In a previous article we discussed the various industries that could benefit from leveraging customer relationship management software. In this article, we are going to elaborate on one of them a little further. Specifically, we are going to talk about how the restaurant and food service industry can benefit from CRM software.
Dining at restaurants is an experience that is especially susceptible to the relationship between the establishment and the customer. In fact, customer relationship management is perhaps one of the most important aspects of the restaurant industry. If the customer has a bad experience, the results can be disastrous for the restaurant. With the advent of Yelp and Google reviews, poor customer experiences can be broadcast to the entire world, resulting in a loss of reputation for the restaurant. Any tool that helps the restaurant owner to manage the customer experience is therefore an essential tool in getting a competitive advantage over competing establishments.
Just how does customer relationship management software enhance the customer experience in the restaurant? There are a number of potential areas for optimization for any restaurant. Common to all of them, however, is the capability to tailor the dining and restaurant experience to each customer.
Through the clever use of the best CRM software, a restaurant owner or manager can learn all there is to know about the habits of any particular customer. One common problem is that owners or managers eventually begin to learn guests by name, however there are certainly some that the owner may recognize, but not quite be able to place a name to the face. With the use of software, the owner can uniquely identify all patrons, allowing her to make a more personal connection with each customer. For the customer, this engenders a feeling of warmth and caring, something that is often lacking in big box type restaurants. This gives the restaurant an enormous advantage over said big box competitors when competing for the limited entertainment dollars of the patrons.
Beyond allowing an owner or manager to place a name to a face, CRM software for restaurants can allow the owner to identify patterns in ordering behavior for all of the guests. Let’s face it, most people will settle on one or two dishes that they regularly order, if they visit a restaurant with some frequency. Since servers’ schedules are so hectic and customer placement can vary, it’s not reasonable to expect the server to always know who orders what. The CRM software, however, does not forget and it does not get mixed up. If the customer has a pattern to their ordering behavior, the software will find it and correctly associate it with the customer each and every time they come into the restaurant. This knowledge allows the server, or even the owner, to ask the patron “Hi John, would you like your usual medium steak and baked potato”? The capabilities this software gives to the restaurant really cannot be overstated.
As if identifying patterns in ordering behavior weren’t enough, CRM software can allow restaurants to reach out to customers through their preferred medium. For instance, it can alert the server or owner that the patron is not following the restaurant on social media, and thus could be missing out on big updates or coupons. Of course, this is just the beginning. If the customer has an anniversary or birthday, or other special event, the software will allow the restaurant to reach out to the patron through social media directly. In addition, the restaurant can directly advertise to the patron on social media, making sure that the connection with the restaurant is never far from the customer’s mind.
An additional avenue of personalization is customer loyalty programs. Why should a restaurant have only one policy that covers every one? What if you could have a loyalty program tailored to the individual customer? Perhaps one customer wants a fixed discount, while another would prefer to have dessert free with every other meal. The possibilities here are truly staggering, not only for enabling the customer, but for forging a personal connection with the customer.
Perhaps less glamorous, but no less essential to the operation of a modern business, is the capability of CRM software to manage email campaigns. Many people are not on social media, but virtually everyone has at least one email address. The ability to reach out on this ubiquitous sales channel is critical for a restaurant. The capabilities aren’t limited to simple email blasts, however. CRM software gives restaurants the capability to perform testing on their customers. For instance, if the owner is considering adding one of either two dishes, she can perform an A/B test on her email list to see which dish would be best received. This allows the owner to be proactive and only add dishes to the menu that the customers want, rather than deploying something new and waiting weeks to see how sales perform.
And, of course, let us not forget the tried and true text message. CRM software allows the restaurant to perform SMS blasts to customers. One potential application of this is as a replacement for the vibrating light up coasters that inform patrons their table is ready. Since everyone has a cell phone, this provides a more personable way to inform the customer that their table is ready. In addition, it’s another avenue for potential marketing or information gathering.
