Zack Oates Reveals the Secrets to Business Success, Customer Engagement, and AI Innovation


"You Can Do Anything. You Can't Do Everything" [4:37 - 5:37] - Zack Oates’ dad Bart carved out a successful NFL career. Zack Oates attributes that success to Bart being able to do “one thing deep” and focus on being good at that thing. That mentality was passed down to Zack and it has served him well in his own business endeavors.

Surveys with the Customer in Mind - Zack Oates has branded Ovation as the “Anti-Survey” company. They have differentiated themselves from other survey companies by beginning with collecting data on how customers preferred being surveyed as opposed to simply forcing customers to inefficiently answer long questionnaires.

The Future of AI in Personalization - Ovation uses Artificial Intelligence, but Zack Oates values the personal touch of in person conversations. He does, however, see the future of AI adding to the personalization of hospitality by adding a layer to the customer satisfaction.


In a compelling interview on “Data Delicacies” with host Arun Kumar, Zack Oates, founder of Ovation, shared insights on focus, customer-centric strategies, and the future of AI in personalization. 

The Power of Focus: You Can Do Anything, But Not Everything

Drawing from his father Bart's success in the NFL, Oates discussed the importance of mastering a single area and how this principle has guided his entrepreneurial journey. He emphasizes the importance of focusing on a specific problem and dedicating oneself to mastering it.

"Instilled in me from a young age that you really can do anything.You can't do everything, but you could do anything," Zack shared. This principle of "doing one thing deep" has been instrumental in Oates’ business ascension, despite the continuous challenge of staying focused.

Customer-Centric Approach to Surveys

Oates and Ovation has revolutionized the survey industry with his company. Branding it as the "Anti-Survey" company, Ovation began by learning how customers preferred to be surveyed, rather than imposing lengthy questionnaires. By prioritizing customer preferences, Ovation has made surveys more actionable for managers, driving revenue and enhancing customer satisfaction. Zack's approach ensures that surveys are beneficial for both customers and businesses, setting Ovation apart from the competition.

"I don't know of any other survey company that started by researching how people want to take surveys," Zack explained. “That's why we often call ourselves the anti survey company, because every other survey company starts with what data do brands want?...So that was the whole mentality, let's make this easier.” 

The Future of AI-Driven Personalization

While Zack Oates acknowledges the value of in-person conversations, he sees a significant role for Artificial Intelligence (AI) in enhancing personalization within hospitality. Ovation already employs AI, but Zack spoke of a future where AI contributes to a deeper level of customer satisfaction by performing tasks like recommending specific menu items based on individual preferences and data. 

"What it's going to come down to is true personalization. And AI will enable us to do that," Zack noted. “It’s going to change to not just AI recommending, here's where you should eat, but AI saying, here's what you should order. So the question changes as there's a lot more data that's out there publicly. And as we can understand preferences.”

Zack Oates' insights on business success, exemplifies how to stay ahead in the competitive market. 

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Zack Oates is an accomplished author, devoted husband, and proud father. Recognized as one of the Top 100 Entrepreneurs, he has had the honor of ringing the NASDAQ bell and winning the world’s largest business competition. With an MBA from BYU, Zack has founded three companies and provided customer experience consulting for Fortune 100 companies. His expertise in dating and customer experience consulting led him to create Ovation, a leading tool for actionable guest feedback in restaurants, where he serves as Founder and CEO.


Data Delicacies is a weekly podcast that dives deep into the world of technology and data as it pertains to restaurants. Host Arun Kumar interviews some of the best and brightest in the industry about all things hospitality tech, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

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