Ringing a bell: top tips in driving customer loyalty

With new restaurants opening what seems like every other day and more and more shoppers going online, customer loyalty is becoming increasingly important.

Eloise Sheppard, Managing Director of Call Systems Technology, has been getting to the heart of what really matters to consumers and offers her top tips on driving customer loyalty in this technological age.

Playing your cards right
The key to getting a loyalty scheme right is by making sure it’s one customers deem worthwhile without compromising profits. Operators should keep away from schemes that give users a percentage discount every time they dine or shop and instead focus on giving customers an incentive to come back.

Loyalty cards are an easy place to start but operators need to be careful: many people don’t want a wallet full of plastic and I would advise investing in an online system for customers who want to participate but don’t want the clutter. The reward also needs to be more substantial than earning a free drink or collecting points that don’t ever seem to amount to much. Burger restaurants, for example, could offer diners one free burger for every five that are purchased.

Chances are also high that consumers will pay for side orders and drinks when they return to redeem the offer.

Building brand identity
Presence online and within the local community is an important factor in encouraging customer loyalty. This element becomes more difficult for large restaurant and retail chains to achieve because communication channels such as the website and social media accounts are managed by head offices.

Businesses should consider microsites for the regions or even for individual outlets, and local social media streams, managed on the ground at each location to notify nearby customers about what matters to them. Independent stores and eateries, including pubs, can more easily ensure they’re active online and encouraging engagement from local customers.

Running competitions on social media and advertising events online is a great way to remind people about the business and inspire them to visit again. With so many different store and eatery options available, consumers need these little digital reminders to stay loyal. 

Serving up quality
One of the easiest and most effective ways to drive customer loyalty in both hospitality and retail has nothing to do with the consumer; instead it comes down to quality of service. In restaurants, the difference between an attentive waiter and a lax one can hugely impact the diner’s decision to stay loyal and come back – or to never return again.

Likewise in retail, one rude staff member can make a shopper stay away from that store forever. It’s important to ensure the customer’s experience is the number-one priority, because it doesn’t matter how good the food is or how nice the clothes are, if consumers aren’t happy with the service, they’ll vote with their feet.

Keeping in touch
Most retailers and restaurants accumulate a substantial database of customer details, including birthdays, shopping and eating preferences, email addresses and phone numbers. As long as customers have opted in for marketing purposes, there’s no reason why restaurant operators and retailers shouldn’t be putting this data to work.

Businesses should offer discounts around birthdays and anniversaries, or send a more personalised email now and again, showing relevant new dishes or products. Marketing components of CRM systems are designed to automate this process and make it easier to connect with the customer and encourage repeat visits. 

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