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Rewards programs in the time of COVID-19: Improving personalization to foster engagement

Photograph: Shutterstock

Restaurants have always had to go the extra mile to win over guests. But in the age of COVID-19—when consumers are dining out and socializing less—it is even more imperative for restaurants to take control of the guest relationship. 

A top-notch loyalty program can help restaurants bridge the gap with customers. Personalizing the guest experience offers a way to enhance the client interaction and create positive experiences that leave lasting impressions on patrons. Take a look. 

Customer data platform

Owning the customer begins at the back end with collecting information on consumers’ interests and habits. Using a customer data platform (CDP), a software that integrates data from a variety of sources, such as POS systems, online ordering and more, can help restaurants build customer profiles. These sources include customer relationship management and data management platforms (DMP), web forms, social media activity and e-commerce behavioral data. Such intelligence can help brands understand more about their customers to drive more personalized loyalty, offers and interactions.

Beyond monetary rewards

When it comes to offering rewards, restaurants need to realize that creating personalized interactions goes beyond monetary awards. While customers enjoy discounts and savings, they put a premium on personalized rewards, such as receiving a free meal or menu item on their birthday. 

Technology can assist with this personalization. Data collected by artificial intelligence tools can be used to tailor promotions to each customer. For example, knowing the specific dishes a guest has ordered can assist with providing promotions—such as a free appetizer or dessert with the purchase of an entree. This type of customization can help restaurants engage with customers in new ways.  

Employee engagement

To foster a deeper relationship with the customer, it is important to know what drives consumers to engage regularly with a restaurant loyalty program. Among these factors are rewarding loyalty after each visit. For example, when a reward is earned, a restaurant can apply real-time promotions on the POS automatically.

Offering a rewards program that is easy to understand and use may also encourage consumers to continue to engage with the brand.Approaches include frequency-based—the member earns plan credit based on the number of visits; items-based—the member earns plan credit based on the items they purchase; lottery-based—a sweepstakes-style plan that surprises the member with a reward; points-based—the member earns points for every dollar they spend; or smart rewards-based—the historical data determines which members receive a reward. Whichever plan a restaurant chooses, the patron will respond well if the program is intuitive and easy to grasp.

Along these lines, providing choice when it comes to redemption options also is a big winner for consumers. Options can include full redemption, partial redemption with change back to the guest, partial redemption with no change to the guest, and partial redemption and adjust balance on gift card. And offering mobile rewards is a smart idea, as diners increasingly are online.

Customer-centric strategies

In the age of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to be in tune with customers’ needs and preferences. Therefore, being open to customer feedback is a must. Restaurants know all too well there is a distinct correlation between happy and unhappy customers and the bottom line. Therefore, it is important to fix any problems identified by customers before they spread negative feedback, find out what’s keeping middle of the road customers from becoming fans and receive referrals from the most loyal customers click here.

This post is sponsored by NCR