When social media first emerged, no one could predict the colossal impact it would have. Today social media is composed of 2.62 billion users, and those numbers are expected to grow, substantially.
With its enormous reach and popular messaging capabilities, social media has been quickly integrated into business models and marketing tactics alike. Challenging traditional forms of communication and creating a simple transaction between guest and business, social media for an IT professional, is considered a necessary medium requiring technical solutions to support.
This is especially true in terms of the restaurant industry where guests are now using social media to book reservations, write reviews, view menus, and so much more.
In this piece, we’re taking a deep dive into social media, it’s power, the common business struggles and how to overcome them using technology.
The Power Of Social Media Messaging
For guests, social media messaging is being adopted rapidly because it is an instant and reliable form of communication that provides both comfort and ease of use. This year, Statista reported that Facebook Messenger has 1.3 billion monthly active users, Twitter averages at 335 million monthly active users, and WhatsApp has 1.5 billion monthly active users. With a user base that is larger than any other communication method, it’s clearly a powerful way to reach more potential guests and increase the level of engagement that you get from them.
This is even more apparent when it comes to younger generations. According to PEW Research almost half of smartphone owners aged 18 to 29 use at least one messaging app, “one-third of millennials use either Messenger or Facebook-owned WhatsApp,” and “ 52 percent of Gen Z say they spend three or more hours per day on messaging apps ”. As it stands, Generation Z and Millennials are the biggest populations in the U.S and their presence is set to grow and become the most prominent. That means they evidently dictate the future of your business, so if social messaging is what they prefer, you should be offering it.
As a professional who works in IT, it’s obvious that over the years, social media messaging has taken precedence – becoming a need to have rather than a “nice to have”. Although it is important to incorporate it into your restaurants business model, it’s also imperative to be aware of the challenges that can arise and how to avoid them.
The Challenges of Social Media With Restaurants.
As a restaurant, the customer always comes first – so providing social messaging in line with preferences is critical. Today one of the biggest struggles that restaurants face in the IT department, is access to technology to handle the influx of social messages received from each respective platform. Whether it’s a request for reservations, inquiries for restaurant hours, or an event booking, having messages come in from Facebook, Email, Twitter, SMS, Line, WhatsApp, WeChat and more can become overwhelming for team members. Imagine constantly toggling through platforms, coordinating which message goes to what department, and answering in a consistent and relevant manner, all while attempting to keep up with everyday duties. It’s a major undertaking that can put restaurants behind on communication and problem-solving.
Another aspect of social media messaging that restaurants struggle with is responding in a timely manner. As mentioned above, if you deal with messages from native sites only – responding in real-time can be next to impossible, which is a big problem for guests that expect an instant line of communication. Today, the maximum amount of time customers are willing to wait is 13 minutes, yet businesses have an average response time on social of five hours. This disparity in time is too big to foster loyalty and can even deter customers from choosing your business. It’s important to note that time is a make or break factor for the guest. Regardless if you increase work by having more avenues of communication, guests still expect a timely response.
Lastly, with social messaging, it can also be a challenge for restaurants to thoroughly understand guests and their sentiment. Where it was once common practice for guests to communicate via phone and have employees easily understand emotions of frustration, today’s social media preferences can be tricky to decode. This can be especially damaging in the restaurant industry, where guests tend to coordinate reservations and events with groups. Saying the wrong thing or not being able to understand when a customer is upset can damage not only your reputation with one person but a few. Having insight into customer sentiment and building off a conversation that resonates with them is more ideal.
Much like any new business venture, you might come across some of these challenges, however, by planning ahead and implementing the right tools – you can equip yourself to easily take on social and build a successful future.
How You Can Equipe Your Restaurant To Easily Tackle Social Messaging
A great way to tackle common social media messaging challenges is by using a Customer Experience Management (CEM) solution. With a CEM solution, you can make managing messages and monitoring performance much easier.
Whether you currently have a CEM solution or looking to adopt one, here are some qualities to look for in an effective Customer Experience Management (CEM) solution to combat the above challenges.
When looking for a solution to improve loyalty and raise revenue in your restaurant, look for one with real-time capabilities. As we mentioned before, time to respond can make or break an experience with your brand, so it’s important that your team is on top of every single inquiry that comes in.
In addition to staying on top of each message, real-time communication has also proven to improve efficiencies, increase customer loyalty, provide more accuracy with responses, create more engaging conversations and exceed customer expectations. Today, being quick to respond has become an expectation, so real-time communication should be an essential feature to look for.
A Range of Channels On One Platform.
As mentioned before, dealing with a range of channels on each of their respective sites can be overwhelming for a team member who already has to deal with duties on the floor. Having a CEM that offers a consolidated view of all channels is a great way to streamline the process of monitoring multiple channels.
With an ideal CEM solution, you can receive reservation requests, restaurant hour inquiries, comments on the menu etc., all from a variety of channels – including, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, SMS, Email, in-App messaging, and more. A modern solution will also be able to showcase those channels in a single view so teams can have greater control and consistency in how they engage with each conversation.
Automatic Team Routing.
Not only can a CEM solution offer you a consolidated list of conversations in real-time but it can also help streamline operations by auto-routing specific messages to the right department equipped to respond. An effective CEM solution will be able to recognize keywords within the customer’s request or message and then tag the specific work function to accurately route the message to the team member who can provide the most useful answer.
For instance, if a customer is sending a message from their Facebook account to relay a concern with the quality of their meal, a CEM solution will tag the associating words like “menu” or “quality” and send it to the team member that it resonates with. In this case, a member of the quality-control or culinary team. Having this direct communication makes it easier for the guest to get a relevant answer and reduces the time to respond with the right answer. It can also be helpful for immediately alerting the right team members when something is seriously wrong and poses a liability – say a message concerning food poisoning from a local store.
An ideal CEM solution is also an effective tool to better understand the guest as a whole. With sentiment analysis, and the ability to identify trending topics from conversations, a CEM solution can help you better tailor your messaging towards guests to ensure a positive response and experience.
For instance, if a customer is upset about a team member’s response, you can visually see their sentiment in real-time and adjust the conversation accordingly. This helps you approach a conversation and give the best response possible. You can even prioritize your efforts to address the most upset guests first. When you have hundreds of messages arriving from different channels, this is key to ensuring that you are always on top of any issues.
With social media messaging dominating guest preferences as a means to communicate with your restaurant, managing these inbound requests is a growing challenge. Whether you start by implementing one social channel or a few select channels, leveraging a CEM solution to manage and monitor them is a great way to avoid the headaches of never being able to respond in a timely manner, with consistency, or with a degree of personalization. Further, you risk not being able to stay ahead of your competition in delivering a superior guest experience, which is proven to be the greatest tool for increasing return visits, revenues, and overall brand promotion.