Modern diners expect restaurants to meet their needs seamlessly across both online and on-site touchpoints. However, effectively integrating emerging digital channels into customer service presents challenges for restaurant operators. Nevertheless, today’s diners expect superior digital customer experiences from all businesses, and restaurants are no different.
This article explores multiple proven strategies and best practices restaurant executives should adopt to deliver responsive, personalized customer service by unifying online and on-premise digital capabilities.
Conduct Customer Journey Mapping
Customer journey mapping is the process of creating a visual representation of the process that a customer goes through in purchasing a product. This site gives a great example of what a typical customer journey could look like.
A key benefit of customer journey mapping is it helps identify pain points and bottlenecks for the customer in the purchase process. Here’s some areas to focus on:
- Map key journeys like ordering, reservations, in-restaurant experiences and loyalty. Identify friction points from the customer perspective. This will help identify areas for improvement. Also, compare journey results across different locations of a franchise, to help identify how one location may be performing better or worse than another site.
- Conduct shadowing research and interviews to uncover unmet needs and grievances across channels. Collecting feedback directly from customers helps you identify areas in the purchase process that should be addressed and corrected.
- Audit service metrics across online and on-site channels – wait times, resolution speed/quality, CSAT, NPS, and sentiment. All of these stats will be signals to help reveal customer satisfaction as well as pain points. Both are vitally important in your continuing quest to deliver exceptional digital customer experiences.
- Analyze contact topics and types to identify knowledge gaps to address through self-service content. Review common questions and complaints, and when possible, give customers the ability to self-diagnose common issues. FAQs and chatbots can help with this.
These insights should inform an integration optimization roadmap tailored to your guests’ needs.
Expand Digital Reservation and Ordering Options
A majority (56%) of diners now want to be able to place an order through your restaurant’s app. Additionally, 64% of diners would prefer to place an order digitally on-site. Today’s diners want and even demand digital and online ordering options. Here’s how you can meet the demand for digital customer experiences:
- Enable reservations, waitlisting and table management via website or app. This gives customers an added level of convenience and helps your restaurant set itself apart from competitors that don’t offer similar benefits.
- Optimize online and mobile ordering for delivery, takeout and curbside pickup. During covid in 2020, all retail businesses were forced to invest in contactless and curbside pickup. Customers now expect the ability to order online of via your app, and pickup their order on site, without contact. This is another key service that customers expect, and not offering contactless and curbside pickup could easily cost you business.
- Integrate loyalty features like saved payment methods and customized orders. This is another benefit that is expected at this point.
- Offer status tracking and real-time support for issues through apps or text. Status tracking is very important, try to focus on showing customers every step of the preparation process for their order so they can see exactly where the order is in the process. This helps alleviate trust issues and improves satisfaction and customer loyalty.
- Provide bots or chat support to aid reservations and orders. This is another expected feature, also give customers an option to speak with someone live if further assistance is needed.
Robust digital ordering and booking capabilities keep guests engaged and satisfied.
Implement Customer-Facing Tech In-Restaurant
Over 60% of diners now prefer to order digitally, on-site. Deploy on-site tech to match online convenience:
- Provide kiosks for quick ordering and payments to skip lines. This also helps frequent customers who know exactly what they want and feel they can complete the transaction quicker themselves than dealing with restaurant employees.
- Your restaurant’s app should provide guests with the ability to summon wait staff and pay for their meal.
- Digital signage with dynamic wait times, promotions and feedback collection. Displaying wait times helps manage expectations as soon as the diner arrives at your restaurant.
- Tabletop tablets for entertainment, ordering items, requesting service. Offering entertainment options can keep diners engaged while their meals are being prepared.
When utilized correctly, on-site digital tech can speed up the ordering and payment process, while providing an additional layer of support for the customer.
Implement Social Media Customer Service
Leverage your restaurant’s social media accounts as a way for diners to provide feedback and create word of mouth via shared content:
- Promote Twitter/Facebook profiles for guests to directly make inquiries.
- Make sure social media accounts are staffed with managers who have customer service training to handle complaints and suggestions.
- When complaints are left via social channels, make sure to respond promptly. This guide can help you address all customer complaints via social media.
- Share positive reviews on social to boost visibility. Also show positive reviews in your restaurant as a way to model the type of behavior you want guests to engage in.
Social channels provide convenient service in guests’ preferred channel.
Unify Brand Identity and Experience
Every customer has multiple touchpoints across multiple channels as they complete a purchase. It’s vital to ensure consistent digital customer experiences throughout the process. Here’s some tips to keep in mind:
- Audit language, tone, terminology, and policies across digital and physical touchpoints. This is especially important when reconciling tone on social channels versus on-site support. Increasingly, support issues are beginning via social media channels, before being handed off to your main support team. A disconnect in tone can lead to a negative experience for the customer.
- Create knowledge base resources, brand standards and training for both digital and human agents. Most importantly, all members of the support team, regardless of whether they work predominantly in online or offline, should be working from the same training and material. The overall level of customer support should be consistent across channels and online/offline.
- Monitor across channels to rapidly identify and address gaps or misalignment. Consider earlier how we discussed the customer journey map for purchases. You can do the same thing for the customer support journey. Map out the entire process to help identify gaps, inconsistencies and pain points.
Consistent messaging and experiences build trust and increase customer loyalty.
Track Analytics to Optimize Digital Customer Experiences
It’s vital to aggressive track the analytics associated with your digital support:
- Unified CSAT, NPS and sentiment scoring across digital and on-site interactions. These are key signals that help identify customer satisfaction as well as pain points.
- Identify channel service speed and quality gaps. Look for disconnects and any stages where the process slows for the customer. Map to areas where complaints arise to get greater insights into needed corrections.
- Monitor digital channel adoption and usage metrics. This helps illustrate what features and conveniences the customer is looking for.
- Correlate integration initiatives to revenue, visit frequency and loyalty lift.
Data visibility helps maximize integration benefits and can bring into focus which areas of the purchase process need priority.
Continuously Optimize Cross-Channel Experiences
An iterative approach is key as consumer behaviors evolve:
- Survey guests directly on friction points and integration desires. Proactively suggest improvements and collect feedback on desired implementation.
- Pilot new initiatives and channel combinations, measuring business impact and satisfaction. When possible, pilot initiatives should run through your loyalty program where it will be viewed as a perk by program members.
- Optimize underperforming aspects based on data insights. Map the customer journey and overlap feedback along with analytics to help identify pain points and bottlenecks in the process.
- Keep pace with digital and hospitality innovations reshaping guest expectations. Proactively survey guests about desired changes, they will often suggest improvements that they have noted and enjoyed from competing restaurants.
Ongoing optimization ensures integrated digital customer experiences exceed growing expectations
With the strategies explored in this guide, restaurants can effectively unify online and on-premise customer service capabilities into seamless guest experiences that drive loyalty. What’s your biggest priority for integrating digital capabilities? Reservations/ordering? In-restaurant tech? Mobile staff enablement? With focus, the impact on guest satisfaction can be immense.