At Merivale, we’re in the service industry. Our customer experience starts the minute someone hears about one of our venues and continues right through until they visit, have a great experience and are thinking about it the next day.
From the minute you step inside our venues, it’s a world-class experience. Everything is thoroughly considered, from the lighting and ambience to the atmosphere and music, the food on your plate and the service.
Our focus has turned to pre and post of that experience and making sure this is as world-class as the in-venue experience. This involves CX, content, PR, digital, creative, brand, and partnerships which all fall within my remit.
Customer experience is the foundation line, it’s at the core of everything that we do. And digital plays a big role in that.
Merivale’s digital transformation
Our way of working has been quite traditional in the past. However, we’re looking to shift more into an entrepreneurial, start-up mode by putting together specialist teams who will own our digital transformation.
Within our business, there are many old systems from reservations to point-of-sale. All of these systems involve complex processes and they’ve been functioning within the business for many years. When it comes to data, it’s hard to get these systems talking to each other. It’s also difficult to renew them because there is so much IP and data tied up in these systems. It’s certainly one of our biggest challenges.
We’re looking for technology that gives us quick wins in the short term, with the view to being able to get all of our systems connected in the long term. Balancing innovation with on-going operations and other business priorities is a constant struggle for any established business.
Digitising the customer experience
While we have shifted our focus to the before and after customer experience, there also are a number of in venue challenges that can be addressed with technology. For example, how can we avoid queues at the bar or when customers are ordering food?
For our newest venue The Newport, we’re working on a smartphone app. The idea is to improve the customer experience from the minute people arrive.
The Newport has a range of different offerings, almost like a food market. There’s a big pizza area, a burger shack, a seafood market and a kiosk. Using the app, you can order from your phone and through triangulation, the food will be delivered to your table or you’ll receive an alert prompting you to pick it up.
We’re looking at how we can innovate bar tabs so you don’t have to pay for your drinks every time you go to the bar, you just swipe your phone. The app also works with valet parking. When you’re in the venue you can press a button, and it will let you know when your car will be ready to pick up.
We’re looking at a range of other ways to increase the innovation of technology to make that customer experience even better in-venue. We’re working on this at The Newport with the view to release similar innovations across the group.
Being so motivated by technology is a real strength of the business. It’s also important to have the involvement of the whole senior management team to drive these innovations. It makes the process a lot more exciting for us, and a lot easier to meet our objectives.
Using content to deliver a better customer experience
Another area we are innovating in is content. We started a publishing arm six months ago in order to engage our audiences with stories from our business.
Our head of content comes from an editorial background and is working with freelance writers, photographers and videographers to create content about and for the Merivale audience. We give back to our customer by providing credible advice and publishing and distributing content that reinforces Merivale’s positioning as an aspirational lifestyle brand.
For instance, we’ve been able to share inspiration from our venue, Coogee Pavilion Rooftop. Calling on the team that designed the rooftop, looking at the detail that’s gone into the styling and how our customers can use those tips in their own home.
Working in the food and wine space give us plenty of opportunity for lifestyle content. The next exciting opportunity lies within the personalisation of this content. We’re looking at how we can deliver content to our customers in a way that makes it feel bespoke and aligned with their personal interests. Someone who enjoys going for dim sum at Mr. Wong or feasting on fine French fare at Felix is likely to be interested in different content to a guest who regularly parties at Pacha or someone who likes to have a casual drink with friends at Coogee Pavilion on weekends. Ultimately, the customer experience is enhanced by content that adds value to their lives, fosters brand loyalty and feels personalised, rather than just delivering generic hard-sell messaging.
The biggest strength we have in terms of customer experience is ensuring we have a world-class experience from beginning to end.
Andrew El-Bayeh – Marketing Director, Merivale
An accomplished hospitality executive with extensive experience in brand, marketing, social, sponsorship, PR, events and entertainment. Andrew drives the marketing and customer experience strategy for Merivale’s 50+ portfolio of pubs, restaurants, hotels and nightclubs. Andrew is a highly strategic professional, motivated by the maximisation of brand value, elevating customer experience and commercial return whilst building strategies for long-term sustainable success. Andrew currently sits on the Merivale leadership team, and prides himself on being a results-driven, passionate and innovative leader who strives to maintain a well-developed reputation within the Australian hospitality and marketing industries.