CREATING CUSTOMERS FOR LIFE

Customer loyalty. An idea that might make or break any business. Creating customer loyalty is not just a luxury but vital in creating a successful business. Brand loyalty could improve sales and customer traffic in a restaurant because, according to statistics from the Customer Insight Group, a little over half of a business’ customers would consider coming back more often if they have loyalty benefits. It takes more money to bring in a new customer than to keep a customer coming back, according to Emily Callaghan, the Communications and Concept Development Manager at Synergy Restaurant Consultants. So, how can you save an extra buck and keep ‘em coming back for more?

1.If you think email is dead, think again! Take advantage of all social media and online communication.

According to Vincent Sneider, the Southeast Distributor for InTouch Dining, they use an email marketing system that the customer signs up for. About twice a month, a business can send emails to their customers updating them about upcoming events. It’s also a good idea to send out something for a special occasion. Using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media is also free and pretty easy to use for both the business owner and customer. Callaghan said that having a presence on social media is something that a business needs to have. Facebook and Twitter should always be updated with the correct address and hours.

2.Create a rewards system.

A cafe can create a simple rewards system by having punch cards where the tenth coffee or juice is free, according to Callaghan. Or companies like Rewards Network can help create a more complex rewards system. According to their website, it costs seven times more money to get a new customer to walk in the door than to retain a current customer. An easy way to gain loyalty is through any type of rewards system.

3. Respond to all inquiries and criticism. Always.

“Now it’s not just the newspaper critic that is weighing in on the experience, it’s everyone,” said Callaghan.

It might be hard to respond to a customer’s harsh criticism but it’s something that every business needs to do, according to Callaghan. With every comment and complaint, there should be a response. Data collected by Rewards Network shows that a customer who got a response to their feedback visited that business 20% more than a customer who didn’t.

“The worst thing is when a guest comes in and has a less than stellar experience and leaves and won’t come back. That’s a lost person,” said Callaghan. “And they might just tell their friends, eh not worth it. But if someone complains publicly, then you have the opportunity to make something of that. You could turn that hater, essentially, back into a fan.”

If a customer is complaining about the service, look at who was working at that time or what was going on that effected the quality of service. A good way to get this feedback can be through an email campaign. That way updates about the business can be sent and surveys can be given to customers easily, according to Sneider.

4.If nothing else, be sure to create an amazing experience for your customer.

Emails, online surveys and rewards systems are great but the number one thing a business needs to do to create that loyalty is to make the customer feel great, according to Callaghan.

“You need to make them feel good about being there. Their service is really wanted and appreciated. That they are unique. For those few minutes, it’s the guest,” said Callaghan. “It’s usually the customer is always right but you’d be surprised how often we forget that.”

This all starts with the management team. Hire people with upbeat and positive attitudes and train them to go above and beyond for the customer, according to Callaghan. Always smile. Say it’s my pleasure instead of no problem. Hold the door open for customers. Learn the regulars’ names. A business needs to build an emotional connection with the customer in order to keep them coming back for more, according to Callaghan.

“Really, to bring people back time and time again you need to give them something that they can’t get anywhere else,” said Callaghan. “But even if they can, maybe you have a great cappachino and so does John’s Cafe down the street so what is going to set yours apart?”

 

photo cred: Tim Wright

written by: Breanne Somach

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