There was a time when the primary goal of businesses was customer satisfaction. In today’s scenario, however, satisfaction is passé and engagement is the new buzzword. Consumers are no longer interested in having one-off experiences but in an ongoing association that can hold their interest.
This is the digital age with non-stop conversations taking place all over the web. The success mantra for companies today, therefore, is to become a good listener. But how does one do that while managing a business simultaneously? Emergence of applications that are more involved with the day to day consumer, as well as accessibility to smart devices are providing businesses with options aplenty to incorporate new contact channels and meaningfully engage their customers.
Food for thought: While all enterprises strive to engage their customers productively, those in the restaurant business have to work twice as hard. With new restaurants mushrooming up almost on a daily basis the industry is replete with competition on every step. And one bad interaction or experience with the customer can mean a huge loss of business and reputation in today’s socially connected world. And no business, especially the food business, can afford that. According to a study by Parature, US businesses lose an estimated $83 million annually due to poor customer service and 62 per cent of the US consumers have switched brands in the past year due to poor customer service. Restaurant owners need to understand that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for its customers anymore, and precise, personalized engagement is the only way forward if they hope to remain competitive in today’s crowded marketplace.
Leveraging Technology for Customer Engagement: To engage the consumer of today, businesses have to understand their thought process. Today’s customer is aware, impatient and demanding – and he is socially connected at all times. The mobile revolution has brought about a massive change in how consumers expect their dining experience to be. Whether they use their iPhone to find the closest restaurant and map the best route there, or check online for menu information or customer reviews, restaurant patrons increasingly rely on technology to guide them to the table. And it’s not restricted to a specific age group! Let’s look at some numbers. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that 56 per cent of those between 45 and 64 have recently used tech options in restaurants and almost one-third have checked out restaurant locations using a smartphone. What’s more, four of ten prefer to use smartphones or tablets to “place orders, use rewards or special deals, make reservations or look up nutritional information”.
To catch the attention of such a customer, restaurants need to incorporate technology in their business process to create a more interactive experience for the customer, while providing value for their time and money. But does that mean eliminating human to human interaction completely? Not for now, at least. The key is to strike a balance between leveraging the potential of technology and still being able to provide a personal touch to the whole customer experience. After all, real hospitality and engagement means connecting with your guests on an emotional level to create a connection and build long lasting loyalty and a valued relationship.
How you achieve that emotional connect depends on how you choose to engage your customers. Depending on your setup, you need to choose what kind of technology options will help further your customer engagement strategy. But here are some essential technlogy solutions that should be on your business menu if they aren't already:
Customer Facing Technology: This essentially includes iPads/ Tablets and smarthphone apps that provide a window to your restaurant and make the dining experience a more pleasant one. Creating a more customized experience, tablets take the role of “a third server,” allowing guests to re-order drinks, order dessert and pay for the check. This optimizes service, minimizes interruptions and allows guests to be in greater control of their dining experience.
Operational technology: Restaurants can utilize technology to streamline their operations and create more efficient systems to run their business. Mobile technology can be used to track inventory, regular checklists, and can go so far as to be used in the similar way we use in our own home kitchens – as a way to help out new kitchen workers get a handle on the restaurant’s menu items.
CRM Technology: The CRM database gives you all the information and reports that you need to know about purchase and customer behaviour and helps you take informed decisions based on the data. Moreover, social networking sites provide a great platform for restaurants to interact with their customers at a personal level and get insights into their likes and dislikes, birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions. This will help you to further delight your customers by sending wishes and greetings along with special discounts, helping to build loyalty towards your restaurant.
Technology has never been more intuitive than it is today, and it’s only getting better. There isn’t any doubt that technological advances will serve to improve the experience — both for the food industry and for the patron. Yet with every new advance comes a new challenge and how restaurant owners deal with these advances is what will determine the future of their business - regardless of what’s on the menu.
Pic Courtesy: apple.com