Offer more powerful “Feedback Paths” that grow your customer database and increase repeat business
One of the greatest challanges for restaurants is preventing customers from slipping into the shadows- getting lost the flurry of the rush – or worse, seen as part of the furniture during the mundane moments of off-peak times. Saying each guest is just as VIP as the next is an easy training point, but keeping everybody mindful of this fact is a challenge that’s faced fresh each day.
How a restaurant obtains guest feeback is crucial to building a positive reputation. The means of which a restaurant collects their guest’s perception of their dining experience is called a “Feedback Path.” Traditionally, these would be paper comment cards, a form on a website, an email follow up, or direct communication with a server or manager. These traditional feedback paths are limited and have their failure points.
Maximizing guest feedback opportunities requires a robust strategy that reaches each and every guest. It’s highly likely that most restaurants receive feedback in limited doses: the host of the party, a comment card, direct contact with a server or manager, or when a restaurant finds out about it on a public review site.
The other part of this equation is to consider the “others”. For a party of four, the host is typically the main point of contact. But there’s three other people that had an experience, too. What about walk-ins, and each member of the walk-in party? A paper comment card is usually about the only option – and this is easily censored (trash can) or put into a stack where details of the guest remain disconnected from the restaurant’s main operations.
The next challenge is what happens after a guest provides their feedback. Are positive comments encouraged with 100% immediate response AND a strategic “call-to-action?” — that is, tell the world and come back soon!
Do negative comments sound off immediate alarms? Can management can take informed prompt action that effectively turns the situation around? Or is the lost opportunity compounded by a lack of reaction which not only results in the loss of this customer’s repeat business, but the loss of new business from negative (or absent) word-of-mouth advertising and/or negative (or absent) commentary on social media sites and review sites. An often sited study from Harvard Business School suggests that going from a 5 star rating to a 4 star rating can mean as much as five to nine percent (pages 12 and 13) difference in revenue. In our industry, this can mean open or closed – for good.
If a restaurant goes out of business, it’s seldom because of a sudden catastrophe. It moment by moment. Little lost opportunities sprinkled throughout each day. A poor choice here. A neglected response there. All too often, it’s the guests in shadows, those that fly under the radar, are the most passionate about our world. They want to be heard. They want to share their experience be it good or bad. And for a while now, public review sites are the quickest path for this natural desire to express – and be recognized.
Unfortunately, many restaurants respond to negative reviews and guest feedback with denial, blame, and justification. It’s a slow bleed that ends in a slow death. The biggest stop-gap to all of these factors is this: The right people in charge of the business must be listening to the right customers at the right time. But a restaurant’s customers must have a channel of feedback that directs them inward back to the restaurant, not outward (at least initially). When received, customer input is compared to what really happened. The situation must be turned around. In nearly all cases, when handled correctly, a poor experience can be turned positive. Finally, those in charge of running the business are held accountable for keeping the ABCs (food, service & value) in check.
With the addition of RestaurantConnect’s Automated Attendant, we’ve developed solutions to these challenges with new Feedback Paths. It brings much needed checks and balances to ensure each restaurant has their own stop-gap system in place. When brought into an overall operational strategy, you can ensure each and every potential “shadow person” stays in the light.
They can not only conveniently share their experience with restaurant management, but go through a simple & natural “conversion” process that literaly switches a “Walk-In” from a no-name group of people to identifiable individuals with real actionable information — just as if the walk-in had created their own reservation to begin with.
Our feedback alert system ensures negative experiences do not slip under the radar. When connected with our promotion system, the feedback experience rewards the guest to provide satisfying closure. With promotions in place, all guests at each table are thus incentivised to return to the restaurant sooner than later.
What happens next is a restaurant’s success is driven by repeat business and a steady stream of word-of-mouth advertising. The dependency on other 3rd party systems to generate business is not only reduced, but put into the proper balance of a brand-first strategy. It’s the ultimate reinforcement of a restaurant’s own brand. You’re now reducing costs and increasing sales.
Understanding the power of Walk-In Guest Converstion
With any capacity for walk-in traffic there’s enormous untapped opportunity to convert not only the walk-in party’s “host” but each member of the party. Every guest at every table is potential new and repeat business.
Our walk-in conversion system brings another level of innovation and opportunity to the Restaurant Industry.
