Best tech to boost customer experience in your venue

Posted on 24 may 2018

Whether you’re all aboard the tech train, or still thinking about buying a ticket, the noise from the station is getting harder to ignore. The fast-moving tech world and permeation of smartphones has brought with it a wave of switched-on consumers who’ve embraced the upsides of innovation; they not only prefer the convenience of transacting through their phones, but an increasing number of them expect it.

Here, we look at some of the different tech options you can utilise to improve the customer experience in your venue.

1. CREATE LOYALTY

Move over hole-punch loyalty cards, there’s some new kids on the block!

Built specifically for the food service industry, Toast is a complete cloud-based POS and management system, including loyalty programs. The loyalty component is fully customisable; it allows you to set the dollar-to-points ratio, the point increments, and the specific menu items that are redeemable with rewards points. You can also create a birthday rewards program for your customers, and offer sign-up bonuses to further incentivise those opting in. And considering Toast loyalty customers spend 39% more than non-loyalty customers, it’s a BIG plus for your business.

Bobile / iBuild App / App Institute are just a few of the platforms that allow you to create your own branded loyalty app using pre-coded templates, if it’s really only the loyalty component you’re looking for. Inclusions and packages vary, but they all start at around US$30 per month. Some offer a simple digital alternative to the printed stamp or punch cards, while others allow you to host a blog, publish your menu, do SMS marketing and more.

2. EMBRACE SUSTAINABILITY

Increasingly, conscious consumers are going out of their way to seek cafes that align with their beliefs. According to the 2017 Canadian Bakery & Coffee Café Consumer Trend Report, 23 per cent of consumers stated they’d be more likely to visit cafés that offer fair-trade coffee, while a whopping 63% said they prefer to opt for sustainable products. The Fairtrade Canada site enables consumers to search for venues that sell fair-trade products. Local listing sites like Ottawa’s Ethical Tree abound, allowing customers to search for socially responsible cafes, so be sure to check what listing sites operate in your local area.

3. ONLINE OPENS NEW OPPORTUNITIES

One of the greatest advantages of transacting online is the wealth of information it generates, which can be used effectively to improve customer experience. Imagine how impressed a customer would be if you could offer them their favourite wine or table preference, without them having to ask for it? Or wish them happy birthday, without them telling you? Guestbridge is an online reservation and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool that allows you to track and tailor service to your repeat customers.

Domino’s Pizza has offered it for years, but now online ordering apps like Uber Eats and Foodora easily allow customers to re-order recent purchases and save favourites, fully customising their own ordering experience. Real-time updates of their own order progress from cooking to delivery and allowing customers to feel in control has greatly improved the customer experience of online ordering and has been a key driver in its growing popularity.

Digital menus have brought about one of the most drastic changes to customer experience in the hospitality industry in recent years. Allowing customers to see food before they order it, find out what’s in it, order on demand and, in some cases, pay – all without speaking to a staff member – has been a game changer. Menus can be updated in real time, so no more ordering something that’s just sold out. You can also help customers make intuitive choices, by suggesting drinks or sides that suit their menu selections. Fine Dine Menu and eZee iMenu are just two of the many digital menu platforms available for an ongoing subscription fee.

4. CARDLESS CASH IS KING

While we’ve been watching cash payments slowly fade into the ether, it seems card payments are on the decline now too as wallets make way for smartphones. An increasing number of people in the core 18-45 age demographic are opting for the convenience of cardless payments as technology such as Apple Pay becomes more widely available. If you don’t have a contactless card terminal, it’s definitely time to upgrade.

5. OPEN THE COMMUNICATION LINES

The closer a customer feels to your business, the better their customer experience is likely to be. The key to connectivity is communication, and an increasing amount of that communication is taking place when customers aren’t even at your venue, thanks to advancements in technology. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have obviously paved the way for online engagement. When done well, social media opens up an unprecedented two-way communication channel between customers and businesses anywhere, anytime. If you’re struggling to find the time to post regularly –particularly across multiple platforms – scheduling tools like Hootsuite or Buffer might help you get organised in advance.

But it’s the two-way part of that loop that’s most critical. Giving customers the ability to leave feedback – both good and bad – and feel like their opinions are valued, cannot be overlooked. Review sites Yelp, YellowPages and even Google reviews allow potential customers to start bonding with you, long before they’ve set foot in your venue, and allow your supporters to become advocates. Businesses can take control of their own listings, populate the ‘about’ section, upload photos and, in some instances, respond to negative reviews (and dispute fake ones). Yes, take online reviews with a grain of salt, but also understand they can have a huge bearing on your customers’ experience. Plus, use a service like Review Trackers to see and manage all of the different review sites in one place and make the process a whole lot easier.

Regardless of how tech savvy you decide to be, embracing the right kind of technology should be a positive for your customers and, in turn, your business too. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but implementing at least some technological changes will go a long way to keeping your customers happy and, importantly, keep them coming back.