It's hard to earn and retain loyalty these days. Customers are ready to drop you at a moment's notice. What's the secret to increasing customer loyalty? We have a few ideas for you that, at the heart of it all, gets back to basic customer service and connecting with your guests at a deeper level.
If you're not providing excellent, consistent customer service, there's no point in reading the rest of this list.
This research reports the effect of just a single poor customer service experience: 79% of customers reported they would take their business to a competitor within a week of a bad experience. The result—an estimated cost of customers switching loyalty due to poor service is $1.6 trillion. (Forbes)
The first rule of customer loyalty is a laser-focus on providing superior service that goes above and beyond competitors.
The gold standard in loyalty programs is currently Starbucks' mobile app. Customers simply scan their phones to earn rewards and free drinks. You don't have to go high-tech to run a successful loyalty program, though. Research shows that people prefer mobile apps over punch cards and swipe cards, but these are still a viable option for restaurants and bars.
Before investing in a loyalty program, first ask your customers what they value in a program and tailor it to what they want. Great program goes beyond rewards and freebies. Your customers may appreciate other rewards, so take the time to survey your customers and listen to their feedback. And take a look at loyalty program research, as well.
How can you make the guest experience more convenient? How can you relieve the pain points of your customers? How can you make it easier for your customers to do business with you?
Brands are offering what is called "lifestyle" apps that go beyond a loyalty program and enhance a customer's overall experience. Walgreens' customers earn rewards, fill prescriptions, and pay with their mobile app. Starbucks guests' place orders, pay for the order, earn stars and even stream music—conveniences which further reinforce brand loyalty and makes it easy to buy.
Convenience is offered online, through an app, and in-person. What can your restaurant offer to delight your customers and make it easier for them to choose you?
Visually—how are you creating an emotional connection with your customers through graphic design, print quality, materials, store décor, and messages? To stand out in a crowded field of competitors, your customers need to feel an emotional connection with your brand. That begins with your logo and visual branding choices.
Storytelling—what is the story behind your brand? Your personality and the story you tell about yourself is what will set you apart from the burger joint down the street. The feeling your customers get when they walk up to the counter to order begins with the story you tell them.
Fun—offer an experience that will cause customers to have a good feeling when they are deciding where to eat. Depending on your kind of restaurant, this can look like trivia nights, table games, "kids eat free" nights, or special entertainment for kids that give parents time to relax. What can you offer that gives your place a "feel good" edge? Chick-Fil-A does this especially well with their play area and free breakfast mornings, customer camp-outs on grand openings, and other exclusive experiences designed for families with kids.
What can you offer your customers, loyalty club members, and VIPs that they can only get from you? An exclusive experience might be a celebrity guest appearance, a friends and family day, a party to unveil a new menu item, or a charitable event for the local SPCA. Get the word out about your event through direct mailers, social media advertising, and printed materials and signs in your restaurant.
By creating emotional connections and experiences, making it easy for your customers to choose you, offering incentives for loyalty, and above all by providing excellent customer service, you can increase customer loyalty at your quick service, fast casual restaurant.