Restaurants are not leveraging customer loyalty, which can be their single biggest asset in growing their sales.
And it’s easy to find out which are your most loyal customers these days. There’s a plethora of technology designed for just this purpose.
But according to research that was released last month, the explosion of new digital tools and technologies has fundamentally shifted power from brands to consumers. These consumers have access to ever-growing volumes of information about restaurants, while the operators themselves are not realizing its full potential.
The research, ‘Making Every Interaction Count: How Customer Intelligence Drives Customer Loyalty,’ came from Acxiom, a recognized leader in marketing services and technology, and Loyalty 360–The Loyalty Marketer’s Association.
It revealed that most brands are not leveraging customer data as a strategic asset that helps create and maintain long-lasting relationships with their high-value customers.
“Brands and their loyalty initiatives are under assault,” says Tim Suther, Acxiom’s chief marketing officer.
“Just 25 percent of people report being loyal to a brand. Knowing who these loyal customers are and how to best engage them is a business imperative to succeed in the age of the empowered consumer.”
Additionally, the research showed that less than half of respondents know who their best, most loyal customers are, and how best to reach them.
“Customer intelligence drives customer loyalty,” Suther says. “Focus on cultivating relationships with those who are likely to be loyal customers. And then delight them.
“Those brands that do this put customers at the center of the universe, treat them like the royalty that they are, and delight them. They will then tell all their friends.”
Restaurant operators are trying to solve so many things, he adds. “But really it’s simple: Just nurture your business with your best customers.”
Suther points to an example outside the restaurant industry: to Macy’s. The retailer’s CEO, Terry Lundgren, calls himself chief customer officer
“That has an impact on everyone in that organization,” Suther says.
Other frightening data was revealed by the research: Twenty-five percent of consumers say they have no loyalty at all to a brand.
But how do you get and retain loyal customers?
It starts with how you start to build a relationship, Suther says.
“If you have a price-sensitive promotion when you first open, the person who comes to you for that, will then go to the next price-sensitive offer that comes along.”
Price can be used, he adds, but you need more than that to draw customers in and more importantly, to keep them.
The research also showed that the vast majority (84.5 percent) of respondents use customer retention marketing strategies, yet barely half believe their strategies are working. And 5.4 percent admit they do not evaluate their customer retention efforts at all.
But it’s relatively easy to retain customers.
“An existing customer relationship is more valuable than a newly acquired relationship,” Suther points out.
Many marketers equate customer loyalty with a points or rewards program, but it is much more than that.
“Loyalty is—and should always be—connected to the behaviors and motivations of the key stakeholders of the brand,” says Mark Johnson, CEO of Loyalty 360—The Loyalty Marketer’s Association.
“It is important to realize that all insight and interactions between the brand and customers should be built around a proactive process of matching customers’ expectations in terms of needs, wants and aspirations.”
By Amanda Baltazar