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Driving Guest Loyalty

Yeah, yeah, another article about the same stuff to do in a down economy. Not really. I’m as fed up with them as you are – trust me, probably a lot more since they really don’t address anything that really matters. But this time I was reading, “The Importance of the Customer Experience in a Down Economy” and could not get past the introduction without my brain kicking into overdrive with references for our business.

Hopefully most of you have already completed your budgeting for next year. If you have – or have not – ask yourself this question. “Is every single line item in our budget guest focused?” Are your goals for the FOH and BOH guest focused? Does every single conversation you have in your operation all day, every day, have someone asking, “How does this impact our guest experience?” before the final decision is made, or tactic executed? Are your line checks, pre & post shift meetings, interviews, vendor conversations, etc., guest focused?

Unless everything that goes on and/or is talked about in your business does not have you asking “How does this impact the guest?” you can’t be successful long term.

This has to be more than lip service. You have to develop the “guest focused” culture in your business so ingrained in the minds of your front line staff, that taking care of the guest is first nature – that the notion of being guest focused is the only thing they think about. And so much so, that they can make any decision about a guest experience because they have the vision of what it means to provide it, vividly in the front of their thinking.

How do you do this? Where do you start?

You start by taking the “Outside In” approach. By looking at everything you do though the eyes of your guests. Start arriving, leaving walking and talking as if you were a guest and not the operator. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Think? Feel? as you move through your business?

  1. Map each and every guest touchpoint and try to create value added components with greater emotional appeal.
  2. Be sincere.
  3. Use the season for inspiration.
  4. Ask your guests how they feel then kick it up a notch above that.
  5. Forget about upselling and scripts, actually listen to your guest. Have an honest-to-goodness real conversation for a change! And don’t talk to me about not having the time, or that it takes too much time to talk to your guests because YOU are busy!
  6. Dedicate yourself to walking the floor every shift to touch every single person you can – staff and guest alike.
  7. Don’t forget that your staff are guests too!
  8. Use the talented and vibrant personalities on your staff to help others who are not as animated, develop the best sense of experience creation at the table.
  9. Do something unexpected on a consistent basis. Surprise yourself!
  10. Do “random acts of gratitude” for guests who you see in your dining rooms or in your drive-thus on a consistent basis but forget to even recognize and just take for granted that they’re there every day.
  11. Do #9 for your staff too!
  12. Forget the “frequency schemes” and do something for each guest that is relative to their LTV (lifetime value). One of my clients has a guest that orders from him 2-3 times a week – every week and never stops talking to people about how great he thinks my client is. So for a “reward” we bought him a an authentic NFL leather team jacket of his beloved team ($150) and put a card in the inside pocket, signed by every staff and manager thanking him for his support – and we included a $25 gift certificate. What do you think his reaction was? Do you think he is going to use some coupon he gets to some other business?
  13. Listen to your guests more. Improve you and your staff’s level of communication. I can’t begin to tell you how often I see and hear staff and managers talk rudely to guests. They interrupt their sentences. They talk over them. They reach in front of them. They walk in front of them ( the guest always has the right of way – even if you have a tray full of food or dishes!). They use bad language or the improper use of language in their monologues. Make eye contact when you address a guest. Never make them make the first move to acknowledge you! Why have 3-4 “hosts” at the door and not one can seem to open a door for a guest? Or invite them back in a personal and meaningful way? This list could go on for pages but you get my meaning. We have to start talking above a 5th grade level to people and act like we were taught some basic manners!

This level of guest focus leads to innovative guest experience strategies and tactics > which creates loyal guests > while differentiating yourself in your market > and ultimately building a more successful business.

This process leads to the “value added”.

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