Highly satisfied customers of quick service restaurants are four times as likely to recommend them to family, friends, or colleagues, according to a new study by Empathica.

According to the study, return visits to QSRs are higher when guests are most satisfied. The likelihood of a return visit jumps from 20% to 81% when customers report a higher satisfaction rate – which translates to the difference between stagnancy and success.

Word-of-mouth is a priceless marketing tool for QSRs and, according to the study, the act of recommending promotes customer loyalty. Benchmark results showed that brands are missing an opportunity regarding important service aspects such as having an attentive and friendly staff, providing a comfortable environment, and making customers feel valued throughout their experience.

"There are several reasons why guests may not be willing to recommend QSRs to family and friends," Dr. Gary Edwards, Chief Customer Officer, Empathica, said in the study. “QSRs need to make sure they are providing a variety of menu options - including healthy choices - and going back to the basics in customer service. Greeting a customer when they enter the restaurant, suggesting menu recommendations, and making that guest feel like a valued customer should be a priority alongside providing a great tasting, quickly served meal."

The study revealed that QSRs are competing against each other in terms of product, followed by customer service. While most brands are successful in food taste, portion and order accuracy, survey results showed noticeable gaps in customer service areas such as staff attitude and restaurant atmosphere. What’s more, fewer brands are focusing on healthy menu options and staff recommendations. These gaps in service are opportunities for QSRs to make changes and rise above the competition, the study found.

"There are more than 100,000QSRs in the United States alone, which makes this industry an extremely competitive marketplace," Edwards added. “Of course, these restaurants must be quick and have great tasting food, but service is where they can differentiate themselves from the competition. According to our Benchmark results, service is the area that needs improvement across the board - it is also a key area that can drive customer loyalty and satisfaction."

The Empathica Quick Service Restaurant Benchmark Study launched in March 2013 and surveyed 10,000 U.S. consumers from the top 62 QSR brands. The study measured food, order accuracy, speed of service, staff, value, cleanliness, atmosphere and menu for QSRs that customers had visited in the past 30 days. The survey also gathered the drivers behind loyalty for a QSR and for social media advocacy.

Empathica is a leading provider of social Customer Experience Management (CEM) programs to the world's most respected multi-unit brands in the retail, food services, automotive, and hospitality sectors.

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