Once upon a time there was a small, locally well-known, restaurant that approached Exakt Marketing with a laundry list of concerns they were looking to fix. Among them were concerns that their sales were flat, and while they attracted a decent lunch crowd, they wanted to get to a point where there was a steady stream of traffic throughout the day.
At a time where restaurants open and close at the blink of an eye, they also felt they had an amazing story to tell: they’ve been in business for over 100 years, have a positive reputation around town, and a loyal and friendly staff, some whom have been with the company over 40 years!
After not seeing the results they had hoped for dabbling in offline print and commercial advertising, they thought it was time to establish a greater social presence, to keep existing customers engaged (sharing photos of food, and in-store activities), informed (being able to broadcast weekly specials quicker), and also as a way to attract new ones (by telling an engaging story). They felt confident this was the missing link to help their business reach the next level, and couldn’t wait to see their business take a turn for the better.
And they all lived happily ever after… the end.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. As we started to do some initial research, it became apparent the root of their problem wasn’t the company’s absence from the social sphere. Instead it was much deeper… it was a lack of understanding about their customer’s expectations. Were they doing everything they could to satisfy their needs in order to create the best overall experience? Or was the restaurant being run (and marketed) by what the management team THOUGHT their customers wanted to see and hear?
Within five minutes, and a quick Google search later, we discovered complaints about inconsistent food preparation and quality. Many were about items that the restaurant was locally “famous” for.
According to Qualtrics.com, “The single greatest predictors of customer satisfaction are the customer experiences that result in attributions of quality, which is often measured by: overall quality, perceived reliability, and the extent of customer’s needs fulfilled.” If the restaurant had taken some time each month to scan through online reviews (i.e. via Yelp or TripAdvisor), they would have noticed a disparity in the quality of food their customers were expecting, versus what they were actually being served.
But but but… “being present” is going to take too much time!
Being present and aware of what’s going on inside your restaurant doesn’t mean you have to sit at a table every day and observe your surroundings. It also doesn’t mean you can sit on a beach somewhere, surf the internet, and get reliable feedback. Instead, a good balance of hands on and hands off monitoring should be on all restaurant owners’ agenda. After all, happy customers = happy to return (hummm…didn’t I say that in my last blog post?)
So here are five suggestions on how you can monitor what’s really going on inside your four walls:
- Talk to customers directly
Reward your customers! Randomly pick someone and offer to buy them dinner in exchange for 15 minutes of their time. Maybe it’s after they finish their meal… or maybe you set up another time for them to come in. Make sure they understand you value their time, and won’t keep them long, but their feedback is important to keep your restaurant on top of its game. Hint: While it might be easier to survey a “regular customer,” the goal is objective opinions. Would a “regular” be completely honest? Or, survey both and compare the results.
- Conduct surveys
Setting up a brief customer service survey can have powerful effects. Not only can you identify underlying problems, but it also can show your employees the importance of fulfilling and exceeding your customers expectations. If your restaurant collects customer’s email addresses, there are free online survey software programs, such as SurveyMonkey, that distribute survey’s via email. Or you could set up a dedicated landing page on your restaurant’s website for customers to visit and fill out an online form. Provide the link (and remember to offer a reward!) at the bottom of each customer’s receipt.
- Hire mystery diners
Mystery diners, or shoppers, will dine and survey your restaurant to make sure customers have the most pleasant experience they can. They take all touchpoints into consideration from ease of parking, to employee relations, and food quality. The best part is they’re disguised as regular customers, so no one knows when they are coming, or who they are. Then they provide detailed reports on their findings. Sounds a little scary, but then again, if you’re doing everything right there’s nothing to worry about right!? The reality is you’re hiring them to tell you what you can improve upon.
- Set up Google Alerts or Talkwalker Alerts
Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts are free services will allow you to set up email alerts when anything associated with your restaurant’s name, industry, food style, etc. is mentioned on the World Wide Web. Email alerts can be sent daily, or weekly, depending on your preferences. It’s a great way to know who’s talking about you, if you can’t consistently monitor everything yourself. Hint: Make sure to put any words in quotes that you want the service to recognize together. For example, if your name is Ruby Tuesday, you should type in your alert as “Ruby Tuesday.” Otherwise, you will see results for items mentioning “rubies” or events or stories containing the word “Tuesday.” However, if you’re looking to monitor all information pertaining to food trucks, simply typing in food truck (with no quotes) could be sufficient. Adjust your alerts to find the right combination that works for you. (Also, check out my latest blog article for more on this topic)
- Monitor Yelp, TripAdvisor, and UrbanSpoon reviews, as well as social media
These powerful online services can give insight on whether or not your customers’ needs are being met. Pay close attention to any negative reviews and decide if you’re able to make some adjustments based on their feedback. When you have customers who’s experience was less than par, make it easy for them to tell you about it (not someone else), and make a point to acknowledge their feedback. Let your customers know what’s being done to fix the issue, so there won’t be a repeat upon their return. Hint: Find a way to keep in contact with your customers so you can let them know when changes and improvements occur. This might be through social media outlets, email blasts, or within an announcement section on your website’s homepage.
Whether you implement one of the suggestions above, or all of them… you monitor everything yourself, or hire someone to do it for you… it’s imperative to not assume you know what your customers want and need. The only way to find out, is to listen.