By Jon Siegal/Stellar Loyalty vice president and general manager
Brands often over-think the process when they're attempting to come up with great ways to "surprise and delight" their customers. It doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, it should be simple, easy to execute and customize, but always focused on the things that matter most to a customer. Here are a few ways to accomplish that:
1. Surprise rewards
There are specific moments when a QSR brand knows it has the customer's attention, like the moment the diner enters your restaurant, places or pays for an order, and, of course, when customers are eating their food. Each of those instances is an opportunity to surprise and delight them with everything from a bonus offer and free extras, to added rewards. The key is to use your knowledge of what the customer values most to personalize the reward.
2. Use reward mechanics that reflect your brand
If meal customization or healthy ingredients are your differentiators, for instance, help your customers appreciate the value of that in their lives by making your brand's loyalty program highly customizable. For example, be sure to include nutritional value and calorie count in all mentions of a menu item. Then reward guests for making healthier choices. This reinforces your brand's message and makes customers feel good about frequenting your restaurant.
3. Make customers feel special
If it's a customer's birthday, for instance, don't just send them an email, but give store associates this information so they can wish them a happy birthday. Or if a diner is in the top tier of your customer base, prompt staff to thank them for being one of your "best customers." All of these are just simple acknowledgments that let customers know you care.
4. Acknowledge a problem before they complain
Apologizing for a problem before a customer complains can turn a potential negative experience into a positive one. So if, for instance, something happened to create a longer wait time for a diner's food, offer that customer a reward for their next visit and make the offer even before they've had a chance to complain. This is a great way to say you're sorry for the circumstances and bring back customers more often.
5. Empower the "on-the-fly"
Often, only the people serving your customers in the moment can know which kind of action or service might best surprise or delight a diner. So run with that by creating space in your loyalty programs for ad hoc perks that will feel more personal and spontaneous to the customer.
6. Provide instant gratification
Simple mobile surveys, entertaining interactive games, and engaging social campaigns that deliver instant rewards, all add to the overall positive experience of eating in your restaurant. The key to all these approaches, however, is ensuring that they put the customer first. Actions and offerings like these must add as much or more value for diners, as they add to the brand in general. This holds true whether these offerings take the form of information, entertainment or cash value.
7. Augment the basics
Mobile ordering and payment is the new restaurant industry standard, so consider ways to enhance these methods. For instance, make menu-browsing easier and in-the-moment promotional offers and rewards more relevant through flexible, easy-to-use mobile experiences. Too many brands launch mobile ordering apps that fail to use native phone interfaces and that results in an overall poor customer experience. In other words, just offering mobile ordering doesn't go the distance. Restaurant brands must make these interactions awesome user experiences.