5 tips for the best customer experience during COVID-19
By Jon Rice and Doug ReifschneiderCOVID-19 Updates Features Business and Operations Customer Service COVID-19 updates
Since the start of the pandemic, restaurants have been on a roller-coaster ride. Businesses have been forced to pivot away from on-premises dining to offer online ordering and take-out services. While some had well established services already in place, others have had to start from nothing to provide these capabilities. Here are five tips for planning for the future to provide the best service:
1. Understand your customers
Great service now revolves around the customer experience you bring to every interaction. Your customers need to know that they can depend on you to safely prepare their food and to keep it hot, in the moment they want to pick it up or have it delivered. For this to work seamlessly, you need to know if:
- your web and mobile ordering systems are operational
- the customer must go inside the store for pick-up, or if you’re going to deliver it to them at the curb
- you’re going to offer home delivery as an option, and how much it will cost
Whichever pick-up or delivery options you provide, make them as seamless as possible to meet new consumer expectations.
2. Focus on personalization
Many restaurants have set themselves apart by offering exceptional personalized service. The people that answer the phone for take-out orders are now your front line for customers. They need to be attentive to customer needs and develop the ability to upsell or offer alternatives while taking orders. When your customers call, your employees should:
- pick up the phone right away and say a friendly “hello”
- recognize the order number and greet the customer by name
- know the customer’s ordering history so they can personalize the experience
- ask about specific requirements or instructions
It all comes down to making a connection. Realize that these services are here to stay and the skills you develop now will pay off down the road.
3. Prepare for changing conditions
Openings and closings are in flux. Some establishments have opened, only to find that they may have to close again. Crisis planning plays a critical part in how successfully you restart. You need to adapt your concept and put the right processes in place for the restaurant to comfortably open as efficiently as possible. No one can know how often they will need to reopen or close, so your plan needs to address changing conditions.
The people that answer the phone for take-out orders are now your front line for customers.
While disruptive, it’s an opportunity to fortify your systems, put training materials together and re-arrange your establishment to accommodate your customers as safely as possible.
4. Create frictionless transactions
Contactless delivery is the new partner to frictionless transactions, from ordering, to picking up food to paying with a credit card. The more you can integrate the better. For in-house dining, how tables are separated, how plexiglass partitions are used and how staff adhere to new policies and procedures all reinforce the level of trust your customers will have in your restaurant. This in turn helps the guest experience become a more pleasant one.
5. Implement new technology
While some restaurants may be a bit behind the curve in terms of investing in technology, the good news is that there are a variety of new tools available for the hospitality space. Whether it’s online ordering, reservations, or touchless pay systems, many technology systems are both easy to implement and affordable. Be sure to make use of the free tools that are out there – check that all your listings on social media, Google and Yelp are up to date with your correct name, address, phone and hours of operation so when people look for you, they see accurate and current information.
Now is the time to put these tools in place. You don’t have to wait for perfection – get into the mix and adopt the technology tools that make it easy for customers to order, pay and pick up.
Restaurants and hospitality businesses of all stripes have shown great resilience in this challenging time. Many have discovered they are better at adapting to change than they thought when this crisis started. There are many new ideas and best practices that you can put into play to help you get your business moving again and the positive steps you take today will equip you to meet tomorrow’s challenges.
Jon Rice and Doug Reifschneider are CMOs with Chief Outsiders, a major fractional CMO group. They work with leaders in retail, food and beverage and consumer goods businesses to solve growth challenges. More information at chiefoutsiders.com.
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