Standing before industry insiders at a recent conference, Jakobsen revved up the crowd with her passionate delivery touting the use of technology to engage customers. Despite only two years of experience in food service, she has already helped develop a successful a digital customer loyalty card that lives inside a mobile app. But she wouldn’t describe herself as a geek. Jakobsen credits her ability to connect directly with customers and innovate on their behalf—two skills she honed in previous agency jobs—as well as her background in design and communications. The 245-unit Pinkberry yogurt chain is now trying to engage customers, promote products, speed up service and deliver value without relying on the freebies and deals typical in quickservice.
What makes your loyalty program so effective?
The mobile technology had to be simple and intuitive, but first we had to analyze our customers’ needs. We discovered that they place as high a value on dialogue as they do on promotions. So we built a two-way direct communication channel into the app. Starting with an email base of 65,000, we now have 420,000 customers engaged in our loyalty program. And once we acquired these loyal customers, we didn’t put the program on autopilot. We target them with relevant, timely messages, encourage feedback and actively make them feel part of the brand. When you love your loyalists, they will do the talking for you.
How do you stand apart in such a crowded segment?
Speed of innovation. I am an athlete at heart. I apply an athlete’s mentality—train, practice and prepare for the competition as a team—with the reward being a win. We are constantly introducing distinctive products and are now making our smoothie platform more robust. Admittedly, the frozen yogurt field is amazingly saturated, but innovation is critical to growth. It’s also important to emphasize your competitive advantage. Compared to our competition [self-serve concepts], we are very committed to human interaction and have a strong point of view on design. Our stores look cool.
Any advice for women striving to become innovative leaders?
Keep a strong voice in everything you plan and a clear path for getting there. Stay focused on the customer, and don’t let day-to-day distractions derail you. I try to follow three words of guidance given to me by one of my mentors: simplicity, focus, repeat; repeat based on an understanding of the results.
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