After the last two years that the hospitality industry has had to endure, it’s now more important than ever to build good customer loyalty. Too many businesses focus on acquiring new customers rather than retaining the existing ones. While both are important, building a long-term relationship with customers is incredibly valuable, as it means they are invested in your business. They believe in your values and they support them. The flip side of this is that they are then also more likely to help you attain new business through word of mouth – customer reviews are hugely influential in purchasing decisions.
There are many ways to build customer loyalty. Offering rewards like discounts or free meals is quite popular, but much of the relationship building will come from the way your staff approach customers, how they personalise their experience, how well they understand the business and its values, and how they promote this to customers.
Rewards v Promotions
Don’t devalue your business with too many short term promotions. Yes, this will likely attract new customers, but will it retain them? You are better off going down the rewards route, as it will keep them coming back. This could be a points system on a bespoke app, free meals, sides, or coffees, when they spend X amount. Or even things like a free bottle of wine or a meal on their birthday. You could offer rewards for: customer referrals, leaving reviews, spending a certain amount etc. Some establishments even offer a rewards card, which means they can use their rewards points on anything they like, rather than something already pre-selected.
Personalisation is key
Customers like it when they feel their needs are accounted for. And by understanding their wants and needs, it will allow you to craft the perfect offer that speaks to the individual. It can often be the difference between a new sale and a missed opportunity. To find out what they like, pay attention to their buying habits, and how they engage with your social media posts. Surveys are quite a dated way but they still have their place.
Educate your staff
When your staff show good knowledge of your business, it builds trust and authority. Your staff shouldn’t just know your brand values, they should understand them too – and believe in them. They should also be able to recommend their favourite dishes or drinks, which will give them the power to upsell.
Make service a top priority
Most customers can overlook the occasional food mishap, like a forgotten side dish. What they are less likely to forgive is poor service. If your staff are inattentive or rude, this will greatly affect your establishment’s reputation. Make sure your employees understand that customers are a top priority. After all, the customer is always right… mostly.
From emails to apps, websites and social media, we’re in an age that’s all about digital. Not only will having a digital presence make it easier for customers to interact with you, it will also make it easier to personalise their experience, using the data acquired from their habits.
Following these tips will help you to create good brand advocacy, which will in turn build great brand loyalty and ensure you have a strong base of long term, happy customers.