New Year, Fresh Start: 5 Ways to Improve Your Guest Experience to Keep Them Coming Back All Year Long

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While retailers get a lot of attention during the holiday season, food service providers also experience a similarly demanding stretch, thanks to hosting and catering company parties and feeding hurried Christmas shoppers.

You likely invested substantial time and resources into creating exceptional dining experiences during the busiest and most profitable season of the year. Now the challenge is to tackle the post-holiday season with continued dedication to delivering responsive, high-quality experiences that delight your customers and keep them coming back throughout 2014.

Here are several ways you can achieve consistent exceptional experiences that will drive a continuous stream of guest loyalty and advocacy:

1. Deliver on Your Brand Promise.

Being successful in food service is about more than product quality. When a customer enters a restaurant, they expect to find a pleasant, enjoyable atmosphere and respectful, attentive staff. When executed correctly, these attributes can make customers feel happier, healthier, and even more attractive.

Brands typically struggle to quantify and measure these feelings, which makes it difficult to adjust and improve customer experiences at the local level. The challenge for businesses this year is to implement technologies that will help them better understand the branded behaviors that elicit these feelings, and to create customer experiences that are more engaging and satisfying.

Food service providers can reinforce the behaviors that strengthen consumer-brand relationships or change behaviors to address guest needs and create a more desirable guest experience.

2. Amplify Guest Feedback.

Regardless of the time of year, it’s important for food service providers to aggressively monitor guest feedback through structured surveys as well as unsolicited reviews posted via social media channels. Using listening and monitoring technologies, positive guest feedback can be identified and amplified to promote repeat business. Responsive, offline treatment of negative messages or concerns can even encourage dissatisfied guests to give your brand a second chance.

3. Empower Local Managers.

The worst thing you can to do to local restaurant managers is funnel massive amounts of unanalyzed data and undifferentiated feedback to them and expect them to convert it into meaningful insights. Rather than overwhelming your managers, respect that they need to spend the vast majority of their time on the floor. Empower them with real-time guest feedback insights, pre-analyzed to clearly show local restaurant issues and opportunities for taking action and seeing improvement.

4. Share Knowledge.

Location managers frequently encounter guest experience challenges they haven’t seen before. But the challenges that are new to one location manager are often challenges that have already been encountered by a manager at a different location. Knowledge-sharing technologies offer a convenient way to tap into the brand’s aggregate experience and provide location managers with the resources to overcome nearly any customer experience management obstacle.

5. Break Down Big Data.

Big data, or data collected from large and complex data sets, offers several insights into guest experience improvements for restaurateurs. However, local brand managers often have difficulty understanding how to leverage data at the local level. To overcome this barrier between general consumer insights and localized action, food service providers should provide research-based advice and coaching to location managers in an effort to help individualize and improve local guest experiences.

Whether guests are interacting with your restaurant for the first time or fiftieth, the ability to deliver first-rate customer experiences is what will bring them back all year long. Implement these strategies, and you’ll achieve longer term guest loyalty success and brand advocacy.

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