In Focus: Donna Benton, Founder & Chairman of the Entertainer
3 years ago by Qasim Javed
Donna Benton, Founder & Chairman of the Entertainer which offers ‘Buy One Get One Free’ deals for different outlets talks about the importance of listening to customers and adapting to provide them a better customer experience. She also discusses the success of Entertainer’s mobile app, role of social media in customer engagement and how her company is offering customer support on multiple channels.
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“OUR CUSTOMER SERVICE & LIVEADMINS TEAMS, ARE KEY TO LISTENING TO THE NEEDS OF OUR CUSTOMERS”
Q: What was the idea behind starting the Entertainer and tell us about your journey so far?
Donna Benton: People always ask me how I came up with the idea for the Entertainer – in a way I simply happened to be in the right place at the right time. In 2001, I moved from Melbourne to Dubai for a job that fortunately didn’t work out. Soon after, I was driving down the Sheikh Zayed Road, which is the main highway in Dubai, and I saw that there were a huge number of restaurants and attractions but customers had no incentive to visit them. I thought that if I could produce a product with a good enough deal and not many exclusions – then it would be a win-win for the customer and the merchant.
In the first year we had 97 merchant partners and sold 983 products. Today we have over 10,000 merchant partners, with close to 500,000 users worldwide and drive US$1.3 billion dollars into the global economy. We still remain true to our original offer in our first book, which is always buy one get one free. Personally, I define success in terms of the value the Entertainer creates for customers and our loyal merchants. We enjoy great customer loyalty and a large number of our merchants have been with us since day one – so with that in mind we are definitely succeeding.
Q: How do you identify and cater to different customer needs?
Donna Benton: The Entertainer appeals to a wide range of customers for a number of reasons. Firstly, the concept is simple and easy to understand – our offers are ALWAYS buy one get one free, valid for lunch and dinner, valid all year long, valid 7 days a week (excluding public holidays), the Buy One Get One Free offer is the strongest offer you can get in the market, for the best quality merchants available – in basic terms customers know what they are buying and how much value they can get from the product.
Secondly, we provide offers for a wide-range of categories including dining, attractions, leisure activities, spas, fitness and hotel accommodation. And within the categories the breadth of opportunity is huge. For example, our Food & Drink category ranges from formal fine dining and upmarket bars to cafes, informal dining, takeaway and family-friendly favourites. Activities range from family attractions to cultural experiences, adrenaline-fuelled fun and golf courses. So there really is something that appeals to everyone.
Lastly, our customer touchpoints, including our customer service and LiveAdmins teams, are key to listening to the needs and wants of our customers. I’m proud to say that we do listen and adapt our offering, technology and products to improve our customer experience.
Q: How do your offers and services vary from region to region?
Donna Benton: We aim to maintain the same level of merchant quality and customer experience across all of our regions, so the integrity of our offers and services remains the same across all of our markets, no matter how new. Our rules of use are the same in all markets and this is important to us. Having said that some regions include offers in different categories – for example we have a Wineries category in South Africa and a Culture & Heritage category in Malta & London.
Q: What makes your customers want to come back to you for business?
Donna Benton: As I’ve mentioned before, customers know that Entertainer offers are going to work for them, they know it’s always a 2-for-1 offer and they can trust that there are very few restrictions on when they can be redeemed.
We take the customer experience seriously, making sure that they have a good experience all the way through their journey with the Entertainer. The core pillar of the Entertainer is a positive experience when it comes to redemption. We ensure that every outlet is fully-trained and know how to accept offers in order to limit any awkwardness a customer might feel in handing over a voucher or asking for a discount. We ensure that the search and redemption process on our App is the best it can be, to ensure that they can find what they need quickly and easily. In case of any problems, we ensure that customers can contact us quickly and easily for a resolution. We listen to the feedback that they give us and amend our approach accordingly.
Customers who buy the Entertainer products have experienced for themselves the savings they enjoy, and become loyal supporters of the brand. Our customer surveys show that they even recommend our products to their family and friends, with a majority 69%, recommending us to more than three people.
Q: What are your online customer service and support processes?
Donna Benton: We offer online customer service and support through a variety of channels: with LiveAdmins directly through our App and on our website, email support and across all social media channels.
We aim to respond to all customer service enquiries within 48 hours and responses tend to be even quicker through social media.
One of the most significant improvements from integrating LiveAdmins service is that we are able to help customers as and when they are actually using the App – answering their queries immediately. This is extremely useful for customers who have questions about how the App works, how to redeem offers and which merchants they have access to.
Some more detailed queries do require more follow-up and in these instances a customer service case is logged and an Entertainer Customer Service Representative follows up accordingly.
Q: How are you using social media to enhance customer experience?
Donna Benton: Social media is key to timely communication with our customers and fans. You need to find a way to sell your business or service through engaging content rather than just sales promotions. Consumers want to be intrigued by social media and not sold to and this is definitely our approach when it comes to the channel. We use social media to help customers make the most of their Entertainer product by showcasing new and existing merchants and offering helpful tips on using their product.
Also if a customer chooses to communicate with a company through social media, they are looking for a personal and timely response so we make sure our customer service teams respond accordingly.
Q: How would you describe the visitor journey when they log on to your website?
Donna Benton: Like our App, the Entertainer website is designed around discovery – whether that is discovering a new Entertainer product to buy or new outlets where you can redeem offers. Like our App, the LiveAdmins service is integrated into our website so that customers have access to immediate feedback to clear up any questions that they have on our products, outlets and rules of use.
Q: In your opinion, what makes good customer service, great?
Donna Benton: Good customer service is all about the experience a customer has when using your product. This needs to be maintained throughout the customer journey and upheld throughout the customer relationship. Clear communication, support and timely response is important in the early stages of the relationship and moving forward you need to be considerate about how, when and why you communicate with your customers and, of course, listen to their feedback. In the early days, the Entertainer brand became known through word of mouth recommendations from delighted customers and this is still the case today. We are very aware that if a customer is happy with their experience they will be great advocates for our brand and products.
Q: The Entertainer’s mobile app was launched in 2013. How well was this received by your existing customers?
Donna Benton: Launching the Entertainer App at the end of 2013 was a huge step for us and a decision that is now the key driver of our business development. The uptake of the App has been phenomenal. In 2014 we converted 12% of our customers to the App. In 2015, we grew the share to 42% and this year over 80% of our global customers are using the App.
Of course the App offers our customers convenience and, with the ever-increasing number of offers, a lighter load than the heavy books. It also provides us with a wealth of data that is really changing our business – helping us to continually improve our offers and products so that they provide the best customer experience imaginable. So it’s really exciting for us as a business as we’re now using real data to drive our business decisions.
In terms of enhancements, we have integrated great new features this year that are considerably enhancing user experience. Advanced search allows customers to browse offers by category, area, outlet, cuisine, location or even by attributes such as halal, shisha available, valet parking and Wi-Fi. The notification centre sends an alert when a new offer is available and we listened to our customers who wanted to be able to send offers to friends, with the Offer Ping feature allowing you to do just that.
About Donna Benton – Founder & Chairman, the Entertainer
In 2001 Donna launched the Entertainer, the region’s leading provider of Buy One Get One Free offers for dining, attractions, activities, spas, hotel accommodation and more. Over the past fifteen years Donna has used her passion and enthusiasm to drive the Entertainer from a single Dubai book to a Dubai-based international brand with digital products in 15 countries and offers from over 10,000 merchant partners.