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Keep your customers coming back: Effective communication strategies for hospitality

Communicating with your audience takes an investment of time and skill. No one eatery can be all things to everyone, so it’s important to find your niche, and talk to your audience based on your brand, service style and goals.

By Chloe Chaplin

You might have the best crispy fried chicken in town or blend the ultimate plant-based salted caramel protein shakes, but if you don’t give your customers a reason to come back - they won’t. In hospitality, first impressions matter, and so does learning how to effectively communicate with your audience - off and on your premises. 

Communicating in person

One of the biggest mistakes a food establishment can make is not investing enough time and resources into training staff on how to speak to customers. Believe us when we say it’s easier said than done.

From the minute a guest walks into your cafe or restaurant, everything about the way they are greeted, served and cared for, directly affects their impression of you – and therefore whether they’ll return.

Here are some tips on what to focus on when communicating with a customer in-person:

Non-verbal communication:

This includes tone of voice, voice quality, eye contact when talking (a big one!), body positioning and movement, and listening skills.

Where people often go wrong is communicating one thing verbally, and another non-verbally. For example, don’t tell someone you’ll head over to take their order and then start a conversation with another member of staff.

Put thought into how you want your team to be known and what they are remembered for. The way staff at a chatty, informal burger joint communicate might not be the right fit if you want to be known for fine dining or whimsical desserts.

Pablo & Rusty's Customer Story_Kounta

Respect:

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. Treat and serve others in the same way you’d expect. Simple things like greeting someone with a smile as they walk in the door, remembering a customer’s name, being genuinely honest when they ask you for help choosing an item off the menu, and remembering to say thank you.

A smile goes a long way and is one of the most effective – and free – tools at your disposal.

Listening skills:

Stay focused when listening and work on your active listening skills.

Ever been to a restaurant where you’re unsure whether the waiter has taken your order correctly? For the most part, people can be terrible listeners. It’s too easy to act like you’re listening, instead of actively listening. Taking orders at the table and entering them directly into your POS system is a great way of ensuring your staff are always giving your customers their undivided attention and can repeat the order to the customer with confidence.

Having a POS system like Kounta, that you can customise to suit your service style and brand, makes easy work of your customer service workflow. Having an automated way to take orders and handle payments easily will free your staff up to focus on what’s really important – making your customers happy.

External factors:

This might be speaking with a customer over the phone, when it’s noisy, or when English isn’t their first language. In all three scenarios, shouting at the customer is never the answer. You might need to speak louder, slower, or project your voice but always be polite, and if you’re unsure, ask the customer if you can repeat back to them what you’ve heard – just in case you’ve missed something.

 

Online, email and print

While hospitality is generally referred to as a ‘hands-on’ industry, the emergence of technology offers new and exciting ways for you to communicate with your audience on a regular basis. Before you send any form of written communication – print or digital – you need to make sure the information is accurate, and the communication replicates how you would deliver the message if the person was right in front of you.

Consider these strategies when communicating with your audience in writing:

Email marketing:

This is a fantastic way to include your customers in what’s going on at their favourite restaurant or cafe and is proven to help drive customer loyalty, increase bookings and generate revenue. The power of email marketing comes in being able to tailor your message to suit your brand as well as different sets of customers.

One of Kounta’s add-ons, ActiveCampaign, is a powerful marketing automation app you can easily integrate to create meaningful connections with your customers and grow your business. It automates personalised customer experiences by syncing with your contacts in Kounta.

ActiveCampaign allows you to segment your customers based on 100s of factors, trigger emails and messages to your customers based on their activity, and send custom, personalised communications at scale. For example, if you wanted to send a promotion specifically to customers with kids who have a birthday in the month of June, you could.

Print:

Not all print media is as cost-effective as it used to be before the introduction of digital marketing, but it’s still as important as ever to carefully consider how you ‘speak’ in written form. You want to create a consistent style, message and theme across all your marketing channels. The more distinguishable your brand voice, the more likely your audience is to remember you. Think about your target audience and how they would talk, and what defines your food establishment when choosing a brand voice. All aspects of your food business will be a direct reflection of your brand voice – right down to menus, merchandise, furniture and music.

Social media:

This has become a popular way for any business to promote itself, but even more so for those in the hospitality industry. You can use social media to create FOMO (fear of missing out) with images of your mouth-watering açaí bowls, customers can use it to speak with you directly or instantly make a booking. Don’t think you need to do all the hard work yourself – encourage your customers to share their experiences on social media and tag you. Just make sure you give them a reason to share a good experience and not a bad one.

Your website:

These days having a web presence has become essential. For many people, it’s the first interaction they have with a new place – it’s where they look when they want to make a reservation, check out your menu, or find out where you’re located. A good website, if done well will more than return on its investment if you use it as an opportunity to market to your audience.

Loyalty programmes

Kounta can be integrated with a selection of tools and apps to help you streamline accounting, online ordering, process payments, and manage staff.

We also have awesome add-ons available you can use to develop customer loyalty:

  • Locify, Goody, Collect Loyalty: all three apps offer a way of seamlessly integrating a loyalty rewards programme with Kounta. This can help you gain a better understanding of how your customers purchase, show them you care and  ultimately grow your business.
  • Collect Offers: you can easily create and send offers that can be seamlessly redeemed in Kounta. You can even set up automated offers that trigger based on customer data and purchase activity.
  • LivenPay: create a better customer experience by processing instant mobile payments directly through Kounta, and drive loyalty and advocacy with the world’s first digital currency for food.
  • Collect Feedback: continuously improve customer satisfaction by asking for feedback when a customer orders through Kounta.

 

Communicating with your audience

Technology and loyalty programmes are the way forward for cafe, bar and restaurant owners looking to make meaningful and lasting connections with their customers. But the principles of effective communication – verbal, non-verbal or written – remain the same. When customers understand who you are, what you offer and what you stand for, it’s easier for them to resonate – and want to be a part – of your community. This communication needs to be a part of everything you do, no matter what your marketing strategy is, if you’re to successfully grow your business.