How will Covid-19 change customer experience in hospitality?
By Louise Kissack (Spaghetti Group)
It’s been a wild ride, hasn’t it? I’m still half expecting someone to pop up and tell us 2020 has been one big practical joke and we can all go back to the pub now… Wishful thinking I know!
There’s no doubt it’s going to take the food and hospitality sector longer than many others to return to business as usual. Recently, I’ve been working with local food and hospitality businesses to help them navigate the ‘new normal’ – either by increasing their online presence or re-opening physical premises.
Every business might be different, but whether trading online or in-person, the following are key considerations for every operator as we move forward.
Keep your customers safe
Now more than ever before, customers want to know you care about them. Safety is paramount and your customers need to be reassured that you’re taking action to keep them safe.
In physical spaces this means wearing the necessary PPE and respecting distancing rules, but it’s equally important to show safety is a priority for your online offering. Ensure you feature photos of your preparation and packaging on social media so customers can be confident their food and drink has been prepared safely.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes
Trace the steps of your customer journey. Many people find the current situation confusing, and those venturing out for the first time may feel nervous. Striking the balance between giving your customers clear instructions and not being aggressive can be hard, so aim to remain friendly but authoritative in your tone.
Visual aids such as floor markers and directional signage in premises will give customers confidence and show them how to act. If you’ve moved your services online (for example onto a third-party platform) follow the steps your customer has to take to order and ensure everything is clear and easy-to-use.
Contactless is the future
Contactless payment might now be commonplace, but it’s equally important to find alternatives to customers interacting with physical items such as menus. This could be as simple as having them printed in large font and displayed on the walls, or as sophisticated as including a QR code on your bar or table-tops to allow customers to access them on their own device.
Remember that customers are still seeking a genuine connection, even with a digital service. Bridge the gap between the online and in-person experience by including a handwritten note with your deliveries or making a quick call to ensure everything arrived as expected.
Don’t forget that for those who are still isolating, yours may be the only contact they have that day – so make your interactions personable and memorable.
Respect the ‘Tech Shift’
Many people have had to embrace technology in lockdown and will be far more comfortable using it when we come out the other side. Contactless payment will undoubtedly be the new norm, but there might be other opportunities to use tech to personalise the customer experience by introducing video messages to confirm bookings or running Zoom cookery lessons for those who are still isolating.
Be where your customers are
Understand how your customers want to shop or dine and make as many channels available to them as you can. Some people may need a contactless delivery service, others may be comfortable ordering online and collecting in person. Many will be desperate to get back to your premises and say hello, so keep them informed of opening dates and times and tell them when it’s safe to come by.
Find your voice
You don’t need to be aggressive or scary in your communication with your customers, but you do need to be confident and show you’re in control. In physical spaces, customers will be reassured if you introduce them to a member of the management team so they can ask questions or give feedback. If you’re online, be sure to respond quickly to comments and messages to show your customers that you’re listening to them.
Be open and honest with your customers
Be as clear as you can about stock levels and tell customers the truth – people don’t want to make a trip to find you’ve sold out of what they came for.
Be transparent with your online messaging, let your customers know what to expect when they arrive and always remember to thank them for choosing to support you. It’s ok to let your customers know that it’s not been easy, but this should make you even more appreciative of their custom.
This has been a tough time for everyone in the industry, and many who make it out alive will bear the battle scars for years to come. Nevertheless, those who focus on their purpose, stay true to their company values, and embrace new ways of doing things can forge more diverse and sustainable businesses – whatever the future holds.
Speak to us
At Spaghetti Group we help independent food and hospitality businesses to grow by working in partnership with them to develop incredible customer experiences. We can also help you expand your customer base through innovative branding, marketing and communications solutions. If you’re rethinking your customer experience, why not get in touch to see how we can help you – just email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a call.