At this point, it should be clear that restaurants perform a number of functions that could greatly benefit from modern CRM software systems. However, one thing to keep in mind is that the goal of customer relationship management is to improve the customers’ experience. This should come before all else. Businesses that forget this critical point will soon find they have alienated the people they depend on to keep their business running.
So, you’ve decided that CRM software is great for your restaurant. Where do you turn next? Fortunately, we’ve complied some information on the top CRM systems for restaurants to help you navigate the landscape.
Top Customer Relationship Management Software for Restaurants
Signal offers a full suite of functionality for the restaurant that wants to take their marketing and customer relationship management to the next level. All of the below functionality is provided in a 3 tier system, starting at a price of $49/month
Here is a list of the features Signal offers:
- Email Marketing
- SMS/text marketing
- Social Media Updates (Facebook/Twitter)
- Landing pages and opt-in forms to get new fans and followers
- Text and web coupons
- Free incoming text messages
- Additional emails at a rate of $0.001 each
- Additional texts at $0.01 each
The $49/month package gets you the above plus
- 10,000 emails a month
- 2,000 texts a month.
If you upgrade to the $99/month package, you get
- 25,000 emails a month
- 5,000 text messages a month
- Promotional tools like sweepstakes, polling, trivia, and surveys.
The halo product at $249/month comes with
- 150,000 emails a month
- 15,000 texts a month
- promotional tools
- Location specific marketing (for chain restaurants)
- Onboarding session
- Monthly program review
Oh, and the system also offers some pretty helpful analytic features for tracking programs and patron behavior. This is of course helpful when you go to plan future programs and initiatives.
A competing product to Signal is Posiq. The core features offered are
- SMS (text) marketing
- Campaign and Promotion Tracking
- Loyalty Features
- Fundraiser Tracking
For $99 / month you get the above plus
- Up to 1,000 texts per month
- $0.05 for each additional text message
If you upgrade to the $149 / month package you get the core features plus
- Up to 2,000 texts per month
- $0.04 for additional text messages
The halo tier, at $199 / month comes with the core features and
- Up to 4,000 texts per month
- $0.025 for each additional text message
One nifty feature of the loyalty and marketing features is that they are linked to customers through a phone number, which doesn’t have to be a cell phone, necessarily. Landlines work as well. The software can track interactions through social media, such as Facebook or Yelp. For those businesses that engage in traditional print advertising, Posiq has you covered. They can assess the effectiveness of print, radio, and television advertising as well. This is a wealth of powerful information, which is sure to help the small business owner take their restaurant to the next level.
While we only looked at a couple different solutions, there are others out there. Should you feel inclined, please start doing some homework. Our intent was to provide an idea of what you can expect at a reasonable price point. Considering that the most expensive product comes in at $249 / month, these software solutions are quite affordable for even relatively small restaurants.
These solutions can help you to acquire, organize, and leverage information about your customers to help you improve their experience and market to them more effectively. You can discover patterns in ordering, connect patrons face to their name, reach out to them via social media to remind them of upcoming special events, and even tailor your coupons and loyalty programs to their preferences. The possibilities are truly dizzying.
One thing we didn’t cover that bears mentioning is that this software is generally run on the cloud, meaning it is not run locally. You don’t necessarily need a giant computing cluster to run it.
Oh, one thing to mention. You definitely want to make sure that your entire staff is trained on the use of the software. Needless to say, it would be a mess if the new software system slowed down your operations during the busiest times of the day. In addition, make sure that the software will play nicely with whatever software you already have in place. After all, the point of new technology is to make your life easier, not create even more headaches.
Above all, always remember that the goal of customer relationship management software is to help improve the customer’s experience. It is not so that you can play games with marketing campaigns just for giggles. The software gives your business great power, and that must be managed with diligence and care. The best CRM software will always help to accomplish this goal, so make sure to check out some CRM software reviews when making your decisions. You want to be sure that the decision to employ this software is one you will be able to live with for years to come.