For restaurant managers around the world, providing best-in-class customer experiences should be the ultimate goal. At a minimum, restaurants need to deliver on their customers’ most basic expectations for service, food quality, and atmosphere. When restaurants fail at even these, the consequences today can be severe.
Years ago, when customers had bad dining experiences, they might share their “no-stars” reviews with just a few close family and friends. Today’s connected consumer however, can instantly provide feedback about experiences not only to businesses directly, but also with their broader social networks, via just a few taps of their fingers. And we know that people are more likely to speak out about bad experiences; the good ones they tend to take for granted.
Recent data from GfK MRI show that 28% of all consumers like to share their opinions about product and services online, by posting reviews or ratings, and 43% say they “often seek the advice of others” before making a purchase. Just one particularly entertaining, nasty post about a restaurant may get shared again and again among “friends” or “followers”; soon enough it has gone viral. Actions in one restaurant, in one city, or even in one country are no longer isolated.
Brands of all types need to take this new hyper-connected reality very seriously. Even if a social post does not create a firestorm, it may erode a restaurant in smaller, more insidious ways. One dreadful review can outweigh a dozen positive ones; many consumers are now accustomed to the idea (true or not) that good notices and ratings online may be bought – so the negative ones may seem more “authentic.”
So how can restaurants mind their digital brands in an age of instant feedback and finely tuned social networks? Here are a few thoughts to savor.
1) Take a real-time approach to brand management. Today’s brand lifecycle is moving at warp speed compared to just 10 years ago; word – good and bad – spreads much more quickly. You need to have a clear and frequent understanding of how your brand is faring online with target consumers. (Learn more about GfK Echo)
2) Mind your social media demographics. Understanding customers today is not just about age and income; it means knowing the social media sites they frequent, especially where they turn for restaurant listings and advice. If you are focused on Facebook, but your customers are Gen Z’ers who traded FB for Instagram years ago, you are missing the conversations that matter (Learn more about GfK’s Social Media Intelligence)
3) Lead the conversation. Be proactive about social media; if you have created communities of positive sharing and engagement, it is harder for random negative comments and reviews to make a dent in your reputation.
4) Look for opportunities to delight. Every casual customer request, and even some complaints, can point you to new opportunities to win loyalty and seal your brand promise. Give consumers something positive to write and talk about
5) Engage your brand ambassadors – also known as employees. It takes only one unhelpful, disaffected server to create a bad experience. Restaurants need to clearly define how every public-facing employee should behave to do right by the company brand – and that includes keeping work complaints off of social platforms.
The connected consumer equally holds the power to shape brand perception and influence other customers’ expectations and experiences. It has never been more important than it is today for restaurant management to stay informed with up-to-the-minute information on what’s happening with their customers’ experiences. Whether it’s consolidating feedback from a variety of platforms or identifying service opportunities to keep customers happy, these managers not only need to respond in real-time, but also need to make sure their decisions result an enhanced customer experience and increased brand confidence.
Michael Kelly is the Vice President, Restaurants/Retail, at GfK. For more information, contact Michael Kelly.
GfK Echo is an on-demand platform that combines traditional customer experience surveys with publicly-available third party data (e.g. social media) to provide an accurate, real-time view of your customer experience. The platform incorporates industry-leading predictive modeling to identify which specific actions will drive incremental sales growth.
GfK Echo will even send Hot Alerts to identify critical service recovery opportunities, and allow managers to assign the task to virtually any member of the organization.
So the next time a customer enters your hotel, store, bank, restaurant, or airport, GfK Echo has the expertise to help you navigate an increasingly complicated digital world.