Engagement, engagement, and engagement, all with customers, are now the three most important things in the restaurant industry. Good food and good service have become table stakes (pardon the pun): restaurants need to offer more to keep customers coming back and spending more. The Customer Engagement Technology Study 2017 by Hospitality Technology (HT) shows how much customer engagement technology (CET) is in vogue to address this need, with customer experience management (CXM) high on many restaurant-owners’ agendas. Yet many eateries struggle to afford or simply make sense of vendor solutions to collect customer data, analyze for insights, and suggest practical actions to help increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.
Bright and Shiny Does Not Always Mean Customer-Relevant
A big problem with technology is that it too often gets in the way of what customers want. Restaurants can become so focused on bright and shiny new systems that they start forgetting why they are in business – to offer customers great eating experiences in an affordable, profitable way. CET and CXM notwithstanding, restaurateurs must get back to these basics before making grandiose plans to deploy technology as an enabler for superlative customer experiences.
Technology Influencers for Dining Decisions with Free Wi-Fi a Major Driver for Dine-In (HT 2017 Lodging Technology Study)
Back to Basics and What Customers Want
So, what do customers want? Mostly, to engage with eateries of all kinds via their mobile devices. While this customer engagement is technology-driven, the trap that restaurants must avoid is thinking that their point of view automatically matches that of their customers. The HT Customer Engagement Technology Study shows clearly what customer expectations are (see graphic above). The two major restaurant subsectors, dine-in and takeout/delivery, also look similar enough in terms of the top technology influencers being the ability to preview menus and nutritional information (in top position at 70% and 69%, respectively) and positive reviews (in second position, at 68% for both).
Guest Wi-Fi Enables Dine-In, Not Takeout or Delivery
In third position, however, there is a hard split between dine-in and takeout/delivery. Free Wi-Fi influences a massive 65% of customers deciding on which dine-in establishment to favor. On the other, free Wi-Fi is totally absent from the influencers for takeout/delivery, doubtless because of the short customer/establishment interaction times and the difficulty or pointlessness in trying to offer Wi-Fi as part of a delivery service. For dine-in restaurants, free or guest Wi-Fi is a critical technology to be implemented, because customers want it so much. Yet more than this, guest Wi-Fi can also be the simple technology platform on which further relevant, practical, effective and affordable customer engagement solutions can be installed.
Bridging the Mobile Divide Between Diners and Restaurants
To see where guest Wi-Fi can help restaurants get and stay closer to their customers, consider the following table from the HT study, showing the “mobile divide” or where restaurants are not keeping up with customer mobile needs and wants:
The Mobile Divide Between Customer Wants and Restaurant Amenities
(HT 2017 Lodging Technology Study)
Guest Wi-Fi Added Value and Analytics Made Easy
Several of the diner wants currently surpassing restaurant offers can be addressed directly over guest Wi-Fi. They include receiving and redeeming coupons, taking a satisfaction survey, and tracking order status, all of which are requested by 50% or more of diners responding to the HT survey. For instance, CaptiveXS, a user-friendly and highly affordable solution from RaGaPa, makes it easy for restaurant owners to insert content into guest Wi-Fi connections. They can thus inform patrons about special deals, offer coupons, and invite diners to take on-the-spot satisfaction surveys (which is also the best time and place for such surveys). CaptiveXS also offers analytics to show restaurants how many patrons responded to a special deal, for example, extending the information about customer preferences yet further, and enabling restaurants to home in on what customers really want. Additional features include social login and destination URL filtering to block access to undesirable sites and prevent bandwidth hogging to ensure all diners get appropriate Wi-Fi connectivity and performance.
Joining Up More Dots in the Customer Journey
Empowering customers through these guest Wi-Fi services is also simple and inexpensive compared to many other approaches. Given that the HT study also mentions a shortfall compared to the anticipated technology adoption rates for 2017, a solution like CaptiveXS can help dine-in restaurants of all sizes to start applying technology for improved interaction with customers, facilitating order taking and payment processing, and serving guests better at critical touchpoints in their “customer journey”.
On the Road to Improved Dining Experiences and Engagement
The importance of finding out what customers want has been repeated countless times. While diner needs and wants must ultimately drive technology choices for restaurants, easy to use, highly affordable technology solutions exist to help dine-in restaurant owners to better understand those needs and wants in the first place. Better still, this technology leverages the free Wi-Fi connectivity that diners say is such a big factor in their choice of a restaurant. Everybody wins: customer engagement becomes simpler and faster, diners enjoy a better dining experience, and restaurants set the scene for sustainable improvements thereafter.