Why is loyalty important
There are only 3 ways to get more sales – get new customers, get customers to spend more, and get customers to come back more often. Most businesses focus all their marketing efforts on the first option of getting more customers and miss the easier option of getting more sales from existing customers. It’s certainly a lot harder (and more expensive) to gain a new customer than it does in getting repeat business from your existing ones.
So whatever your business be it a bar, hotel, B&B or restaurant, any business needs to place as strong an emphasis on keeping existing customers as it does on gaining new ones.
What you are doing to convert this extra business into loyal customers who will return time and again?
Loyal customers who know, like and trust you are also far more likely to refer you to others. So even if a repeat visit isn’t on the cards they may still generate more business for you indirectly.
Here are five key factors in establishing customer loyalty. None of these are new or revolutionary, but there may be one or two areas where you may want to make some minor changes to be making the best of the opportunities.
Understand and Love your customers
I won’t dwell on this point as I covered this in a recent post, but bear in mind no one will want to do business with you if there’s no rapport between you. The more at ease you are and the more you have in common with your customers the better you’ll feel and the better the experience they have too.
Show you understand your customers’ needs. The more you get to know your customers the easier it is to anticipate their needs, and deliver what they want on a consistent basis to keep them satisfied. Keep up-to-date with what your customers want from you by listening to them. Get to know your customers and be visible in your bar, restaurant or hotel, making personal contact with your customers to build rapport and trust. They are then far more likely to tell you what they want and what would encourage them to return.
Avoid being so bound by your own rules that you can’t be flexible. If they’d like something from the restaurant menu in the bar, or a dish from the a la carte to replace something on the table d’hôtel is it such an issue? If a guest wants a lie in and would like breakfast at 11.30, is this really that big a problem if it means they enjoy their stay and tell their friends? If they’d like to take their desert home in a goody bag because they are too full to enjoy it, then let them.
Giving Outstanding Service
Get the basics right. Ensure your customers’ second, third, or 30th visit is as good as their first. Have systems in place to ensure you’re able to deliver the same level of service on a consistent basis. Take the customer journey regularly, and see everything from a customer’s perspective. Be sure to under promise and over deliver. With regular customers this means continuous improvement, as they will have set expectations, which we need to strive to exceed on every visit. Simple things delivered well will always be better than trying to be over sophisticated and delivering it badly.
Wow your customer Do something different that help you to stand out from your competition. Home in on the things that are of high value to your customers but low cost to you so you can give added value. Give people a reason to talk about you. Always look for an opportunity to go that extra mile to wow your customer to make it really difficult for them to ever contemplate not coming back to you. Always leave them with that open invitation and tempt them to return.
Last impressions. What will your customers remember most about their visit to your bar, hotel or restaurant? What happens in the last few moments of their visit that will undoubtedly influence their lasting impression? Show you appreciate their custom; a sincere thank you in person goes a long way. Give them a little memento to take home with them as a lasting reminder: a box of homemade petit fours, jam or pickles or gift bag of your exclusive toiletries for your leisure guests, or quality logoed accessories for your corporate market. Obviously this needs to be in line with your margins, but even something as small as a print out of the ingredients of their favourite cocktail or the recipe of a dish they asked about, or printing out directions for their onward journey.
Spot Your opportunities
Listen to customers so you can spot opportunities for additional sales. Not just for your own business, but for other local, sister or complimentary businesses too. A visit to a neighbouring attraction, place of interest or even another hospitality business might still generate spin off business for you (and vice versa).
Ensure everyone fully understands your products and services so they can spot opportunities. This doesn’t mean ramming unwanted offerings down people’s throats, but picking up on an interest or need and helping to find the right solution or offering suggestions that the guest or visitor may not have thought of themselves or been aware of – a win-win.
Train and empower your team to be flexible so they can tailor offers to best suit the customers’ needs and make appropriate recommendations.
You team also need to know the level of service that your customers expect, and have the appropriate training, tools and systems in place in order for them to deliver this. Brief your team so that they too can recognise and remember your loyal customers and empower them to deliver what your customers want and expect. In the unfortunate event that your customers have cause to complain, give your staff the training, confidence and authority to deal with complaints promptly. Your recovery of the situation can in itself earn you brownie points.
I read recently it’s estimated that over two thirds of customers will fail to return if they feel unappreciated. This is the number one reason businesses lose customers.
Ask for feedback. Never take your regular customers for granted; ask for their feedback and resolve any shortfalls quickly. Problems or challenges are often your opportunity to shine and leave a positive lasting impression if dealt with positively. Now’s a chance to exceed expectations. Face to face feedback will always win over a comments form or questionnaire. Ask them what they like and what disappoints them if anything, so you can learn from this and continually improve. Customers will be flattered if you ask for their opinions. So also ask for their feedback on how things can be improved and their recommendations and new ideas. Then keep them up to date with the changes they’ve made to demonstrate that you have been listening. What a great excuse to invite them back again to show them the changes you’ve implemented?
Show your appreciation of their custom with a simple thank you message. Naturally you’ll do this in person. But for B&Bs or hotels you might follow up with a simple personalised thank you note a few days later to show your appreciation. Anything that will give them something to remember you by, especially if it is handwritten and tailored to them. Some think that in this web based age that this is out dated; how would your customers react to receiving something in the post, rather than clogging up their email inbox?
Remember them. Not only addressing your customers by name (although don’t under estimate the impact when someone remembers your name especially when you aren’t expecting it – and getting the spelling right when you’re writing it down). It’s also about remembering their preferences. Do they have any particular likes and dislikes, what is their favourite table or room, do they have any particular requirements such as a late check in or special diet. How do they like their drinks mixed? Do we know their birthday or any special anniversaries? Remembering such details will always be appreciated. And although you may know this regular customer, do your staff know them too. Record their personal details and any special requirements so whoever is on duty the welcome your customer receives is consistent.
Reward their loyalty with exclusive deals that have genuine benefits. How does it make you feel when you see promotions offering special deals for new customers that aren’t available to you as an existing customer? Make your loyal customers feel special by putting together packages or deals which are exclusive to them. This again demonstrates your appreciation of their custom, as well as potentially prompting additional bookings. As a loyal customer, the last thing you want to hear about is an offer that’s only available to ‘new’ customers.
Know your competition. Keep an eye on your competitors, what they are charging, new services they offer, improvements, marketing promotions, etc. Make sure your services are the best value for the money. You do not necessarily have to lower your prices when your competitors do, but make sure your customers know that you are worth the extra money. Stay competitive. I’m not just talking about other hospitality businesses; your customers will compare you with anyone else who delivers a service. So as long as you deliver a five-star service you’re going to compare favourably with all your ‘competition’.
Build Long term relationships
Keep in touch. Out of sight is out of mind so even if your customers are only likely to visit you once a year, keep in touch with them for the whole year so that when they are considering a night out, a celebration or weekend away you are very firmly in their mind.
Let them know what other things of interest you have going on, you never just know, it could just tip the balance in favour of them coming to see you as an extra visit. What are the things that they didn’t’ get a chance to experience on their last visit: something new, something seasonal, something they didn’t have time for – not just at your bar, restaurant or hotel but locally.
Continue to build credibility by letting your loyal customers know what you’ve done, awards, accolades, events, services they didn’t even know about.
Remain on their radar by your presence on social media. Do your homework first and find out the best options to suit your customers. If you’ve make a great impression initially this keeps this going, and makes the referral process much more likely too.
Remember: Out of site is out of mind; stay on their radar! Even if they don’t want to book anything with you next week, next month or even next year, if they remember who you are as and when they’re ready you’ll be the first place they think of and they’ll know where to find you