By Amanda Stevens, customer experience consultant
In an increasingly competitive environment and an era where online reviews and social influencers have put the balance of power firmly in the hands of the consumer, the customer experience has never been a more critical element of success in the hospitality sector.
The profile, expectations and tastes of today’s consumer are shifting rapidly. Staying ahead of the consumer trends impacting the industry means you can better meet and exceed the needs of your customers and, in doing so, create a sustainable competitive advantage.
Here are five trends impacting consumers and how you can respond to create a customer experience that turns one-time patrons into loyal advocates.
The research shows consumers are entertaining at home more and more and actively choosing to socialise in the cocoon of a familiar environment – a common reaction to external economic and political uncertainty.
To attract more customers and entice them to spend time in your venue over their home, ensure you’re replicating elements of creature comforts and, where possible, providing different options for seating and environments for your customers to choose from, depending on their mood and socialising occasion.
A SEAMLESS EXPERIENCE
In 2018, the smartphone will surpass a wallet as the most important shopping companion. Seamless digital payment systems such as Apple Pay will become the norm and consumers will reward brands that provide a streamlined, seamless digital experience.
Ensure your payment and processing methods are as frictionless as possible and engineered for customer convenience.
THE LITTLE THINGS ARE THE BIG THINGS – ASK THE QUESTIONS
The hospitality industry can learn a lot from the convenience sector, where $2 upsells at the point of purchase can add seven figures to the bottom line of an individual petrol station.
Asking, offering, upgrading and upselling — when done right — is not seen as pushy by your customers, it’s perceived to be superior service. So it’s a double win – happier customers and more revenue.
THE RISE OF C2B – ENSURE YOUR VENUE IS INSTA-WORTHY
Customer advocacy is currently shifting from word-of-mouth to word-of-mouse. Online channels and social influencers are meaning that your digital footprint is becoming an increasingly potent marketing channel. Exactly how potent it is relies on your venue’s ‘instagramability’.
FEMALE PATRONS – THE KEY TO YOUR FAN BASE
The research shows that not only are women the predominant deciders of a venue for group social occasions, women are 5-10 times more likely to engage in positive, active word of mouth if they have a great customer experience. Making your venue female-friendly and ensuring your marketing programs are appealing to women will show up in your online reviews, customer loyalty and bottom line.
The key to maximising these trends and creating a customer experience that gets people talking about your venue, is to strive beyond customer satisfaction. Satisfied customers don’t become raving fans. Creating customer advocates requires delivering an experience that exceeds expectations in every way. Focus on the little things, engage with your customers and make them feel so special they can’t help themselves but return with their friends and family.
Amanda Stevens is an author, speaker and customer experience consultant. She’s the author of five books on sales and marketing and consults to organisations on building customer experiences that create raving fans and increased profits.