Customer service is essential in the restaurant industry. It’s the key to providing an experience that encourages loyalty and to meeting customer needs. However, it can also be problematic – virtually every consumer has visited a restaurant before and so expectations can be pre-existing and entrenched. Going back to basics when it comes to customer experience is a great way to ensure that expectations are met, and exceeded, so that loyalty can be nurtured.
Manage your customers’ expectations
It’s important to ensure that customers know what to expect from your business, as it will be this that enables you to deliver. This applies on a brand level to expectations about service and food, for example. It’s also essential in terms of each customer’s individual experience – for example, if your kitchen is behind on orders, ensure that customers know as soon as they arrive and tell them what you’re doing to make sure they still have a great experience.
Have systems in place to cope with waiting times
Queues out of the door are not necessarily a sign of popularity – they may also indicate the kind of poor management that can destroy customer loyalty. Variability of demand can make this challenging in a way that few other industries have to deal with. However, a combination of positive customer communication, staff training and backup capacity can ensure that your business can cope.
Be consistent when it comes to service
Inconsistent service is the fastest way to disappoint customers and needs to be tackled at every point of contact your staff have with consumers. Customers will always notice if the service expectations they have for your business come up short against a current experience. The foundations of ensuring great service are consistent brand standards, ongoing staff training and monitoring and good hiring decisions. It’s also crucial that staff can cope with unexpected situations, such as staff shortages or unreasonably irate customers.
A consistent product is key too
If customers know that they will enjoy the same standards of choice and taste if they choose to return to your restaurant they are much more likely to be loyal. If the cooking, preparation and serving of a dish is different every time a customer visits your restaurant they may simply not be willing to take the risk that it will be less enjoyable next time around.
Communication is the key to everything
Training your staff to communicate effectively with customers will give them the ability to handle any situation that arises in a way that nurtures customer loyalty. It’s also important that staff can communicate with each other and that there are tools in place to enable process and systems to support better staff performance (e.g. ePOS systems to speed up orders and payment taking). Your workforce can be your biggest asset when it comes to customer loyalty and so staff are always worth investing in.
The right kind of customer experience doesn’t necessarily require perfection but it does need to be supported by consistency, expectation management and well trained staff who can handle anything.