Following the height of the pandemic, many businesses had to reevaluate their communication strategy.
This is especially true for restaurants, one of the most impacted sectors of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While having one or two channels to communicate may have been an effective strategy in the past; today customers prefer multiple channels. In fact, according to McKinsey and Company “more than one-third of Americans have made omni-channel features part of their regular shopping routine since the pandemic”.
However, as restaurants navigate to adopt multiple channels, blindly selecting and implementing them can do more harm than good. Without an understanding of the customer’s wants and needs, businesses can be left adopting ineffective channels, having poor channel management and spending capital in all the wrong places.
Or as we like to call it; creating an omni-channel game plan.
Why Omni-Channel Is Critical For 2022
According to Upserve, while “most restaurants (64%) feel optimistic for the future, their biggest challenge (47%) has been shifting their business model”.
Undoubtedly there’s been a massive movement in how customers want to connect. In fact, today, around “40% of customers have switched brands to those who are better equipped [with omni-channel practices]”. In addition, McKinsey and Co reported that “most Gen Z consumers don’t even think in terms of traditional channel boundaries, and they increasingly evaluate brands and retailers on the seamlessness of their experience.”
The demand for omni-channel experiences is far-reaching. And while it may be a beneficial tactic for today’s average restaurant patron, it’s also an elaborate strategy for the future.
Creating An Omni-Channel Game Plan
As mentioned creating a game plan is the first step to successfully implementing omni-channel and driving more business. In this section, we share some critical best practices that you can use to help build your game plan.
Create a Clear and Concise Goal
Selecting a channel and implementing it throughout your establishment is a hefty undertaking. You want to make sure that when you select your channel, it makes sense for your businesses objective and your customer. While for some omni-channel may be to increase reach or engage current patrons, having a fortified goal keeps you on track and adopting channels that hold long-term value.
For example, if you receive a lot of phone call inquiries from customers, offering channels that assist customer service like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, SMS and more is helpful. Similarly, if you’re looking for more ways to engage customers while they’re on property, considering channels like QR codes and kiosks are great options.
Once you’ve established your clear and concise goal, you can then contemplate other considerations to make the final decision. Determining; What do your customers want? How will it affect operations? Who will run the initiative? What are some key channel trends? Does it make sense at every stage of your business? And so on.
Map Your Customer Journey
Another great way to establish what channels can benefit your restaurant is by taking a look at your average customer journey and each touchpoint.
Find moments in the Awareness, Interest, Consideration and Purchase phases that are integral to engage customers on and what channels resonate most. Remember in some phases more channels will resonate with the customer, in others, they won’t. The key is to stay focused on customer experience and to create a clear channel path for communication that engages the customer.
Assess Impact of COVID-19
As previously mentioned, the ramifications of the pandemic are far-reaching.
As of July 2020, studies have shown a 782.7% increase in Online Order sales volume growth. Contactless channels have surged and customers are regularly channel hopping. Consider what channels resonate with customers during this time, how much your staff can take on with the new restrictions and your new budget.
It’s important to remember that the pandemic has impacted not only the customer’s preferences but also how much restaurants can actually take on.
Make Sure You Have Channel Range
While you don’t want to start mass adopting channels at random, you do want to start adopting a range of channels in line with restaurant patron preferences.
Having 2-4 channels helps you stay open to conversation, especially if these channels range across the three main categories; Traditional channels (email, SMS), Digital channels (Webchat) and Social channels (Facebook, Twitter). As you’ll find out in your customer journey mapping, in most cases, customers will channel hop among these three categories; Reaching out to you via Facebook and then transitioning to email for more formal details.
The important step is to do your customer research and trend forecasting to understand what resonates with your customer. For instance, restaurants today, have seen major growth with QR codes for both ordering and providing feedback after service. Using a QR code you can encourage contactless communication by placing tent cards around the restaurant or a sticker on your dining tables.
That said, please note that while it may be tempting to start adopting every social channel that’s trending, it’s not a sustainable strategy. Although you want to have range, remember that the range of channels should be in line with customer preferences and should consider your employee’s capacity.
Measure Customer Sentiment Regularly
Are your customers satisfied with the channels you’ve offered? Are there new channels emerging that they’ve expressed interest in?
Once your omni-channel program is in place, you can monitor it. The focus then becomes on progress and how you can consistently improve the experience. Listen to customer conversations, ask for frequent feedback on the specific channels and measure sentiment over time.
Understanding sentiment will help you determine what channels are worth the continued investment and which ones you may not need. Further, with a sophisticated solution that provides sentiment reporting, you can actually begin to understand what touchpoints in your restaurant are most popular, rush hours and even employee performance.