How Panera Makes Being Customer-Centric a Priority

Customer experience planning is all about uncovering experiences that provide value to both the customer and the brand, and providing the framework to make the experiences customers want a reality. It seems simple, but as we’ve written about time and again, there are a bunch of ways in which the experiences and the frameworks manifest.

We have written about the importance of having a true understanding of customer needs by identifying who they are to a company, segmenting them to learn more about their lifestyle, and determining the drivers that either help or hinder their motivation to do something. 

We’ve discussed how no company or organization is immune from the relentless drive toward improving customer experience regardless of the industry.

And we’ve told stories of groups that have taken great steps to improving CX, like that of the new and improved Chicago 311 system.

Putting all three of those ideas into one sandwich is a great new interview with Mark Berinato, VP of digital experience at Panera Bread, at PSFK. By embracing a truly customer-centric position, they are able to see how even the same customer wants to interact with their restaurants in different ways at different times.

I’m one person at 7:00 a.m. on my way to work when I want a great breakfast sandwich and coffee (but need to be in and out in five minutes), a different one again at lunch—eating soup and salad with a client—and yet a different one at 5:30 p.m. trying to orchestrate a family dinner. The single-café space itself needs to adapt to the customer and their needs—to be seamless and intuitive, no matter what the job.

This has allowed them to shift the experiential meaning of the ‘everyday oasis’ that formed the core of Panera’s brand essence when it was founded. The slower, more casual antidote to fast food has found the spaces in which speed and comfort can co-exist to the benefit of their customer’s experience.

In discussing the future innovations they hope to bring (renovated spaces that better accommodate the customer journey, more mobile integration, and AI), he points the the most important deciding factor in any change - “regardless of the approach, we’ll start with the customer benefit and work backwards.”