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How to own the customer experience amid the evolution of contactless service

Photograph: Shutterstock

As restaurants have adopted more and more contactless service features—from curbside service to touchless payments and more—some operators may be concerned about how they can continue fostering customer loyalty even without coming into contact with customers. Indeed, frictionless service does present a challenge—operators still have to provide excellent experiences to diners, but in new and different ways than in the past.

Owning the customer experience now requires a little more strategizing and a little more technology. Here are a few ways operators can continue connecting with customers even in a contactless environment.

Using consumer data in new ways

Previously, consumer data let operators know when diners came in, what they ordered, how long they stayed and more. Now, with many restaurants doing a bulk of their business off-premise, operators are reconsidering how to use the data they are collecting—not to mention what data they are collecting. Nowadays, knowing that consumers typically order on Friday nights or for weekday lunches allows operators to tailor their promotions specific to each customer. Rather than offering, for instance, a blanket happy hour promotion from 5 to 7 p.m. on weeknights, operators can send offers to encourage a customer’s weekly dinner order. Sending a coupon, say, mid-day on Friday for a free appetizer with a family meal bundle, or a free dessert with the purchase of two entrees on Friday night, can be a great way to build customer loyalty. By targeting individual consumers’ needs, operators create a personal experience that enhances a customer’s perception of the brand.

Mobile rewards

Diners are increasingly online—and many use apps to connect with restaurants rather than using individual websites or third-party providers. By launching a restaurant-specific app, operators can harness consumer engagement with ease, as well as encourage additional purchases with push notifications. What’s more, rewards for loyalty can be issued via the app rather than via a punch card or direct-mail coupons, so consumers get instant gratification rather than having to wait for their earned rewards.

Speedy complaint resolution

The goal is to have 100% satisfied customers, but any restaurant operator knows that’s not realistic to expect. In the event that a customer has a problem, operators should have programs in place for how to resolve problems quickly. By having plans in place for how to address customer complaints, operators can take care of order issues or any other problems before customers’ frustration leads them to online review sites. By emphasizing that the restaurant cares, operators can generate trust in the brand, which can encourage future purchases.

Curbside and drive-through offerings

As the increase in off-premise orders is expected to continue—38% of consumers said they anticipated ordering carryout more even after dining rooms are reopened, while 28% said the same for delivery orders, according to Technomic’s 2020 Delivery and Takeout Consumer Trend Report—it’s important for operators to continue offering contactless, curbside and drive-through pickup for off-premise diners. By continuing to offer the services that made diners feel safe during the pandemic, operators can reinforce the idea that they care about their consumers—and consumers can continue feeling safe patronizing their favorite restaurants.

Owning the customer experience is a multifaceted job—one that NCR can help with. NCR’s solutions for restaurants are designed to enhance the experience for customers while streamlining the process for operators. To learn more, visit www.ncr.com/restaurants.

This post is sponsored by NCR

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