A business owner’s main goal is to make money. No kidding, right? But, without customers, the making money part won’t happen. Even if you have a good product or service, and you attract new paying customers, making them stay and extending that relationship (and revenue gain) is the tricky part.
An impressive achievement for any business owner is to reel in restaurant customers and keep them coming back. Repeat business is key, especially when retaining an old customer is 5x cheaper than gaining a new one. Plus, with loyal diners spending 67% more than newcomers, growing that loyal customer base is the key to more money in the long run.It all comes down to gaining customer satisfaction through solid customer relationship management strategies.
Customer Relationship Management
Customer relationship management is the process of keeping your customers and potential diners engaged through practices like communication and marketing. Just like the Cheers theme song, sometimes you just want to go where everybody knows your name. But, in the device-driven world we live in, the days where you’d walk into your neighborhood diner and chat for hours is virtually non-existent. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep your relationships with your customers strong. It just has to be executed differently.
There are many in-house techniques you can use for building a strong customer relationship. As a restaurant owner, you know these include having killer food, a friendly staff, and an appealing setup to foster loyalty.
However, there are also many customer retention practices that don’t occur in-house. With so many communication channels online to connect with your customers, it’s crucial to extend your customer relationship management strategies beyond your front door.
Read on for tips on boosting your restaurant customer retention using online methods.
Recommended Reading: 5 Ways Restaurant Technology Creates Unforgettable Customer Experiences
6 Online Essentials for Managing Your Customer Relationship
Social media is a great way to foster customer relationship management online. People are using these apps to be SOCIAL—so interact with them there. If you receive positive comments on your restaurant’s Instagram posts, respond. Get a question about hours of operation on your Facebook status? Comment back or reach out to the individual via direct message. It’s not difficult to show customers you care by being cognizant of your online presence.
Data from TrackMaven's social media report
Social media is a spotlight for your business. Use it to your advantage by keeping content fresh and engaging. If you go weeks without posting any new content, followers won’t stay interested in your brand. Consistent posts on social media will keep your restaurant relevant.
Need ideas for what to post on social channels? Here are a few:
- Weekly specials
- Events being hosted
- Behind-the-scenes of your kitchen
- Customer-generated content
- Decor and atmosphere updates
- New menu items
- Employee features
Take your social media efforts a step further and run Instagram contests, encouraging followers to use branded hashtags and tag your business handle in their posts. This is an awesome way to get your customers interacting with your brand. Plus, with their permission, you can use the content they post on your own social pages.
Bonus Tip: There are tools out that allow you to be active online without manning your computer 24/7. GuestFriend is an interactive chatbot that lives on your website and Facebook page. You can set it up to answer basic questions about your business to take some of the grunt work out of customer service. Similarly, tools like Hootsuite allow you to schedule social posts ahead of time to keep your feed active without the work.
Your website isn’t just an online billboard that boasts how awesome your business is—it can be used as an effective customer relationship management tool. How? It’s simple. A good restaurant website should have the information hungry guests are looking for. Gorgeously staged food photos and videos are an added bonus, but if you don’t have the essentials, you’re going to disappoint people.
Make sure your site clearly states your hours of operation, your address, a phone number and email, and your menu. These are the key points people will be heading to your website for, and they should be available on the homepage.
When it comes to an email or contact form, make sure you’re monitoring these outlets regularly in order to send out timely responses. If someone wants to dine with you tomorrow and asks about your dietary options for vegetarians and it takes you three days to get back to them, you’ll lose the sale.
3. Email Campaigns
Email campaigns and newsletters are a great way to keep customers informed. If you have email subscribers, that means they want to receive emails about promotions, events, and specials. Sending out a weekly or monthly newsletter and developing a cadence of communication with your clients is a great way to start. After receiving a few newsletters, people will be expecting (and anticipating) your communications.
Based on the customer data you have, you can get creative with your email campaigns. Maybe you want to offer a special birthday discount to your customers; emailing them before their big day is the perfect way to drive them into your restaurant. This strategy can work for holidays as well, if you’ve got something to offer your loyal customer base.
Something as simple yet exciting like a new menu release deserves an email! Tease some featured menu items and deals in the message and let your customers know about any relevant information about the new menu (how long it’ll be around for, where the ingredients are sourced from, and etc.) Again, you’ll drive in-house business with online communication.
4. Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Getting customer feedback through surveys is a goldmine for restaurants customer relationship management. Plus, providing a way for customers to voice their honest opinions will help you make better business decisions. Echoing the above sentiments, emailing is a great way to send out surveys online.
Send out general customer satisfaction surveys or segment them into categories like Food/Beverage, Service, Atmosphere, and Overall Experience. Reviewing the responses and conducting a sentiment analysis will help you find out where you excel and what your weak points are. Plus, surveys will show your customers that you care about their opinions.
Of course, you can also encourage in-house guests to fill out surveys on paper or iPads, but online surveys allow customers to respond at their own convenience and allow you to break out the data for analysis.
Recommended Reading: Restaurant Survey: Are you serving a meal or an experience?
5. Online Reviews
Reviews are a hot topic for businesses of all sizes—especially for restaurants. I’m sure your establishment has tons of them online, whether on Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, or other platforms. It may be difficult to keep up with all the noise, but it is wise to respond to customer complaints and praises. Have a system in place for reaching out to reviewers on a regular basis, address their concerns, and take the conversation offline if need be.
In today’s world, reviews are the new word-of-mouth. You want people researching your restaurant to see it in the most positive light possible, and responding to reviews can help.
Need help managing your reviews? SinglePlatform’s Review Monitoring and Intelligence tools can help. We aggregate your online reviews into one place so nothing falls through the cracks. Plus, you can filter reviews based on star rating and topic.
6. Online Listings
Most new customers (and even old ones) won’t find information about your restaurant through your website. Instead, they’ll perform a quick online search and wait for the results to pop up. The search could be as specific as your restaurant’s name, or as vague as “Italian food near me.” Regardless, you want to be found if your restaurant fits that search criteria.
Clearly, your business needs to be visible on the main search engines like Google, TripAdvisor, yelp, and Yahoo in order to get noticed by more people. And the information you provide needs to be accurate. With 93% of people viewing online menus before dining out, you’ll want to make sure your menu is available through online listings too.
Having your online listings accurate and present across the major directories is essential when it comes to customer trust and satisfaction. So, don’t risk losing out on more business because of an outdated online menu. SinglePlatform is in the business of online menu management, so get in contact if you need help managing your online presence - we do it all for you!
There are plenty of ways to keep customers engaged online in an effort to keep them coming back to your restaurant. Today, a lot of interaction happens online, so you need to be where the action is! If you have a solid plan in place for communicating with your loyal and potential customers online, you’ll have a better chance of keeping them as repeat guests.
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