What exactly is a “Walk-In” and why does matter
At first glance this may be an obvious question. Four people show up at the front door to sit and eat. That’s a walk-in. No plans. A spontaneous situation. But there’s another place in the restaurant that’s often darkly lit.
This is actually a reservation.
When a person reaches out to book a reservation, they typically provide their name, some personalization requests if applicable, and that’s that. This person shows up, let’s say as a party of four, and the host team happily greets this person by name. We consider this good service. But, there’s three other people. Who are they? What are they doing here?
They are the “non-host” guests. They usually aren’t known. With repeat customers, their identity may become known over time, but usually “repeat” is the key here.
Since these non-host guests are not typically included in the name of the reservation, we should shift our thinking to see that they are essentially walk-ins, too.
We live in a world of exponentials now. The other three customers are where the restaurant’s future is. They are your immediate, daily booking portal. If you are a restaurant that accepts reservations, try this quick calculation:
- How may reservations parties were made on a recent busy night?
- What was the total cover count of those reservations?
- Of those reservation parties, how many emails and/or mobile phone numbers did the restaurant acquire?
Looked at another way, if a restaurant is seeking reservations as a primary source of business, and does not capture details about the other 66% of traffic that comes through the door- just how much opportunity is lost in the shadows?
What are you doing right now to convert these 200 non-host guests on a daily basis?
Here are the four primary opportunities to convert walk-ins and the other “non-host” members of a reservation:
- At the door when the guests arrive
- During the guests’ dining experience
- At the door when the guests leave
- Beyond the door after the guests leave
Converting a “no-name” guest from a mystery into a person that voluntarily provides personal information requires a natural and easy experience while answering the “what’s in it for me” question. When we are mindful that every human being is either consciously or unconsciously aware that every action they take is in response to this question, it becomes essential that we have an appealing answer to this question.
In the case of motivating somebody to share information of any sort, which means we are asking for a guest’s time, offering something in return that is of equal value drives response rates up.
To do this, you can now meet this criteria with RestaurantConnect’s table management system:
- Use the waiting list experience to get the guest’s name and mobile phone number upon arrival. If the wait is marginal, it may not hurt to put a five minute quote in exchange for a mobile number.
- Another option, if there’s no wait, offer a special promotion for the guest to the guest’s name and mobile phone number. Our Automated Attendant will take care of the rest once this step is done.
- During the dining experience, the wait staff can generate a Feedback Chit for the guest and/or with POS integration, which includes the Feedback Offer on the guest’s bill
- After the dining experience, if the mobile number was obtained at any time, the automated attendant will call, text or email the guest to request for feedback
The real opportunity is where there was no information collected at all:
- If a guest responds to either Feedback Chit, then this is where the conversion happens
- The guest calls and RestaurantConnect will either recognize the number or not
- If not, a new guest profile will be created
- If so, the walk-in will be converted to the guest that call and identifies themselves as the host
- Any other guests that were at the restaurant with the host will be automatically added to the party as additional guests
- All additional guests will either be identified with their existing guest profile or a new profile will be created for them if not
- Once the provide their feedback, if a promotion is setup, the automated attendent will ask if they’d like a text with a special promotion
- At this time, a walk-in party of four will have been converted to real guest profiles with a booking link sent with a promotion to bring the guest(s) back to the restaurant.
For either option, any and all guests at the table can call or text the Automated Attendant and provide their feedback. In this process, our walk-in conversion system will locate or create a new guest dining profile for each person that provides their feedback, and assign them to the dining record. A no-name party of four then literally because four new guests in your database that can be marketed to.
Incoming Guest Feedback
With the IVR, guests may now choose to provide their feedback with fully automated speech recognition.
As handy as mobile devices are, typing constructive feedback comments can be time consuming and a actually be a barrier to obtaining rich details from the guest. Guests can instead speak directly to the Automated Attendent which will save each response to the reservation exactly like the current web form does.
For their comments, an audio recording will be saved with the reservation, and the recording will be transcribed and saved in the feedback comments section just as if the guest had typed the commments.
[EXAMPLE HERE OF ATTENDANT AUDIO RECORDING]
Viewing and Listening to Guest Feedback in Reservation Details:
Listen to the above feedback audio sample here:
It all comes down to this: Every single guest matters. The more communication we have available, the more action we can take to ensure that what your guests say about your restaurant drives your reputation in the right direction.