If you’re a restauranter, you know the game is high volume and low margin. To be successful in business with this type of model, you need to make sure you have repeat customers. One of the easiest ways to get your customers to come back is to provide them with an exceptional customer experience.
Don’t just take my word for it: a 2017 Deloitte report showed that a positive experience will encourage 60% of guests to be more frequent customers at a restaurant. Happy customers like going back to establishments that make them happy. Pretty obvious right?
Although it’s probably even more obvious, providing a great customer experience also helps increase revenue. A Salesforce survey revealed that 67% of customers will pay more for a great experience. Customers are willing to pay a premium for a great time.
The benefits of a better experience are hard to ignore and if you care about your bottom line, you should definitely care about providing a great customer experience.
Here are the four main places (outside of food) where restaurants can make changes to improve the way they provide a dining experience to customers:
Have An Empowered Staff
The foundation for a great customer experience at your restaurant(s) is employing an empowered staff that is highly engaged and committed to delivering that experience. This operational mindset makes every single staff member feel valued and even more invested in delivering a great customer experience.
So how exactly do you empower your staff to give better customer experiences? You need to make sure they are well trained and educated on your restaurant’s values and expectations and most importantly, they need to feel like they are a part of the team.
One method of engagement is empowering employees to have a sense of ownership in the business. By passing over some of the control into their hands, staff will become invested in the overall success of the operation and feel they are a valuable part in making it work. What’s more, in letting go of some of the reigns in managing the often-hectic operations of a restaurant, operators can also free up some of their own time.
It’s important to train your employees on how to deal with potential guest issues with empathy. One of the best ways to leave a positive impression is to have a strong rebound after dropping the ball, which means fixing a mistake right away and taking ownership of said mistake. This ensures that a customer leaves validated, knowing that their issue was important to your brand.
Personalize The Experience
Any restaurant can have great food, but one of the major factors that separates great restaurants from the rest is the personalized experience for each customer.
A 2016 OpenTable survey revealed that 95% of diners would return to a restaurant “if the staff catered specifically to their personal preferences.” In addition, 70% want to see a similar personalized dining experience at a casual restaurant. Personalized experiences AREN’T just for fine dining establishments.
Small steps like greeting a guest by their first name (“Hello Martha! What would you like?”) put guests at ease and make them feel cared for and accommodated. Train your team on “service with a smile” hospitality concepts, and to project warmth and friendliness in their communications. Have your staff utilize their non-verbal attributes such as eye contact and friendly body language; though simple, these non-verbal cues can make or break an encounter with a guest.
Streamline The Wait Times
The worst part of going out, for any customer, is a long wait time. Modern technology and the rise of mobile ordering have given customers an unprecedented number of options in when, where, and how they enjoy their food.
If your customers choose to come into your brick & mortar establishment, they don't want to have to wait around all day. Do your best to keep wait times as low as possible so you can guarantee the accuracy and quality of the meal as well as a time frame that’s manageable for your employees. Train your employees to work in a timely manner and make sure your establishment is well-staffed during busy times.
According to the data we collected with our customers, long wait times are one of the top 2 causes of a dissatisfied customer experience. Don’t let long wait times be the reason your customers don’t come back.
Collect & Respond to Customer Feedback
One of the most important things you can do to make sure you’re providing a great customer experience is to measure your customer experience. The easiest way to measure your customer experience is to collect customer feedback.
You can collect customer feedback through a variety of channels such as surveys, email, comment cards, reviews, and so on. The reality is, you will collect social media reviews passively without having to do much (check out our Yelp Mafia blog post), however I think it’s super important to collect direct customer feedback as well.
I may be a little biased but I believe Benchmark Intelligence is the easiest and most effective way to collect direct customer feedback. We help restaurants collect customer feedback through short (on average, 60 seconds) text message surveys. Our surveys have proven to reduce online negative reviews by 50% because sending a text is easier than downloading Yelp. Also, since the feedback is collected via text messaging, you can RESPOND to customers in real-time using our application. Letting customers know their voice has been heard, especially after receiving negative feedback, is very important for retaining that customer.
Ok, now that I’m done with that plug, the reality is, collecting customer feedback is super important. But the job doesn’t stop at collecting the feedback, the MOST IMPORTANT part of the whole process is utilizing the data to make operational changes to ensure you don’t keep having the same customer experience issues. Data is your best friend when it comes to providing an exceptional customer experience.