Good food and a pleasant atmosphere are a big part of bringing customers in the door, but building relationships with those customers is important to securing repeat business. Tools like post-dining surveys, mobile applications and customer recovery programs are key for restaurants that want to get to know their customers and keep them coming back for more, a panel of experts said in a webinar presented Tuesday by NCR titled “Closing the Loop: Turning Customer Engagement into Repeat Business“.
Here are some key takeaways from the panel discussion:
Invest in tech
Technology is quickly becoming an inextricable part of the dining experience for many consumers, whether they are placing an order on a tabletop tablet or using Twitter or Facebook to leave feedback about their experience. Many customers — especially tech-savvy millennials — are starting to expect eateries to offer online ordering and mobile payment, and brands that fail to integrate tech solutions could lose business to competitors who are quicker to embrace tech.
“Most operators grew up watching the bottom line closely, this makes the industry as a whole slow at investing in sometimes costly technology, especially if they have trouble understanding … how it is going to impact them,” said Ed Beck, Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President of Technology for the National Restaurant Association’s Education Foundation. Beck said restaurants that are timid about making the leap should start small by building their brand’s presence on Facebook and Twitter, which could lead to conversations with customers about what other technology they would like to see at the restaurant.
Get to know your customers
Keeping track of customer data allows restaurants brands to target their communications and give customers an experience that feels more personal. When Illinois restaurant chain Tom & Eddie’s took its Bushel and Peck specialty burger off its menu, feedback flooded in from customers who wanted their favorite burger back, Chief Hospitality Officer Tammi Cicora said. By tracking which customers contacted them about the change, Tom & Eddie’s was able to target those customers when it sent out a message about the burger being put back on the menu as a limited time offering.
Cicora said keeping tabs on customers is especially important for customer recovery. When a guest who only visits the restaurant twice a year leaves negative feedback, simply offering an apology might be the best course of action. But if a bad Yelp review or an unhappy tweet comes from a customer who comes in once a week, “these are the guests that we definitely want to recover, and we’ll do so with gift cards, coupons, back flips, whatever is necessary,” she said.
Use automation to enhance hospitality
The growing role of tech and automation in restaurants can mean fewer face-to-face interactions between employees and customers, but the panelists agreed that restaurants can use tech tools to become more efficient and allow employees to better assist diners. “If you look at automation as a way to strengthen a relationship and to provide better service, in that context I actually think it strengthens this notion of hospitality,” said Jon Lawrence, Senior Director of Solution Marketing for NCR.
Lawrence said training is the foundation of a solid CRM strategy, and “it’s key for operations staff to be well-versed in what the technology is, what it enables and how it affects the overall flow of the restaurant.”
For more insights from Lawrence, Beck and Cicora, listen to the recorded webcast.
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