How to Build the Right Customer Engagement Strategy for Your Restaurant6 min read
Your existing customers will most likely account for approximately 85 percent of your restaurant’s future revenue, statistics suggest. To accomplish such a high level of customer loyalty, however, you’ll have to work hard on keeping customers engaged with your restaurant brand.
Ensuring customer engagement isn’t a one-time effort. It involves multiple steps, the most important ones including:
- Building a solid media presence for your restaurant, helping people come across it
- Making it easy for potential customers to contact you
- Communicating the type of information the respective customer group is interested in
- Helping your audience make the transition from a prospect to a client
- Consistently promoting your brand/producing quality content to ensure ongoing engagement after you win a client
Every single step requires a specific approach and this is why you need a solid, consistent customer engagement strategy for your restaurant.
One other thing you’ll have to understand to ensure effectiveness is that customers cannot be lumped together. Your restaurant clients have specific needs, preferences, incomes and lifestyles. Segmentation is required to deliver the right message and the right incentives to every specific group.
When you have these essentials in place, you can craft and fine-tune a customer engagement strategy that will drive long-term restaurant growth. Consider the following statistics as they’ll give you a somewhat better idea about the importance of a customer engagement strategy:
- 79 percent of customers want to see that brands care before engaging
- Customer retention can reach up to 92 percent for companies that have a well-crafted strategy
- A good customer experience is heavily dependent on client feedback – 70 percent of companies that deliver stellar services rely on feedback from their clients for improvements
- 91 percent of customers who aren’t engaged with a brand will leave dissatisfied with the interaction
While engagement is so important and companies do acknowledge its vital nature, only one percent know how to measure the effectiveness of their efforts.
A good restaurant customer engagement strategy sets specific, measurable goals. It also allows for upgrades and modifications on the go, based on the customer feedback.
If you’ve never worked towards the establishment of a solid customer engagement strategy in the past, the following guide will help you acquaint yourself with some of the key essentials.
Segment and Personalize the Customer Experience
As already mentioned, segmentation is needed to deliver a tailored message to different customer groups.
To achieve good personalization, you need to collect data about your clients. The goal can be accomplished in several ways.
Social media and restaurant website interactions are very beneficial because they provide a rough demographic sketch of the audience that’s engaging with your brand. Surveys and feedback forms at the restaurant itself can also be used to consider service improvements, the selection of the right communication channels and the messages that will elicit the highest response levels.
The provision of small rewards for participation in such data collection efforts will increase customer eagerness to give you the information you need to start providing a better customer service.
Utilize Technology in the Restaurant
Innovative in-house technology can help you accomplish a lot in terms of driving engagement levels up. Some of the most common types of technology restaurants can employ to drive engagement include:
- Digital tabletop menus to facilitate ordering and increase the speed of service
- Self-order kiosks for the very same purpose
- A robust POS solution that will allow for quick payment processing (and enable an array of payment options)
- CRM software
- Interactive tabletops (even featuring virtual or augmented reality)
Obviously, you don’t need all of these tech solutions. You can pick and choose the ones that correspond to your restaurant concept and that will potentially appeal to the respective crowd.
The aim of technology is to speed up service, make it more personalized and allow for the effortless collection of information. Interactivity and getting people to handle certain aspects of the interaction on their own will also increase engagement and allow for a better overall experience.
Make Good Use of Digital Channels
Most of your restaurant clients are on social media. While engagement during a restaurant visit itself is crucial, you should also consider ways to extend the scope of the interaction to the digital realm.
Social media provides opportunities to accomplish numerous things:
- Reach a very targeted audience and deliver the right message
- Utilize multiple formats to engage customers (text, videos, slideshows, infographics, pictures, illustrations, digital menus, etc.)
- Potentially go viral with some of your original content
- Do local advertising via channels like Google Maps or Facebook Places
- Ensure immediacy of interactions by responding to comments and messages
- Collect feedback through surveys, polls and questions
- Introduce loyalty programs for your followers
- Surpass the reputation establishment efforts of the competition, even if you have a small budget to dedicate to online promotion
These are just a few of the things you can accomplish and social media have a lot more to offer. You can even find B2B partners and the right suppliers through the selection of the right digital channels to be present on.
Most social media channels are informal and highly visual. As such, they provide customers with effortless brand interaction opportunities. If you’re present, you’re strategic about your social media content and you interact with your audience, chances are that you’ll see a high level of engagement out of such efforts.
Leverage Bonuses and Loyalty Programs
Rewarding loyal customers is essential to establishing an ongoing relationship with them. Hence, loyalty programs and bonuses are considered one of the pillars of customer engagement strategies.
Repeat customers form the bulk of your business. Acquiring new customers is much more expensive than nurturing repeat interactions. You already know who your repeat clients are, what they’re looking for and which restaurant services they’re mostly driven towards.
Personalized messages, discounts and loyalty offers delivered to such clients reinforce the loyalty and drive incremental revenue. The same applies to VIP or limited offerings to your regular clients.
Restaurant loyalty programs come in many shapes and sizes. Free deliveries, tiered in-restaurant loyalty programs, a free dessert or an amuse-bouche, access to preferential seating and access to invitation-only events are just a few examples of the wonderful things you can do to show appreciation.
Fine-Tune Efforts on the Basis of Feedback
Engagement strategies require ongoing efforts. This means you can collect real-time feedback and if you see that an aspect of the strategy isn’t delivering the results you’re hoping for, you can do modifications on the go.
Social media makes it very easy to get a better idea of customer attitudes. One third of all customers will post on social media if they’re dissatisfied with service quality. Nearly 90 percent of social media users try to reach out to brands. At the same time, most brands don’t know how to handle such interactions.
Introducing service changes, providing some kind of compensation to dissatisfied clients and working towards better personalization in the future can all help you maximize engagement.
For the purpose, however, you’ll have to maintain a degree of flexibility. We live in a digital world and data collection is easier than ever before. What matters is making good use of such information and guiding your restaurant business in the right direction on the basis of the feedback you’ve received.