Originally posted in 2017. Updated: December 2019 to include up to date hiring information and account for the advances we’ve made in hospitality technology over the last couple of years.
As the owner of a hospitality business, you know that customer service is critical to your success. Or more specifically, consistently good customer service.
New businesses pop up every day. Customers have more choices than ever. Unfortunately, this means that one bad experience can permanently alter a guest’s perception of your restaurant. Thankfully, new trends and technology are making it easier to offer great customer service to every guest.
Here are seven steps you can use to take advantage of these trends and enhance your customer’s experience:
Step 1: Hire Great Staff
One of the biggest challenges restaurant owners face is finding and retaining the right staff. Ultimately, the quality of your customer service directly reflects the quality of your team. Finding a good team is easier said than done.
When it comes to hiring, finding great talent starts at the top. Efficient managers will have a strong work ethic and be able to manage stressful circumstances. Apart from the responsibilities of day-to-day operations, managers will be required to support staff during unpredictable customer interactions. Providing excellent customer service for things like last minute group reservations and unhappy customers will set your restaurant a part.
Great managers will also help attract top staff. Front-of-house staff members will have the most interaction with customers so each employee needs to be carefully interviewed and trained.
Many restaurant owners are using incentive programs to encourage their current employees to help recruit high-quality candidates to hire. While these programs can be effective, it can be difficult to hire on referrals alone. Traditional hiring practices such as online postings will likely bring in more applications but need more screening.
Although experienced new hires are ideal, inexperienced applicants can often surprise you. Someone with a positive attitude and strong work ethic may catch on quickly and provide customers with excellent service. Surrounded by other people with the right skills and training, these inexperienced staffers can become top performing employees in no time.
It’s always a delicate balance between having enough staff to manage your restaurant, whiles keeping your overheads in check. One option to consider is adding a self standing kiosk to your restaurant. Kiosks are an excellent way to manage more orders without the pressure of more people.
Step 2: Provide Proper Training
Proper training is the key to successfully onboarding any new hire, regardless of his or her skill level. An effective training program will provide a strong foundation for customer service and reflect your unique culture.
“Your staff needs to be attentive to customer demands while displaying the personality of your establishment,” said Shaun Fowler in a recent article on Chron.com. The restaurant business is challenged with the trade-offs of quality and speed of service.”
Traditional training methods, such as shadowing and mentoring are an effective way for new hires to learn about your business. These methods will provide new employees with a way to experience senior staff’s customer interactions and branded approach to service.
Your guests will be more likely to receive great customer service if you establish expectations with new employees right away. Clear boundaries and standards internally will be reflected outwardly.
Step 3: Incentivise Loyalty
Data published by Fast Casual showed that 27% of first time guests returned at least once if they were informed about a hospitality business loyalty program.
These loyalty programs incentive guests to return through points programs, tiered incentives, or gamification experiences. New technology makes it easier than ever to implement programs that may have been difficult to create in the past.
Points systems, such as Belly, offer rewards to customers who frequently visit your business. Tiered systems, famously used by Starbucks, reward customers with different incentives based on how often they make a purchase. Digital Ordering specialist Mobi2Go allows their clients to add many loyalty solutions. Customers can earn and spend points when ordering ahead or ordering in store using QR code loyalty, or give them the open to order ahead using a gift card.
Revel Loyalty, Maitre’D, and WizBang Technology’s Onetap solutions are just a few of the POS providers that are allowing customers to create loyalty programs with their current technology. These companies offer easy-to-customise technology so you don’t have integrate yet another technology solution into your operation.
Step 4: Automate Your Restaurant Customer Service with Technology
Today’s tech-savvy consumers have more choices than ever when it comes to eating out. Now that many consumers are screening menus online before visiting in person, an online presence is required for exceptional customer experience.
Online and mobile ordering is becoming increasingly popular for hospitality businesses and provides customers with the option to place a delivery or takeaway order on-demand. You can reduce customer wait time and eliminate the potential errors by allowing your customers the option to order online,
Shake Shack recently made headlines with an online ordering app that allows customers to place their order and select a pickup time, putting the entire experience back in the hands of their customers.
Apart from online ordering, restaurant owners are using technology such as table side tablets, digital menus and games while-u-wait to provide a unique customer service experience.
Step 5: Delivery
In a recent study, 36% of millennials admitted to ordering delivery at least once per week. As a restaurant owner, this means you need to provide great customer service for both customers dining in and those who order out.
Although some restaurants manage delivery internally, others are outsourcing delivery to third parties. Companies such as BringIt and OrderLord specialise in delivery and provide an excellent door-to-door experience for customers.
Some restaurants are even going the extra mile by offering customers with delivery trackers to monitor food in real-time. In 2015, Domino’s created a GPS Driver Tracker that allows customers to track their pizza order. The tracking lets customers see when an order is leaving the store, the expected arrival time and a delivery driver’s profile. This personalised experience provides comfort to customers who may be cautious about getting food delivered to their home.
By taking the extra step to enhance the timeliness and safety of the delivery process, Dominos is going the extra mile to retain customers and provide excellent service every step of the way.
Step 6: Talk to Your Customers
Customer feedback is a great way for you to improve your hospitality business as the restaurant industry continues to evolve. Although many managers find time to talk to consumers throughout the day, it’s hard to get deep insight from your customers in a short amount of time.
While traditional comment cards may do the trick, technology is making it easier than ever to receive feedback from customers. Websites such as Yelp and Google offer customers the option to leave public reviews on their third-party site, while Facebook provides you with a way to reach your customers for feedback and monitor reviews on your page.
While many customers are happy to share feedback, some businesses offer incentives for more detailed insights. By offering a discount or reward, you can incentivise customers to share their experience in details that you may have miss otherwise.
Step 7: Make Changes & Implement New Policies
To provide an exceptional customer experience, training and policies should evolve based on the feedback you receive from customers.
The key to any of these changes is great communication with your team from the top down. While some management retrains their staff regularly, others prefer to communicate changes at quarterly staff meetings. Regardless of the approach, your customers will recognise the positive experience they receive with each new change you implement.