Have you ever taught a kid how to ride a bike without training wheels?
It’s a process.
At first, you stay within arm’s length.
As they gain confidence, you let them pull ahead. When they realize you’re too far away, they nervously look back at you.
And then, they start to wobble.
Fearful they’re going to get hurt or crash into someone else, you shout, “Keep your eyes forward!”
To your relief, they straighten the handlebars, regain control and continue pedaling.
They just needed to be reminded to keep their eyes on the sidewalk.
As odd as it sounds, many restaurants that pursue marketing resemble kids learning to ride a bike for the first time. Their marketing efforts are always on the verge of crashing because they aren’t looking where they’re going.
But unlike first-time bike riders, restaurants need more than just a simple reminder; they need something tangible. In order to steer their marketing messages in the right direction, restaurants need more guest data.
Dan Zarella, author and social media scientist, puts it like this: “Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed.”
Successful marketing requires accurate customer data. Without a precise idea of who comes into your restaurant and what qualities they look for in their ideal dining experience, you might as well forget about marketing altogether.
Restaurant Owners Need to Open Their Eyes to Customer Data Collection
Providing excellent customer service is a top priority for restaurant owners around the country, and for good reasons.
Researchers in one customer experience study found the #1 reason customers stop doing business with a brand is poor customer service (restaurantengine.com).
But what does customer data collection have to do with delivering great customer service?
Jeff Tanner, Professor of Marketing at Baylor University, says “Collecting customer data helps you know each customer more individually and treat them that way.”
The more information you collect about your guests, the better you can personalize your marketing efforts to meet their needs and interests.
Furthermore, customer data collection provides restaurants with valuable contact information, which is useful when service issues arise and a quick response is needed.
Guest Data Collection Isn’t a New Concept
Have you ever left your business card in a fishbowl on your way out of a restaurant? If so, then you’ve participated in one of the age-old data collection methods still employed by many restaurants today.
In addition to fishbowls, restaurants use customer satisfaction surveys as a means to gather guest data. Paper comment cards, suggestion boxes and email newsletter sign-up forms are all common strategies used by restaurants to collect information about their customers.
These data collection techniques are nothing new, but they highlight some of the key challenges restaurants face when trying to collect customer data: It’s time-consuming, inconsistent and dependent on the ability of front-line employees to solicit responses.
Traditional Methods of Data Collection Aren’t Enough
In an industry as dynamic as the restaurant business, traditional methods of gathering guest data are too slow and infrequent. As a result, manual data collection simply doesn’t provide enough customer information to give restaurant owners any practical insight into guests’ wants and needs.
Given the chaotic nature of the business, employees are too busy to focus on anything besides serving customers’ immediate needs. Even when hostesses and servers do have time to ask guests to complete surveys or subscribe to email lists, petitioning guests to stop and fill out paperwork during their dining experience feels intrusive and pushy.
The most effective process of collecting guest data in the digital age is through automation. Besides being more efficient, automated data collection allows customers to decide on their own if they want to opt-in without feeling pressured by employees.
Collecting Data Doesn’t Have to be a Hassle
With an intelligent Wi-Fi marketing solution like Restaurant Hot Spot, restaurant customer data collection is effortless.
The National Restaurant Association says 68% of restaurants already offer guest Wi-Fi to their patrons. Digital solution providers like Restaurant Hot Spot make sure restaurant owners get something valuable from patrons in exchange for the free Wi-Fi they provide: Customer data.
By automating the customer data collection process, employees no longer have to ask guests if they want to join the restaurant’s email list or fill out a customer satisfaction survey. Instead, guests can opt-in to receive promotional emails when they access the restaurant’s free Wi-Fi network.
Intelligent guest Wi-Fi is a win-win for everyone. Guests get to enjoy free Wi-Fi while dining, and restaurants get the benefit of growing a consistent, centralized email marketing list.
Additional Benefits of Automated Data Collection
Besides saving labor and eliminating the nuisance of manual data collection, automation using an intelligent Wi-Fi solution keeps guest data organized in one easily-accessible place. In addition, web-based platforms allow managers to analyze customer data anytime and from anywhere.
The greatest benefit by far, and the reason why restaurant owners should collect customer data in the first place, is the ability to use data to improve the guest experience. Customer feedback and purchase history can be used to identify guests’ needs, personalize offers, and send information guests are interested in receiving from the restaurant.
Creating a more personal guest experience can be a huge value-add for restaurants that take advantage of the customer data they collect.
Customer Data Improves Restaurant Digital Marketing
Restaurants that want to deliver a better guest experience should use the customer data they collect to craft personalized digital marketing campaigns.
“One proven way to boost ROI is to make use of such functions as personalization, automation, dynamic content and mobile optimization,” says Graham Charlton, former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy.
Using an automated marketing platform (such as Restaurant Hot Spot), restaurants can easily segment their customer base into different groups with distinct purchasing behaviors (for example, business lunch diners, families with children or happy hour patrons).
Each segmented group should receive marketing messages that are personalized based on wants and needs—making guests feel valued, and, more importantly, increasing engagement and overall satisfaction with the brand.
Digital marketing channels such as email, social media and mobile are all effective ways to reach guests with personalized restaurant marketing, but email offers the best ROI (econsultancy.com). For more email marketing tips, check out Email Marketing Tips for Restaurateurs.
Jessica Brown is the Assistant Marketing Manager at Restaurant Hot Spot, a digital marketing platform that puts Wi-Fi to work in restaurants. She spent 17 years in the restaurant industry and now uses her experience to help restaurant owners deliver a better guest experience in the dining room and beyond.