The four things hospitality businesses need to understand
Customers expect organisations to know them and companies who don’t know their customers will lose business. According to a recent American Express survey of 1,000 adults, 48% of millennials expect personalisation in their interactions with businesses, while 39% were most likely to go out of their way to use a customised offer.
The retail industry uses customer data very effectively and has seen happier customers who spend more as a result, but the hospitality industry has some way to go to catch up. Moreover, companies should also be using this information to make sure their business is on-track. Here are the four key things you, as a business, need to understand.
Understand who your customers are:
At the moment, the hospitality industry generally does not know who most of its customers are, or how best to contact them. Hospitality customers are, at most, faces in sandwich shops and coffee queues, or at the bar for drinks at the interval. It is hard to get reliable data from this kind of interaction.
Capturing and analysing consumer spending patterns is something that every company should be doing. You need to know what your customers are ordering, when, where, and how much. If you have online and mobile ordering channels, you will easily be able to capture this information and break it down to the individual or build up a general picture.
90% of us in the West have smartphones, which could be used to place and pay for an order. However, currently only 4% of hospitality businesses can take orders and money through this mobile channel. Operating through a mobile or online channel captures data instantly and gives businesses the ability to use this information in real-time. The data you gather needs to be based on actual, real-world transactions in order to be able to produce reports that are reliable and to be effective the analytics need to happen in real-time too.
Understand what your customers want:
The old adage that the best way to understand someone is to walk a mile in their shoes holds true for customer service. The best way to understand the customer’s frustrations and likely choices is to go through the same journey they do. Try out all the channels they use including any digital ones you might have available. Make sure that they are well-designed and simple to use.
Nowadays social media platforms like Twitter are key for measuring consumer sentiment as they are often the first place customers go to complain or make requests. However, nothing beats asking them what they think and want. Conducting regular surveys and inviting feedback may highlight parts of your business that you hadn’t thought about before.
Understand where your customers’ loyalties lie:
Once you know who your audience is, and what they want, you can build offerings to increase loyalty. Customers will only give out contact details freely if it helps them – for example to obtain discounts, as part of loyalty schemes, queue jumping etc.
It is critical to truly understand your audience before attempting this because if you get it wrong, that can actively put off customers. For example, some might find a geo-locational voucher popping up on their phone for a nearby coffee shop helpful, while others might find it creepy.
However your customers like to be engaged with, make sure that the marketing is personalised and timely. Technology can help you do this, but only if you own the technology and therefore the customer data that comes with it.
The biggest value that understanding your customers can bring is enabling you to understand your own business better. Customer responsiveness is a clear competitive advantage. But too many hospitality businesses only get the customer information they need too late – if at all. How can you improve customer experience when you don’t even know who he or she is, or how often they visit?
We believe that it is only in real time that customer data brings real value to your business. You should enable and encourage customers to make online transactions, both via website and app, in order to see and know their purchases and preferences. Online pre-ordering means less queuing and you can speed up service. Keep your customers close to you, so that you understand who they are and grasp new trends faster. This will also mean you better understand how your business is evolving, or must evolve. For example, you will be able to understand much more clearly why some branches are spectacularly successful, while others may be inexplicably average.
Real-time customer data analysis works to everyone’s benefit and is relevant to the different levels within an organisation that will be using it. What the CEO needs from customer insight is different to the needs of the CFO, or a branch manager, or head of procurement, or a stock manager. Accurate and timely management information like this lets you ask all the right questions of the right people at the right time, which is the best way to get to the right answers.
In the end, the way to get to happier and higher-spending customers is to bring this all together – collecting and analysing customer data and following up with accurate and effective marketing.