore the more revenue Mr Yum will receive.
Mr Yum has designed a thoughtful onboarding approach that emphasises consistent customer engagement, which will allow them to ‘hit the ground running’ when the product ‘goes live’ or is activated.
It starts with emphasising the ‘human element’ so critical in hospitality. Mr Yum’s sales team builds a relationship with venue managers, bartenders etc. to understand how their business operates and show how Mr Yum’s solution can help their people be more successful.
Customers are then handed off to an integrations team which includes team members from multiple functions such as Account Management and Product Teams. This spreads customer feedback across the business and allows the various functions to design solutions that improve the experience.
The team checks in with their venue customers at key milestones such as Menu Review and Integration testing. This:
ensures Mr Yum integrates and compliments the functionality of the other venue systems like Point of Sale
keeps the customer engaged towards the ‘go-live’ stage
These activities put their venue customers in the best position to achieve a ‘strong start’ once the product is activated. The ‘wow factor’ this creates is a key factor in positive word of mouth and the potential upselling of features.
Post the go-live stage, Account Managers conduct Quarterly Business Reviews with venue customers. Account Managers act as business consultants helping their customers improve the performance of their venues and get the most out of Mr Yum’s solution.
The result is a customer centric onboarding approach that generates customer success and efficient customer acquisition through positive word of mouth and high retention rates. What enables this approach is the founders’ focus on building a strong culture.
Leadership and Culture
Customer centricity is embedded in their corporate value ‘Here to Serve’. Some examples are:
Hiring staff with a passion and empathy for hospitality. For example, Head of Account Management Adam Baker was previously a chef, and CFO David Cook was CFO of a premium coffee chain. Staff therefore feel connected to the mission to support their hospitality customers. Read more about their unique culture here.
Making the Customer Experience function distinct from sales/marketing. This gives the customer a clear voice within the organisation, particularly with Co-founder Kerry Osborn representing them at the most senior level.
Mr Yum’s corporate values
Another important insight of the founders is that team members need to feel that the business has their best interests at heart before being able to offer their best service to customers. The key to this is trust.
The founders built trust by supporting staff through the uncertainties of COVID and providing opportunities for personal growth as scaling results in changes to their roles i.e. staff know that their leaders have their back and can focus on giving their best service to customers.
The benefits of this alignment and trust can be seen in their remarkable staff retention, with only 1 resignation over the past 2yrs, despite explosive growth in staff numbers.
Data-Informed Decision Making
There are costs to customer centricity. Around 80% of team members are in product and support roles and 20% in sales. Additionally, not charging customers for integration or the onboarding process means that Mr Yum incurs an upfront cost for every customer that will need to be recouped over time.
Mr Yum uses a data-driven approach to evaluate these costs against the benefits they bring to the business i.e. evaluating the Customer Life Time Value (CLV) against the costs to acquire them.
Mr Yum’s data-driven approach for new customers is described as follows:
Data Collection: Data is collected from existing customers and used to build and iterate on a model to assess CLV.
CLV Modelling: Key drivers like table numbers, turnover/revenue and customer churn are identified from the above data and used to construct a model for CLV.
Customer Segmentation: Key drivers identified are included in questionnaires and introduction calls for potential customers. Based on this evaluation, prospective customers are grouped into 3 main segments -enterprise, mid-market and small and medium businesses.
Budgeting Customer Acquisition Costs: The above segmentation will determine the sales approach and the costs that should be budgeted against the expected customer CLV.
Existing customers have a dedicated Account Management and Support team. Account Managers meet weekly to discuss the engagement and health of their venue customers. Metrics discussed include:
Operational: Gross Transaction Value is the operational North Star metric. Satisfied customers spend more.
Engagement: Includes quantitative metrics like churn, average support response times and percentage of total venue revenue processed via Mr Yum. Qualitative measures include the level of integration with other venue systems (e.g. CRMs) and evaluating general sentiment levels.
Customer Success: Mr Yum conducts periodic check-ins with customers where they act as business consultants, advising venues on ways to improve the value they derive from Mr Yum’s product and how they are performing vs others in the industry.
These metrics and insights are combined into a Health Score for each venue. Health Scores are tracked over time, and any major changes are flagged to senior management and other areas within the business, such as product. In cases where customers need to be reassured, Mr Yum benefits from having 4 co-founders as this gives the capacity for a founder to personally call and reassure irate customers. Churn levels are low as a result.
A Business Defined by Trust
The founders made an interesting exception to their data-driven approach during the depths of the COVID crisis. They decided to onboard certain customers that desperately needed Mr Yum’s online ordering functionality even though they knew these would be unprofitable customers.
This was a calculated decision that paid off as it took only 6 weeks for Mr Yum to return to its pre-COVID Gross Transaction Value levels.
It also reflects the founders’ understanding of the importance of trust and how it underpins their unique approach.
Their early decision to be there for their customers, has built goodwill and defined their brand in the industry. The same can be said of their decision to support their staff through periods of uncertainty such as COVID and dealing with the changes faced by a fast-growing startup.
MyGuestList Acquisition - Building a Platform
Mr Yum’s goal is to help hospitality venues be successful by providing them with tools to make better decisions while maintaining ownership of their data. Hospitality venues are a fragmented market with each venue having different needs, systems and technology requirements. How can Mr Yum develop the features to serve such a diverse range of needs?
A potential solution would be to build the ‘Shopify for restaurants’ where they leverage a combination of internal product development and a 3rd party app ‘eco-system’. The result would be the ability to provide customers with a much wider range of functionality at lower cost. Venues would be able to build customised technology solutions that would give them the same analytical and marketing capabilities seen in the eCommerce industry.
Mr Yum’s initial step towards this was to integrate with numerous other venue systems to allow them to access the data captured by Mr Yum’s ordering and payment solution (e.g. Customers’ names, menu orders).
I see their recent acquisition of MyGuestList as a significant step in their evolution from a product to a platform.
MyGuestList has customer relationship management (CRM) and messaging capabilities. Combining this with the information from Mr Yum's ordering and payment platform allows venue operators to build detailed customer profiles and send customised marketing messages to entice the customer to return to the venue.
Customer profile and CRM data allow Mr Yum to become the system of record for customer data in the venue. This is valuable data which other software system providers could eventually decide to build their systems around.
Notice in the diagram above how Mr Yum can start to influence the product development decisions of the other software providers in the ecosystem. Harnessing this innovation would complement Mr Yum’s own product development as it builds a comprehensive platform that will allow its customers to grow and succeed.
The hospitality industry is unique given its emphasis on service and accelerating state of technology adoption. The founders have designed a customer centric solution and a growth culture that has maintained high service levels as the business continues to scale rapidly.
Key to this is the founders’ emphasis on trust and the goodwill it builds with their customers and team members during this period of rapid change in the industry.
The entire business continues to be focused on helping their customers succeed. Longer term, this means providing hospitality venues with tools that will give them the analytics and marketing capabilities seen in the eCommerce industry. Building this solution would require a platform-based ‘Shopify for Restaurants’ approach. I see their recent acquisition MyGuestList as an exciting step forward towards becoming such a platform.